Update, Friday, April 3, 3:30 p.m.
The Daily News has suspended this COVID-19 blog, which the staff has been updating since March 11, because the flow of news has slowed enough to handle through our usual methods.
Update, Thursday, April 2, 7:30 p.m.
Thirteen residents and employees at a Texas City nursing home have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Galveston County Health District.
The health district was informed of the first positive test from The Resort at Texas City, 1720 N. Logan St., on Saturday and sent people out to inspect the facility, said Ashley Tompkins, health district spokesperson.
“After that visit, we became aware of several other tests that came back positive,” Tompkins said.
On Thursday, the health district in partnership with the University of Texas Medical Branch tested roughly 150 residents and employees for COVID-19.
“UTMB is currently running those tests, and they tend to be faster than some other labs,” Tompkins said. “We’re hoping for results very soon.”
It is not clear how many of the 13 positive cases were employees and how many were residents, only that some from each category tested positive for the virus.
"We are gravely concerned about the spread of this virus within nursing homes because of the close proximity and vulnerability of the residents," said Galveston County Local Health Authority Dr. Philip Keiser. "Health district officials visited The Resort at Texas City on Saturday and from what we saw, they were following guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
The Resort at Texas City’s administrator could not be reached for comment.
The health district made the decision to test all residents and employees after learning of the 13 positive cases, Tompkins said.
“Results are pending, and any positive results will be announced as part of the health district’s daily case update,” she said.
It’s not known whether family members of residents at The Resort at Texas City have been informed of the positive cases.
Update, Thursday, April 2, 5:30 p.m.
The total number of people diagnosed with coronavirus in Galveston County rose Thursday to 130, up from 118 the day before, according to the Galveston County Health District.
No fatalities from COVID-19, the infection caused by the coronavirus that is crippling countries around the world, had been reported in the county since the pandemic began.
A total of 16 people had been hospitalized by Thursday. A total of 31 had recovered after being diagnosed, the district said.
Also as of Thursday, 1,533 county residents had been tested locally for COVID-19, according to the health district.
The county health district began testing March 2.
About 8.5 percent of people tested have been positive for COVID-19, according to the health district.
Only people who had been screened as likely to have been infected were being tested, however, so the infection rate was skewed high.
League City had 51 total confirmed cases — the most among local cities.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough.
For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the virus.
According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness might take three to six weeks to recover.
Update, Wednesday, April 1, 5:15 p.m.
Galveston County has extended orders advising residents to stay at home to April 30.
The new county order called an “Order Relating to Continuity of Essential Services and Activities in Galveston County During the COVID-19 Disaster.” It replaces a March 23 order that was called an “Order to Stay Home.” The March 23 order was set to expire on Friday.
The new order puts in line with Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order issued Tuesday, which was not called a stay-at-home order, County Judge Mark Henry said.
The order has no substantive changes to the previous order and, in fact, is more restrictive in places, Henry said.
Minutes after the county’s announcement, the Galveston County Health District announced 12 new positive coronavirus cases. Galveston County now has 118 total cases and 92 active cases.
Twenty-six people have recovered from the virus, including five announced Wednesday.
The people newly diagnosed Wednesday include four linked to community spread and seven linked to known positive coronavirus patients. The patients range in age from 21 to 70 years old, according to the health district.
Update, Wednesday, April 1, 2:30 p.m.
M. I. Lewis Social Services, 215 FM 517 E., in Dickinson, is canceling its regular food fair scheduled for April 18 due to the restrictions of the coronavirus outbreak.
Update, Wednesday, April 1, 11 a.m.
A Galveston Area Ambulance Authority employee has tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Galveston County Health District.
The employee, who the authority didn't name, is self-quarantined.
The employee was identified when the health district tested its employees who work in Galveston after the confirmed infection of a Galveston Fire Department employee on March 26.
The ambulance authority provides EMS services to the city of Galveston and to unincorporated parts of Galveston County.
The health district tested 13 employees for COVID-19. One was positive, 10 were negative and two were still pending, according to the health district.
“Galveston County Health District is currently investigating any contacts within the department and public,” the district said in a press release.
The testing and self-quarantine hasn't affected Galveston Area Ambulance Authority operations, officials said.
The case is the latest incident of a first responder to be diagnosed with COVID-19 in Galveston County. The Galveston and League City fire departments also have reported employees being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Update, Tuesday, March 31, 4:13 p.m.
As of Tuesday, park headquarters, stores, visitor centers group sites and equipment rentals are closed at all Texas state parks, including the Galveston Island State Park, according to Texas Parks & Wildlife.
Parks will also stop conducting payment transactions on-site Wednesday. People will have to purchase their permits online before heading to the state park, according to to Texas parks.
At the Galveston Island State Park, the Stewart House and Ranch House lodges have been closed through April 30, according to Texas parks.
Update, Tuesday, March 31, 3:20 P.M.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday extended the state’s coronavirus social distancing guidelines until April 30.
"Now is not the time for us to let up,” Abbott said.
Abbott avoided calling his announcement a statewide shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order, although the order bears similarities to orders that have been approved in Galveston County and other places.
The order defines nearly 18 different forms of essential infrastructure that are exempt and allowed to continue operating — such as health care services, transportation services and chemical companies.
Abbott also announced Texas schools will be closed until at least May 4.
Abbott on March 19 issued an order closing all bar and restaurant dining rooms and prohibiting social gatherings of more than 10 people. The original order was set to expire Friday. Now it will continue for another month.
Abbott’s new state order follows the same timeline President Donald Trump laid out on Sunday.
Abbott’s new order still gives local jurisdictions flexibility to make their own stricter rules, if the new order doesn’t address an issue already, he said.
Counties and cities cannot make their own rules about things that are in the order, Abbott said. For instance, Abbott’s order defines religious services conducted in churches, congregations and houses of worship as essential services.
A county on its own cannot now prohibit people from gathering at churches, he said.
Update, Monday, March 30, 6 p.m.
There have been 41 people diagnosed with coronavirus in League City, the Galveston County Health District reported Monday.
Galveston county’s largest city has had the most cases by far of any local city, according to the health district’s latest release.
The district for the first time on Monday reported the number of cases in the county broken down by city. For weeks, the district had withheld information about even the general location of any of the local diagnoses.
