Coronavirus in Texas 3/11: UT-Austin closes sporting events to fans, Trump bans some inbound travel, and more
Our staff is closely tracking developments on the new coronavirus in Texas. Check here for live updates.
March 11's biggest developments:
- The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
- Texas has its first possible case of community spread of the virus, in Montgomery County near Houston.
- Some Texas universities have extended spring break and will then go to online classes, at least temporarily.
- Local officials have called off the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the city's biggest annual event. Dallas canceled its St. Patrick's Day parade.
- Houston's Toyota Center will be mostly empty when it hosts March Madness basketball tournament games due to an NCAA decision Wednesday.
Trump issues 30-day ban on foreign nationals coming into U.S. after visiting certain European countries
[11:05 p.m.] President Donald Trump, during a national address Wednesday, announced a travel ban focused on most European countries to stem the spread of coronavirus in the United States. The Washington Post reported the ban will run 30 days beginning midnight Friday.
In a statement sent after the president’s address, the Department of Homeland Security said the ban applies to most foreign nationals who have “been in certain European countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States.” It also clarified how many countries would be affected and how it applies to others.
“This does not apply to legal permanent residents, (generally) immediate family members of U.S. citizens, and other individuals who are identified in the proclamation,” the statement added.
The affected countries include: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. — Julián Aguilar
Third Houston person tests positive for coronavirus.
[10:01 p.m.] Houston announced its third case of coronavirus late Wednesday evening. The patient is a woman between the ages of 15 and 25 who recently traveled to New York state. She is experiencing mild symptoms and is quarantined in her home, according to the local health department. This is the 15th case in the Houston area. — Emma Platoff
Fans will be excluded from UT-Austin home games through March 22
[9:39 p.m.] The University of Texas at Austin's home sporting events will be played without fans in attendance through March 22. Its athletics teams will continue to "travel to road competitions as scheduled at this time," according to the department's website. That news came hours after the National Collegiate Athletic Association said men's and women's college basketball tournaments this month will not be open to the public. — Shannon Najmabadi
Some Texas colleges extend spring break, schedule online classes
[9:24 p.m.] Trinity University in San Antonio has canceled in-person instruction for the rest of the semester. Meanwhile, several other universities announced they are extending spring break and moving students to online instruction, at least temporarily, upon their return. They included the University of Texas at Austin, Baylor University, Texas Christian University and University of Houston, among several others. — Naomi Andu and Shannon Najmabadi
Non-Texans sent to Lackland for quarantine will be sent to their home states
[8:52 p.m.] Some passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship who were sent to a military base in San Antonio to be quarantined are being rerouted to their home states, the San Antonio Express-News reported. The newspaper called the development a “last-minute change of plans” that has flustered officials throughout the government. The passengers had been brought to Lackland Air Force Base, but now the dozens of non-Texans at the base will be moved to their home states to make room for Texan passengers. — Patrick Svitek
Houston and Harris County officials declare public health emergencies
[8:14 p.m.] Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner signed an order declaring a local state of disaster in the city, and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo signed a public health emergency for the county Wednesday. Both orders last seven days. The Houston area has the most cases of coronavirus in the state, and Montgomery County, north of the city, has what could be the first instance of community spread of the virus. — Patrick Svitek
Dallas cancels famed St. Patrick's Day parade
[5:11 p.m.] Dallas officials on Wednesday canceled the city's long-standing St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival in order to mitigate spread of the new coronavirus. Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said the decision to cancel the parade was made after consultation with county and state officials, according to The Dallas Morning News. The annual parade was expected to draw more than 125,000 people, according to organizers. — Sami Sparber
Third COVID-19 case confirmed in Dallas County
[4:50 p.m.] Dallas County has reported its third case of the novel coronavirus, an individual in their 50s who had traveled out of state. The Irving resident is not related to the two cases announced in the county yesterday and is being treated in a Dallas-area hospital, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a news release. The Dallas cases are not indicative of community spread, Jenkins said. — Emma Platoff
NCAA says March Madness games will proceed in front of mostly empty stands
[4:15 p.m.] The men's and women's college basketball tournaments this month will happen before lots of empty seats after NCAA President Mark Emmert decided to hold the tournaments with "only essential staff and limited family attendance."
"While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States," Emmert said in a statement on Twitter.
Houston's Toyota Center is one of four sites for Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games March 27-29.