The number of cases by city was as follows:
• League City: 41
• Texas City: 12
• Dickinson: 9
• Friendswood: 9
• Galveston: 9
• Kemah: 3
• La Marque: 3
• Bacliff/Bayview/San Leon: 2
• Hitchcock: 2
• Santa Fe/Algoa: 2
• Bayou Vista, Bolivar Peninsula, Clear Lake Shores, Jamaica Beach and Tiki Island: 0
There were 22 new diagnoses of COVID-19 confirmed Monday. That was the most cases reported in a single day since testing began March 2. There have now been 92 confirmed cases reported in Galveston County. There have been no deaths, and 17 reported recoveries.
Update, Monday, March 30, 3:09 p.m.
Carnival Cruise Line has extended its global cruise suspension through May 11, the company said on Monday.
“We remain committed to our return to service and will use this time to continue to build additional processes, protocols and resources to protect the health and safety of our guests, crew and the destinations we serve,” the company said in a press release.
Carnival operates three ships out of Galveston. On March 13, the company announced it would delay all of its cruises worldwide until the middle of April.
The extended suspension means that Carnival will cancel at least 27 cruises out of Galveston this year. At the beginning of the year, the company planned to run a total of 181 out of Galveston in 2020.
Carnival’s announcement comes less than a week after Royal Caribbean Cruises also suspended all of its cruises through at least May 12.
Update, Monday, March 30, 10:45 a.m.
Gov. Abbott has extended the 14-day executive order mandating quarantine for air travelers from New York and the tri-state area and New Orleans, to include road travelers from Louisiana.
Citing imminent threat to all Texas counties of a coronavirus-related disaster, the governor's order references significant expansion of the COVID-19 threat in Louisiana, which shares a border with Texas.
Effective March 30, all travelers form Louisiana except those performing commercial activity, military service, emergency response, health response or critical infrastructure functions as determined by the Texas Division of Emergency Management, are subject to a fine no greater than $1,000 and/or up to 180 days in jail or both for failure to self-quarantine.
The order will be enforced by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Update, Sunday, March 29 @ 4:30 p.m.
Galveston County now has 70 confirmed cases of coronavirus after the Galveston County Health District announced 10 more cases Sunday, including one more hospitalization.
A woman in her 70s is hospitalized with what healthcare workers believe is a case of community spread, according to the health district.
The health district also announced positive tests for two people in their 20s, three people in their 30s and four people in their 40s.
Three people had contact with a known positive case of coronavirus, according to the health district.
Update, Sunday, March 29 @ 3:23 p.m.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Sunday asked Texas cities and business owners to notify the state about space they might make available to use as temporary hospital facilities.
Speaking in a televised address about response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Abbott said the state was attempting to be proactive about identifying facilities it could use if hospitals become overwhelmed by infections.
“Where we are today, we have the capacity to deal with toady’s needs,” Abbott said. “Our goal is to focus on where we may be one, two or three weeks from now.
More than 16,000 hospital beds were available to treat COVID-19 as of Sunday, Abbott said. To date, 98 percent of those beds are still open and available and are not being used for treatment, Abbott said.
The corps have also established the state’s first temporary medical facility, Abbott said. The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas has been converted to provide 250 beds, and can be expanded to include more.
The state is looking for other possible locations for temporary medical facilities in other parts of Texas, Abbott said. The corps is looking for empty hospital buildings, convention centers and hotels, Corps of Engineers Brigadier Gen. Paul Owen said.
Abbott announced two other new executive orders on Sunday. The first required that all people who travel to Texas from Louisiana self-quarantine for 14 days. Abbott had previously ordered similar quarantines for people who flew to Texas from New Orleans. The new order revises that to include people who are driving from anywhere in Louisiana.
A second order prohibited Texas jails and prisons from releasing “dangerous felons” as part of efforts to limit or prevent the spread of COVID-19 in those facilities.
Update, Saturday, March 28 @ 9 p.m.
Two more employees of the Galveston Fire Department have tested positive for coronavirus, two days after the city first announced a fire employee had contracted the virus.
The city tested 26 fire department employees Thursday who worked in the same location as the person who tested positive for coronavirus, city spokeswoman Marissa Barnett said.
The city still does not have results for seven people, Barnett said.
All three people who tested positive for coronavirus are self-quarantining, Barnett said.
The fire department has disinfected and professionally cleaned the station and equipment where the person with coronavirus worked, Barnett said.
The city is not releasing the station number or names of people who tested positive.
This incident has not impacted fire department service, Barnett said.
Update, Saturday, March 28 @ 4:45 p.m.
Eleven more Galveston County residents were diagnosed with COVID-19 on Saturday. The total number of cases diagnosed in Galveston County is now at 60, up from 49 at the last report Friday.
Two of the 11 people announced Saturday have been hospitalized, according to the Galveston County Health District.
The two, both men, are the third and fourth to be hospitalized because of the virus, according to the health district.
Another previously diagnosed person, a man in his 40s, has recovered from his infection, according to the health district.
There have now been five reported local recoveries from the virus and no local deaths reported.
The new group of diagnoses includes a girl and a boy in their teens, according to the health district.
Updates, Saturday, March 28 @ 1:25 p.m.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid renewal applications currently due will automatically be renewed, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced Saturday.
Automatic renewal will assure that clients are covered during the coronavirus health crisis, according to the commission.
Those who were up for renewal don't have to call or complete forms to receive continuous coverage until further notice. The commission will continue to provide updates to the public during the coming months, officials said.
Texas also is waiving on-site interview requirements for new households applying for SNAP benefits. Normally a face-to-face interview is required, but under new state regulations, that step in the application process has been eliminated, officials said.
Administered by the commission in Texas, the federal SNAP program provides food assistance to 1.4 million eligible low-income families and individuals with monthly benefits worth nearly $400 million, the commission said.
Medicaid, a joint federal-state program, provides health coverage to Texas children, pregnant women, parents of eligible children, people with disabilities and older Texans requiring nursing home care.
To apply for benefits, visit www.YourTexasBenefits.com or use the Your Texas Benefits mobile app to manage benefits.
Update, Saturday, March 28 @ 9 a.m.
Three Texas National Guard brigades will be dispatched around the state to help respond to the coronavirus pandemic, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said.
The 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and the 176th Engineer Brigade will operate in 10 units throughout the state.
"Whether it’s overseas combat, major storms or deadly viruses, the Texas National Guard is always quick to defend and serve their fellow Texans," Abbott said. "Texans can be grateful that these troops are now standing their post alongside health care professionals and first responders on the front lines of this crisis."
The national guard units will assist in drive-through testing sites and bolster Texas' health care infrastructure, Abbott said.
It's not clear whether any of the units or drive-through sites will be in Galveston County. As of Saturday morning, the county did not have any drive-through testing sites open and operating.
Update, Friday, March 27 @ 4 p.m.
Nine new cases of COVID-19 were announced in Galveston County on Friday. The cases include one person who was hospitalized, according to the Galveston County Health District.
Galveston County has now had 49 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 since testing began locally on March 2. There have been no deaths reported.
The hospitalized person is a man in his 50s who had recently traveled domestically, according to the health district. He's the second local person to require long-term hospitalization because of the virus.
The other new cases include five women and two men, all of whom are self-quarantined, according to the district.
Along with the new diagnoses, the health district also announced three people who had previously been diagnosed. Those people included two men and a woman.
Update, Friday, March 27 @ 12:34 p.m.
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a $2.2 trillion relief bill.
The House approved the sweeping measure by a voice vote, according to The Associated Press. It passed by a large majority with support from both sides of the aisle.
The relief bill will ship payments of up to $1,200 to millions of Americans, bolster unemployment benefits, offer loans, grants and tax breaks to businesses large and small and flush billions more to states, local governments and the nation's all but overwhelmed health care system.
Update, Friday, March 27 @ 10:53 a.m.
Royal Caribbean Cruises won't start offering trips again until at least mid-May, the company said.
The company announced on March 24 it would extend its global coronavirus-related suspension of sailings until May 12, 2020.
On March 13, Royal Caribbean announced it had canceled all of its cruises for 30 days.
According to the Port of Galveston's cruise call calendar, there were 22 scheduled Royal Caribbean cruises from the port between March 13 and May 12.
Royal Caribbean operates two ships out of the Port of Galveston, The Enchantment of the Seas and the Liberty of the Seas. The missed dates represent 17 percent of the scheduled Royal Caribbean cruises out of Galveston this year.
Carnival Cruise Line has canceled all of its cruises through April 10, and hasn't announced any changes to its schedule as of Friday morning.
In a tweet, Carnival said it would make an announcement about its plans going forward on March 30.
Port of Galveston officials had previously said the month-long suspension of cruises would cost the port about $1.6 million in revenue.
Update, Friday, March 27 @ 10:04 a.m.
The House of Representatives on Friday began debate on a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package meant to ease the devastating toll the pandemic has had on the U.S. economy and health care system.
Passage of the bill was expected to be quick and done by a voice vote, meaning that a quorum of lawmakers would not be needed to pass it.
That changed on Friday morning, when Thomas Massie, a Republican from Kentucky, threatened to try to force a roll call vote. If Massie follows through on his threat, some lawmakers who are trying to leave Washington D.C. or maintain social-distancing recommendations would have to return to the Congress to vote, according to The Associated Press.
Update, Thursday, March 26 @ 4:22 p.m.
The Galveston County Health District has announced 13 more confirmed cases of coronavirus, bringing the total confirmed cases to 40 countywide.
Thursday's total is the largest number of cases reported in Galveston County in one day.
The youngest person is between 10 and 20 years old and the oldest is in their 70s, according to the health district.
One of these 13 people, a woman in her 70s, is hospitalized. Officials believe she contracted coronavirus from community spread, according to the health district.
Of the people in the newly reported cases, nine are women and four are men, according to the health district.
Six of the people had come into contact with someone known to have contracted coronavirus and three had traveled recently, according to the health district.
Update, Thursday, March 26 @ 3:40 p.m.
A person in the Galveston Fire Department has tested positive for coronavirus, a city spokeswoman said Thursday.
Out of caution, 26 members of the crew are being tested for coronavirus and are home while they're awaiting test results, city spokeswoman Marissa Barnett said.
The station was professionally cleaned and is open, she said. The department is still fully operational, she said.
Update, Thursday, March 26 @ 1:01 p.m.
A business in Santa Fe has closed because one of its employees has tested positive for COVID-19, the city announced Thursday afternoon.
"We were recently informed that a business within Santa Fe had an employee test positive for the corona 19," Santa Fe City Manager Glen Adams said in a Facebook video post. "That business did everything right, followed CDC standards. The employee and the people that person worked with are all now on home quarantine."
The announcement represents the first announced case of COVID-19 within the Santa Fe city limits.
Adams did not say which business the person worked at or how many people are now quarantined.
In Facebook comments to the announcement, Santa Fe Mayor Jason Tabor said the city consulted with lawyers before releasing the statement and determined that naming the business would violate medical privacy laws because it would reveal the identities of the people quarantined.
The Galveston County Health District has not released specific details about where any of the 27 confirmed coronavirus cases in Galveston County have lived. City officials in Friendswood, Galveston, League City and Santa Fe have now confirmed that at least one case has been diagnosed within their city limits.
Update, Thursday, March 26 @ 11:27 a.m.
There were no new cases of coronavirus reported by the Galveston County Health District on Thursday morning. The number of coronavirus cases diagnosed in Galveston County is still at 27.
The health district plans to release another update about the number of local coronavirus diagnoses at 4 p.m. today.
Update, Thursday, March 26 @ 8:41 a.m
Almost 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, shattering a record set nearly 40 years ago, according to The Associated Press.
The U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday morning announced jobless claims through the week of March 21. The figure represents the number of people applying for unemployment benefits in a single week.
The previous high record was 695,000 claims filed in a single week in October 1982.
The number of unemployment claims is reportedly overwhelming state labor departments. Earlier this week, the Texas Workforce Commission announced it would expand its hours of operations to include Saturday. On Wednesday, the agency announced it would hire 100 temporary workers to help staff at its call centers.
Update, Wednesday, March 25 @ 4:10 p.m.
For the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the Galveston County Health District has said that a local person infected and publicly diagnosed with the virus has recovered.
A woman in her 30s is now considered recovered from the virus after her symptoms resolved for at least 72 hours, the health district said. That includes not having a fever for three days without the aid of fever reducers.
The health district did not identify the woman by name, but its description matches two people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 by the county so far — including the very first local person who was diagnosed with the virus on March 13.
Another woman in her 30s was diagnosed with the virus on March 21.