Fort Worth church says pastor tested positive for COVID-19
[2:17 p.m.] The Tarrant County resident who tested positive for the new coronavirus Monday is the Rev. Dr. Robert Pace, a rector at Fort Worth’s Trinity Episcopal Church, the church announced Wednesday. Pace attended a February conference in Kentucky and presided over a service at the church March 4. The church said it notified the 45 attendees, but it believes congregants are at low risk. The church has canceled services and closed its buildings, including a preschool. — Naomi Andu
CDC will give Texas more than $40 million for coronavirus response
[2:10 p.m.] Texas is set to receive nearly $42 million from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help respond to COVID-19, the federal agency announced Wednesday afternoon. The state will get nearly $37 million while Houston, the state’s largest city, will receive $5 million. The CDC said in a statement that the funding “will allow public health leaders to implement critical steps necessary to contain and mitigate spread of the virus” across the country. The federal agency said it is contacting state health officers Wednesday to begin moving forward with awarding the funding. — Cassi Pollock
Up to 120 more cruise ship passengers arriving at Lackland for quarantine; no plans to cancel Fiesta in San Antonio
[2:05 p.m.] As many as 120 additional cruise ship evacuees will arrive at Lackland Air Force Base on Wednesday to enter quarantine, following 98 who landed Tuesday night, according to San Antonio City Manager Erik Walsh, who added that any non-Texans who test positive at the base will be flown to their home states for treatment. Walsh said the city has enough test kits for 500 people and is requesting more from the federal government.
During an emergency City Council meeting, officials said the city is in daily talks with officials for Fiesta San Antonio, set to begin April 16, but there are no plans to cancel the event. — Naomi Andu
Man who may have caught coronavirus through "community spread" attended Houston Rodeo
[1:26 p.m.] Houston area officials said Wednesday that the Montgomery County man suspected to be the state's first case of community spread of the novel coronavirus seems to have attended a barbecue last month at the city's largest annual event, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
"Our best understanding right now is that he was at the barbecue cook-off on the 28th," Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said. "They're still trying to suss out whether he had symptoms then."
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner added that the man did not attend any of the rodeo-affiliated concerts. Local officials are working to trace where else he may have traveled. — Emma Platoff
Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo canceled
[1:05 p.m.] Houston officials have called off their city's biggest annual event, The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. It’s another devastating economic and cultural blow to another major Texas city as the state — which has more than 30 confirmed cases — continues to suffer the impacts of the novel coronavirus. On Friday, Austin canceled South by Southwest, the annual international festival of music, technology and film that brings hundreds of thousands of people from across the world to the state capital every March. Focus will now shift to San Antonio's Fiesta, which is scheduled for April.
Neither SXSW, the Houston Rodeo nor Fiesta has disease-specific event cancellation insurance — which is not uncommon for large events, even if they have some coverage to shield against financial disaster. That exposure could leave major events and conferences in Texas grappling with existential budgetary threats even after the outbreak’s immediate effects subside. — Emma Platoff
COVID-19 now a pandemic
[11:57 a.m.] The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a pandemic, saying that "in the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of #COVID19 cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher."
Alvarado ISD closes elementary school
[11:01 a.m.] Alvarado ISD in North Texas announced Wednesday that it's closing Alvarado Elementary North because an individual in the school community was told to self-quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19 at the doctor's office where the person is employed. The district said it will gather more information about the exposure "and make a more educated decision about the rest of the week." — Aliyya Swaby
Montgomery man might be first person to develop COVID-19 through "community spread"
[10:22 a.m.] A man in Montgomery County, near Houston, has tested positive for the new coronavirus, and local health officials said Wednesday they did not know how he became infected — suggesting the possibility of the first signs of community spread of the virus within Texas. “It could very likely be the first community spread,” said Alicia Williams, director of the Montgomery County Public Health District. — Edgar Walters and Sami Sparber
Houston Episcopal school closing for two weeks
[10:15 a.m.] Officials at Saint Thomas' Episcopal School in Houston announced Tuesday that the private school is closing immediately and will remain closed for two weeks because of a student's possible exposure to the new coronavirus, according to Houston's Fox 26 television station.
Congress grapples with addressing the virus without spreading it
[10:09 a.m.] As Congress tries to address a growing national health emergency and craft an aid package to help vulnerable Americans and calm jittery investors, members face a personal conundrum: Are they endangering themselves and contributing to spreading the contagion with their weekly commuting routine to and from Capitol? Or is it worse to be seen as abandoning ship — the most-oft used metaphor Democrats used Tuesday — and shutting down Congress as the economy is in potential free-fall? — Abby Livingston
Clarification: An earlier version of this story did not clearly explain how the CDC's aid to Texas will be distributed. The state is receiving nearly $37 million, and the city of Houston is receiving $5 million. An item about San Antonio's preparations was not clear about the test kits the city has received, which are enough to test 500 people.
Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin, the University of Houston, Texas Christian University and Baylor University have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
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