Along with announcing the recovery, the health district also announced five newly diagnosed cases of COVID-19 among county residents. The newest group includes three women and two men, aged between 20 and 70. All five people are currently self-quarantined, according to the health district.
There have now been 27 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Galveston County.
Update, Wednesday, March 25 @ 2:45 p.m.
The city of Galveston will give people a one-hour grace period to park in paid parking areas before it will start ticketing people, city spokeswoman Marissa Barnett said.
The grace period is to allow people the opportunity to pick up to-go food at restaurants, Barnett said.
The grace period applies to both downtown and seawall parking, she said.
Update, Wednesday, March 25 @ 1:50 p.m.
President Donald Trump has agreed to declare a major disaster in Texas over the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Wednesday afternoon.
Abbott announced Trump's decision in a tweet.
"Great news," Abbott said. "President Trump just granted a Major Disaster Declaration for Texas. This will expand the resources available to Texas & speed our ability to robustly respond to coronavirus."
Abbott on Monday wrote a letter to Trump, asking for the major disaster declaration and for federal assistance to help the state build up its response against the spread of the virus.
A major disaster declaration allows people from a state to access individual assistance programs, or for state and local governments to get assistance for emergency work, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Update, Wednesday, March 25 @ 11 a.m.
Another local person was diagnosed with COVID-19 this morning, according to the Galveston County Health District.
The newest case is a man in his 40s who has not traveled domestically or been in contact will another known COVID-19 case, the health district said.
The man is the 22nd local diagnosis of COVID-19 since testing began in the county on March 2.
Of all the local cases announced so far, half have been men and half have been women.
The health district plans to release another update about the number of local cases at 4 p.m.
Update, Wednesday, March 25 @ 9:06 a.m.
Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday appealed to Texans with the ability to volunteer as a medical responder or to donate medical supplies to make themselves known.
Texas has created a website where people can let state officials known about what kind of help they can offer as volunteers or what kinds of goods and space they can donate.
The form can be found here.
"I urge all Texans who would like to donate essential supplies and all medical professionals who are willing to volunteer their time and expertise to visit www.texas.gov to find out how they can help," Abbott said.
Abbott has already loosened regulations on who can serve as nurses and doctors, in anticipation of a need for a greater number of medical providers in coming days and weeks.
Update, Tuesday, March 24 @ 8:39 p.m.
Galveston-born billionaire Tilman Fertitta has temporarily laid off 40,000 employees across his Landry's Inc. business empire, according to business wire service Bloomberg.
The furlough accounts for about 70 percent of the employees who work at Fertitta's restaurants, hotels and casinos, according to the report. But Fertitta didn't criticize efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus through such measures as social distancing and government orders that have staggered the hospitality industry.
“I think what we are doing with the shut-down is good, but in a few weeks people will need to be around people,” Fertitta said told Bloomberg. “Otherwise, you are going to go into an economic crisis that is going to take us years to dig ourselves out of.”
The furloughs could last "a few weeks," according to the report.
Fertitta has sizable holdings in Galveston County, including the Brick House Tavern & Tap, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Fish Tales, Joe's Crab Shack, the Saltgrass Steakhouse and the Rainforest Cafe. He also owns the Galveston Island Pleasure Pier, the Kemah Boardwalk and the San Luis Resort.
Keeping properties open during the crisis has cost Fertitta millions of dollars in cash a day, he said.
“We are doing basically no business,” Fertitta said. “I want to hire every employee back. This is very hard on a lot of working families, but we have to survive or there is no company.”
Update, Tuesday, March 24 @ 4:24 p.m.
The Galveston County health district announced three more confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday afternoon. The county's total now stands at 21.
The new cases include a woman in her 50s, a woman in her 20s and a man in his 50s.
The younger woman was in contact with another local person who had already been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the health district. It's the first time the health district has connected a new case to a case previously announced in the county.
The older woman may have recently traveled domestically, but no further information is available.
The man has not traveled recently and has had no known contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, the health district said.
All three people are self-quarantined, according to the health district.
Update, Tuesday, March 24 @ 3:47 p.m.
A 37-year-old man from Harris County is being treated for COVID-19 at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice hospital in Galveston, officials said.
The man is the first person in the state prison system's custody to be diagnosed with COVID-19.
He has been receiving treatment at Hospital Galveston for three days. He's been in the department's custody since Feb. 27 after he was convicted of two drug possession charges, the agency said.
The man began to complain about shortness of breath and a cough on March 21, while in custody at the Lychner State Jail in Humble, the department said. He was taken from there to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston and then taken to the Galveston hospital.
The Galveston hospital facility is on the University of Texas Medical Branch campus but is separate from the other medical facilities there.
The man is in medical isolation and in good condition, the department said.
“TDCJ is saddened to learn of this positive case in an offender, but the agency is well prepared to handle this challenge,” said Bryan Collier, the executive director of the criminal justice department. “Our coronavirus protocol was developed exactly for a situation like this. Our prayers are with the offender and his family as he recovers from this illness.”
Update, Tuesday, March 24 @ 3:03 p.m.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered Texas hospitals and medical facilities to submit daily reports of the number of COVID-19 tests they've conducted and to report the number of treatment beds they have available.
The orders are the most recent steps Abbott has taken to prepare the state for a large and sudden increase in the number of people who need hospital care in coming days.
Abbott spoke Tuesday afternoon from a warehouse full of medical equipment, including masks and tents, that he said was being sent to hospitals around the state.
On Monday, Texas ordered $80 million in supplies, Abbott said. Later this week, the state will begin receiving shipments of more than 100,000 masks a day. By the end of next week, the state will received more than 1 million masks a week.
Abbott also lauded Texans, including private practice physicians, who have donated medical supplies to hospitals. He invited people and groups that want to donate more medical supplies or to volunteer to help to visit www.texas.gov.
"We are looking to expand our capacity of medical professionals," Abbott said.
The state needs "more soldiers" on the front line of the fight against the virus, he said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 715 Texans had tested positive for COVID-19, Abbott said. Eleven people had died, he said. Cases have been confirmed in 65 counties.
More than 11,000 people have been tested for the virus, Abbott said.
Abbott urged people to continue practicing social distancing and said the next 15 days were critical in responding to and limiting the spread of COVID-19 in Texas. He said he was still ""flexible" on the idea of issuing a statewide stay-at-home order, if people in the state do not comply with local orders to avoid gatherings.
"The best thing to do is to stay home unless you need to be out," Abbott said.
Update, Tuesday, March 24 @ 2:35 p.m.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's update on the state's response to COVID-19 is scheduled to begin shortly.
A livestream of his speech can be found here.
Update, Tuesday, March 24 @ 11:45 a.m.
The 25th annual Keels & Wheels Concours d’Elegance has announced that the event, scheduled for May 2-3, has been rescheduled for Oct. 17-18 at the Lakewood Yacht Club, 2322 Lakewood Yacht Club Drive, in Seabrook. Additionally, the 11th annual Keels & Wheels Uncorked event originally set for April 2 will now be Oct. 1 at the Lone Star Flight Museum at Ellington Field, 11551 Aerospace Ave., in Houston. For information, visit www.keels-wheels.com.
Update, Tuesday, March 24 @ 11:06 a.m.
There are no new confirmed cases of COVID-19 to report in Galveston County on Tuesday morning, the Galveston County Health District said.
The district issued an update to the local case count at 11 a.m.
"Galveston County Health District has no new positive COVID-19 cases to report this morning," the district said.
New confirmed cases have been reported in Galveston County each of the last four days.
The case count could still increase today. Testing of local samples is still ongoing, and the health district will issue another update on the local case count at 4 p.m.
Update, Tuesday, March 24 @ 10:42 a.m.
This morning, The Daily News reported on the plight of Crystal Janke and Michael Petterson, a Galveston couple who were stranded in Honduras because of a border closure that happened in the middle of their vacation.
On Tuesday morning, Janke announced that the couple has some new hope. On Monday evening, United Airlines announced it would resume commercial flights to the country on Wednesday.
"We're coming home soon," Janke said.
Update, Tuesday, March 24 @ 9:18 a.m.
Gov. Greg Abbott is scheduled to again address the state this afternoon to discuss response to COVID-19. It will be Abbott's first appearance since Sunday.
Abbott will speak from a Texas Department of Public Safety warehouse facility and will be joined by officials from the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
On Monday, Abbott sent a letter to the White House asking President Donald Trump to declare a major disaster in Texas. Texas needs federal assistance to save lives, Abbott said. He asked for federal aid to address shortages of personal protective equipment and other medical resources.
“Texas is all-in on our response to COVID-19, and we need Washington’s financial assistance as provided for under the law to support our efforts to limit the spread of this virus,” Abbott said. “COVID-19-related expenses and obligations are already exceeding $50 million, and that will only rise as our efforts continue. Additional federal funding is essential for us to maintain our aggressive course of action to protect our state.”
Abbott's is scheduled to speak at 2:30 p.m.
Update, Monday, March 23 @ 5:43 p.m.
Galveston County will announce a countywide shelter-in-place order this evening, multiple county officials have confirmed. The order will go into effect beginning at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday and remain in effect until April 3.
County Judge Mark Henry and the mayors of every city in the county agreed to the order following a phone call of local leaders at 2 p.m. today, officials said.
The orders were first announced by Santa Fe Mayor Jason Tabor in a Facebook video.
"We all agree that the county is at a tipping point," Tabor said in a recorded statement. "If we don't do something now, the cases of COVID-19 will skyrocket."
Under the county's order, Galveston County residents may only leave their homes in order to seek medical care, pick up essential items such as food — for either humans or pets — or household supplies, participate in solitary outdoor recreational activities or to work at an essential business.
Essential business includes retailers such as grocery stores, gas stations and convenience stores, in addition to healthcare providers, news organizations, restaurants providing takeout, delivery and drive-thru services.
Essential infrastructure providers, like local governments, trash collection and telecommunication systems providers can also remain open. Charity organizations that provide help to those in need and child care providers are also exempted from the order.
Galveston County's order closely mirrors the one issued by Dallas County on Sunday afternoon. The local order a little more than 24 hours after Gov. Greg Abbott said he would not issue a statewide shelter-in-place order because of the coronavirus and deferred to local cities and counties to make their own decisions about shutdowns.
Update, Monday, March 23 @ 4:15 p.m.
The latest person with a confirmed coronavirus diagnosis in Galveston County is a girl that is less than 10 years old, the Galveston County Health District said.
The county announced the latest diagnosis at 4 p.m. on Monday. The girl is the 18th announced case in the county, and the sixth case announced Monday.
The girl is also the youngest person in the county to be diagnosed with the coronavirus. The girl had recently traveled domestically and is currently self-quarantined at her home, according to the health district. The girl is not an infant, a district spokeswoman said.
The health district again did not say what city or part of the county the latest diagnosis was from, a policy the district has mostly followed since announcing the first local case on March 13.
“As we look at the pattern of testing, we can assume it’s everywhere and you should assume that, too," said Dr. Philip Keiser in the statement announcing the latest case. “We’re reaching a point where knowing where someone who tested positive lives or shops is not going to protect you. You should assume it is everywhere and take proper precautions.”
Update, Monday, March 23 @ 12:30 p.m.
A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the suspension of all cruise ship travel worldwide be deferred during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
The report, released by the CDC on Monday, includes a review of the outbreaks that occurred on board two cruise ships, the Diamond Princess and the Grand Princess, and reviews the public health challenges are created by cruise ships.
"Outbreaks of COVID-19 on cruise ships pose a risk for rapid spread of disease beyond the voyage," the report said. "Aggressive efforts are required to contain spread. All persons should defer all cruise travel worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic."
Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises, the two major cruise companies that operate out of the Port of Galveston, have already canceled cruises through the middle of April. As of Monday morning, they had not announced plans to cancel beyond that time period.
Update, Monday, March 23 @ 11:20 a.m.
The Galveston County Health District has announced five more confirmed cases of coronavirus in Galveston County.
The number of local cases is now up to 17.
All five new cases are men, according to the health district. They range in age from their 20s to their 60s. All five men are currently self-quarantined in their homes.
The district did not release any other information about the men. Another update about testing numbers is set to be published at 4 p.m., according to the health district.
Update, Monday, March 23 @ 9:40 a.m.
Galveston County Commissioners unanimously voted on Monday morning to extend a local disaster declaration for 30 days. The vote extends the declaration made by County Judge Mark Henry last week.
The declaration is mostly meant to keep the county in line for financial relief in the future, Henry said. The order does not close any county facilities or make any other changes to current state warnings in the county.
The commissioners court meeting being held in the county's North County Annex Building in League City looks very different than a normal meeting. Commissioners are spread out at least six feet apart at separate plastic tables, and constable deputies wearing face masks are guarding the entrance to the court room.
The meeting is being streamed here.
Update, Sunday, March 22 @ 4:17 p.m.
Shortly after Gov. Greg Abbott's remarks ended, the Galveston County Health District announced another county resident has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
The total number of local confirmed cases now stands at 12.
The newest diagnosis is a woman in her 40s who had recently traveled internationally and had contact with another person who was diagnosed with COVID-19, the health district said. No other details about the woman were released on Sunday.
The health district announced three more local diagnoses earlier in the day on Sunday. Officials have said they plan to make twice-daily announcements about positive tests for the foreseeable future.
Update, Sunday, March 22 @ 3:35 p.m.
Gov. Greg Abbott will not issue a statewide shelter-in-place order to attempt to make people stay home during the COVID-19 outbreak in Texas.
During an afternoon address from Austin, Abbott said that while the number of confirmed cases in Texas was growing and expected to grow more, he did not think a statewide order was appropriate.
Abbott noted that more than 200 counties in Texas do not yet have any confirmed cases in their boundaries.
"What may be right for places like the large urban areas, may not be right at this particular point in time for the more than 200 counties that have zero cases of COVID-19," Abbott said.
Abbott said that he was still evaluating the effectiveness of the executive order he issued on Thursday and would, for now, defer to local officials across Texas to decide whether to issue their own stay-at-home orders.
"Local officials have the authority to implement more strict standards than what I, as governor, have ordered here in the state of Texas," Abbott said. "They already have the full authority at the local level to implement those stricter standards. And if they choose to do so, I would applaud them for doing so."
Abbott did announce some new measures he was taking to respond to the expected increase in coronavirus cases in coming days.
Texas National Guard troops will be deployed to help hospitals around the state this week. The guard will complete tasks at the directions of hospitals, including setting up tents for potential COVID-19 treatment areas or helping pre-screen people who have lined up to have a coronavirus test taken.
Abbott announced two new executive orders prohibiting all nonessential medical procedures at hospitals across the state, and loosening restrictions on the number of people that can be treated in a hospital room at one time.
Update, Sunday, March 22 @ 3:05 p.m.
Gov. Greg Abbott is set to speak soon. A live feed of his speech from Austin can be found here.
Update, Sunday, March 22 @ 11:20 a.m.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 diagnoses in Galveston County increased by three Sunday morning, bringing the total to 11, the Galveston County Health District said.
The confirmed cases includes two women and one man.
The first case is a man in his 70s who recently traveled domestically and presented to an area clinic.
The second case is a woman in her 20s who has no history of travel or contact with another infected person. The third case is a woman in her 50s who has no history of travel or contact with another infected person.
The health district believes the two women are examples of community spread of the virus in Galveston County. That means they may have contracted the virus from another, unknown person in the community.
The health district has warned about the possibility of community spread in Galveston County since March 17, the day the second confirmed case of the virus in county was announced
All three people are self-quarantined, according to the health district. The district did not release information about where in the county the people live.
Update, Sunday, March 22 @ 7:15 a.m.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will provide an update on state efforts to combat the coronavirus today at 3 p.m. Abbott will speak from the State Capitol in Austin.
Abbott will be joined by officials from the Department of State Health Services and the Texas Division of Emergency Management, his office said.
As of Sunday morning, there were at least 325 coronavirus cases in Texas, according to the Texas Tribune. Five people have died and at least 6,522 have been tested.
Update, Saturday, March 21 @ 3:09 p.m.
Update, Saturday, March 21 @ 2:15 p.m.
Warnings and discouragement against traveling to the island, combined with gloomy early spring weather, have resulted in a very quiet Saturday on Galveston Island.
One tourism official said it appeared that efforts to limit people from gathering on the island worked "almost too good" and that the island's beach parks were nearly deserted on Saturday afternoon.
Before the pandemic, today would have been the last day of spring break in Texas.
"It's pretty empty," said Galveston Beach Patrol Chief Peter Davis.
On a scale of winter to the Fourth of July, today is closer to what would be seen in November and early December, Davis said.
Galveston hasn't closed any of its beaches, officially, but has taken steps to keep people away from them. No beach amenities, such as bathrooms or pavilions, are open. And on Friday, the city restricted vehicular access to beaches on the far West End of the island, beginning around the Miramar subdivision.
The idea behind those closures was to limit "pop-up" crowds of people in places that are generally unguarded and unmonitored by public safety agencies, Davis said. The vehicular closures include blocking access to roads at the San Luis Pass.
Davis said beach patrol lifeguards were ready to speak to groups of people that gather in large numbers if that happens this weekend or in the coming weeks. Right now, that hasn't been something they really needed to worry about, he said.
"So far people have seemed like they're cautious and staying away from each other," Davis said.
Update, Saturday, March 21 @ 9:12 a.m.
The temporary shutdown of some businesses and services ordered by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott began this morning.
From now until April 3, restaurants across Texas will have to close their dining rooms and offer takeout dining only. All bars, gyms, massage parlors and schools are supposed to be closed.
The order also prohibits social gatherings of more than 10 people.
Abbott declared a public health emergency Thursday and enacted the orders.
The orders do not require people to shelter in place. People can still go to stores and banks and parks. Businesses can stay open, although Abbott recommended companies allow non-essential employees to stay home.
Update, Friday, March 20 @ 5:20 p.m.
The Galveston Symphony Orchestra has canceled the rest of its season, the organization said Friday.
Managers asked patrons to consider converting tickets for the canceled concerts to donations, or making donations in any amount to sustain the orchestra.
Update, Friday, March 20 @ 3 p.m.
Texas landlords can’t evict residential tenants for most reasons until April 19, the Texas Supreme Court ruled.
Renters can be evicted only for posing an imminent threat of physical harm to others, or for engaging in criminal activity, according to the Texas Apartment Association, which said it supported the move.
The ruling offers a “lifeline to many Texans who are beginning to feel the economic impact of COVID-19,” Gov. Greg Abbott said.
"Temporarily suspending residential eviction proceedings will provide Texans whose personal income has been affected by the spread of this virus with greater flexibility to meet their housing needs and provide for their families,” Abbott said.
Update, Friday, March 20 @ 1:45 p.m.
Two more cases of coronavirus infection have been confirmed in Galveston County, bringing the total of known cases to six, health officials said Friday afternoon
One of the newly confirmed cases is a man in his 40s who recently traveled internationally and had gone an area urgent care facility. He is self-quarantined in his home.
The second is a woman in her 50s who been to an area hospital and is self-quarantined at home. The woman has not recently traveled, but did come in contact with a person known to have traveled to a COVID-19 affected area, health officials said.
The health district would not release additional identifying information. The district was conducting investigations and working to identify close contacts for both cases.
The health district will not comment about case specifics, including a person’s city of residence or where the person might have visited.
Update, Friday, March 20 @ 12:45 p.m.
The Moody Foundation has committed $250,000 in COVID-19 relief funds to support Galveston County, per a news release sent out Thursday.
Initial funds have been authorized to help Catholic Charities, CHRISTUS Our Daily Bread, the Galveston County Food Bank, St. Vincent's House, and United Way of Galveston.
Update, Friday, March 20 @ 12:40 p.m.
All Workforce Solutions Career offices are closed to the public and will remain so indefinitely, officials with local workforce development agencies announced Thursday.
To find your nearest office, visit www.wrksolutions.com/locations, or call 888-469-5627 and enter your ZIP code and the call will route to the nearest office.
For unemployment benefit questions, or to apply, visit www.ui.texasworkforce.org, or call 800-939-6631 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. weekdays.
Update, Friday, March 20 @ 12:30 p.m.
The Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce has rescheduled its 13th annual Galveston Women's Conference to Aug. 28. For information, visit www.galvestonwomensconference.com or call 409-763-5326.
Update, Friday, March 20 @ 12:30 p.m.
The Galveston Lions Club has canceled its annual oyster roast. The raffle will take place at 7 p.m. March 28 via Facebook live on the club's Facebook page. Tickets are still available by calling 409-771-6893.
Update, Friday, March 20 @ 12:20 p.m.
The University of Texas Medical Branch has instituted a no visitor policy at its hospitals that began at noon today, according to a medical branch statement.
The policy applies to patient rooms, the emergency department and waiting rooms, but exceptions will be allowed for a partner or spouse in labor and delivery, for one parent or caregiver in pediatrics and for patients receiving end-of-life care, according to the statement.
Permission for visitors may be given by the patient care team or on a case-by-case basis.
Update, Friday, March 20 @ 7:54 a.m.
The income tax filing date has been pushed back from April 15, to July 15, The Associated Press reports.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the decision in a tweet Friday saying that at President Donald Trump’s direction “we are moving Tax Day from April 15 to July 15. All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties.”
At a White House briefing, Trump said the delay on filing and paying taxes until July 15 was done to give taxpayers more time and “hopefully by that time, people will be getting back to their lives.”
Trump said that if people are expecting refunds, they should go ahead and file now so that they can get their refunds from the IRS more quickly.
The administration had announced earlier in the week that it would delay the payments, a move that Mnuchin said would leave $300 billion in the economy at a critical time.
Update, Friday, March 20 @ 7:54 a.m.
Carnival Cruise Line has offered to allow governments and health organizations to use its vessels as temporary hospitals to help offset a potential shortages of hospital beds.
The company proposed using its ships a temporary healthcare facilities to treat non-COVID-19 patients.
"If needed, cruise ships are capable of being quickly provisioned to serve as hospitals with up to 1,000 hospital rooms that can treat patients suffering from less critical, non-COVID-19 conditions," the company said.
Two Carnival cruise ships, the Vista and the Dream, are currently rotating positions at Cruise Terminal No. 1 at the Port of Galveston. There have been no local announcements about using the ships as hospitals as of Friday morning.
Update, Thursday, March 19 @ 6:47 p.m.
The University of Texas Medical Branch is contacting patients to ask anyone who has an elective procedure scheduled to cancel it until after April 5, according to a statement.
The health system will make exceptions based on the patient's health and potential negative impact of delaying the procedure, according to the statement.
Clinical visits scheduled for the next two weeks will also move to televisits, which include either phone and video or just phone calls, according to the statement.
Update, Thursday, March 19 @ 6:16 p.m.
The Galveston County Clerk’s office will close its League City Annex, 174 N. Calder Drive, effective Friday until further notice. The office at 600 59th St. in Galveston would remain open with limited staff.
The office would maintain services by answering phones, issuing marriage licenses, recording property documents, processing electronic filings for judicial cases, and property records, and by processing all mail.
County Clerk Dwight Sullivan asked people going to the Galveston office to not take their children with them.
Update, Thursday, March 19 @ 5:16 p.m.
Galveston has closed amenities at Stewart Beach, East Beach, Seawolf Park, Seawall Urban Park and Dellanera RV Park.
The action does not close or restrict access to the public beaches. It closes amenities such as bathrooms and the pavilions at Stewart and East beaches, according to the city.
The city closed the parks out of an abundance of caution, according to the city's statement.
Update, Thursday, March 19 @ 1:54 p.m.
Hitchcock has joined a growing list of Galveston County cities under a local disaster declaration.
Mayor Randy Stricklind on Thursday signed a declaration of local disaster, Administrator Marie Gelles said.
Update, Thursday, March 19 @ 1:50 p.m.
The state is urging clients of Texas Health and Human Services and all residents affected by the coronavirus emergency to use the 2-1-1 Texas Social Services Hotline to speak to someone who can help. To access the COVID-19 hotline, dial 211, then choose option 6 to get information about coronavirus-related social services including testing, community clinics, unemployment benefits and more.
Texans can also dial 877-541-7905, select option 6, for the same information and services.
The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Information about local community resources such as financial assistance for utilities or rent and food pantries, housing assistance, crisis counseling, utility payment assistance and senior services are available via the hotline, according to Texas Health and Human Services.
Update, Thursday, March 19 @ 1:30 p.m.
Texas City Independent School District will distribute curriculum packets to elementary students on March 20 on a schedule based on alphabetical order of last names and grade level. The district also will distribute technology devices to students who don't have access to a school district or home device on the same schedule, posted at www.tcisd.org.
Secondary students will have a chance to pick up academic personal items such as band instruments on March 20, at the times indicated on the district's schedule, posted at www.tcisd.org.
Parents can pick up their children's medications from school nurses during the same posted time frame. There will be drive-throughs at the schools to avoid congregating. Maps are available at www.tcisd.org/coronavirus. Medications will not be given to students unless they are 18 or older.
Secondary students with school-issued technology devices can find their assignments on Canvas and don't have to come to the school if they have nothing to pick up. Students who have not checked out a school issued technology device should plan to come during the scheduled time to pick one up. Secondary students coming to school to pick up items need to wear their school ID.
Email Parent-Helpdesk@tcisd.org for technology issue questions. Students can email teachers questions about class assignments.
The district will not be handing out personal items such as clothing or lunch bags — only things that students need to have to complete school work. This includes band instruments.
Information is available at www.tcisd.org or call the district communications office at 409-916-0114.
Update, Thursday, March 19 @ 12:36 p.m.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a public health disaster because of the coronavirus outbreak.
As part of the order, Abbott has banned all social gatherings of more than 10 people in Texas, and has ordered people to avoid eating or drinking inside bars and restaurants or exercising at gyms, and ordered restaurants to provide takeout service only.
He banned all non-essential visits to nursing homes, retirement homes, or long-term care facilities. All Texas schools have been ordered closed.
The executive order goes into effect at midnight on Friday, March 20 and ends on April 3, Abbott said.
The orders are not a shelter in place order, Abbott said. People can still go to work and to the grocery store, gas station, parks or banks. There are no limits on domestic travel, Abbott said.
Update, Thursday, March 19 @ 11:18 a.m.
League City Mayor Pat Hallisey on Thursday signed a local disaster declaration, making his city the latest in Galveston County to do so.
Despite signing the declaration, city officials are not yet forcing restaurants and businesses to close their dining rooms, but only strongly recommending it, officials said.
The declaration gives city administrators the ability to take further measures that might reduce the spread of coronavirus, or COVID-19, officials said.
Update, Thursday, March 19 @ 10:37 a.m.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will hold a virtual town hall on Thursday evening to discuss the state's response to coronavirus, his office announced this evening.
The town hall will air in the Houston area on Channel 39 at 7 p.m.
Texans can submit questions for Abbott to answer by using the hashtag #AskAbbott on Twitter and Facebook.
“As Texas continues to respond to the threat of COVID-19, it is vital that all Texans understand the size and scope of this challenge as well as what the State of Texas is doing to mitigate the spread of this virus and keep Texans safe,” said Abbott said.
Abbott is also scheduled to make a public announcement this afternoon about a statewide decision on closing and limiting service at restaurants and bars. That announcement is expected around noon.
Update, Thursday, March 19 @ 9:30 a.m.
The Galveston County Health District is offering its services by appointment only, effective immediately until further notice.
Rather than dropping in to its offices, if you need services from any of these programs, please call them to schedule an appointment:
Vitals (birth and death records): 409-763-7202 or 409-765-2553
Executive Office: 409-938-2379
Human Resources: 409-938-2260
Women, Infants and Children (WIC): 409-949-3471
Healthy Concepts Clinic: 409-765-2528
Environmental, Consumer Health and Water Sample Drop-Off: 409-938-2319
The health district has canceled its Diabetes 101 class until further notice. If you have questions about diabetes management, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
WIC's cooking class, in partnership with Galveston's Own Farmers Market, and Mother’s Milk Club meetings in Galveston, Texas City and Dickinson are canceled until further notice.
Pool and food manager classes offered through the health district’s environmental program are currently postponed.
Update, Thursday, March 19 @ 9:00 a.m.
The Rotary Club of Galveston has postponed its 10th annual crawfish boil, which was set for April 19 at Moody Gardens. Event organizers are planning to reschedule the event at a later date.
Update, Thursday, March 19 @ 9:00 a.m.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars No. 6378 will have its Lenten fish fry from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at 5204 state Highway 3 in Dickinson. Patrons can call in their order at 281-337-4952 and drive by the glass doors facing state Highway 3 and the group will bring it to your car. Dinners are $10 each (cash or check only).
Update, Wednesday, March 18 @ 9:30 p.m.
League City is not restricting the operation of bars and restaurants at this time Mayor Pat Hallisey stated in an email to residents Wednesday evening.
"Things continue to evolve and change, but at this time, the City is not mandating the closures of bars and restaurants. However, we strongly encourage residents to consider ordering take-out or placing a pick-up order as a way to maintain social distancing while still supporting our local restaurants."
City Hall and the Municipal Court building remain open, but Hallisey strongly encouraged residents to utilize online options for making payments. All court dockets in League City Municipal Court scheduled through March 31 will be rescheduled and jurors do not need to appear.
The Helen Hall Library will be closed to the public as of 6 p.m. Thursday, March 19. All City-sponsored events are postponed/canceled through May 4 but all city public parks remain open.
Update, Wednesday, March 18 @ 9 p.m.
The Moore Memorial Public Library, 1701 9th Ave. N in Texas City, is no longer considering curbside service and is now closed to the public.
The library is not assigning late fines for the duration of the closure. Staff advises that although residents may still get automatic notifications of fines, the notifications can be ignored. No books are to be returned to the library until further notice.
Update, Wednesday, March 18 @ 2:56 p.m.
Two more Galveston County people have been diagnosed with coronavirus, the Galveston County Health District said.
The people are a man in his 50s and a woman in her 40s, the health district said. Both are quarantined in their homes. The health district did not say where in the county the people are from.
The district also said it's not clear whether the people had contact with each other, or whether they might have been infected with the virus locally.
"Both have recently traveled within the United States, but it is unclear at this time if they were exposed via travel or community spread," the health district said.
“We understand the announcement of two additional cases may concern our community but, as we’ve said, now that testing has increased, we can expect to see the number of positive cases in the county also increase,” said Philip Keiser, Galveston County's local health authority.
“We continue to strongly encourage residents to follow guidelines from the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)," he said. "There is evidence of community spread in Galveston County, and staying home while practicing social distancing is the best way you can protect yourself and others.”
Update, Wednesday, March 18 @ 2:33 p.m.
Galveston will conduct its March 24 meeting via conference call, a city spokeswoman said.
City staff will video conference all the council members into the meeting and broadcast the meeting to the public, according to the city.
People should look for additional information about how to submit public comments.
In light of a Wednesday order that shifted all restaurants to take-out and delivery only, the city also extended free parking in paid parking areas from 15 minutes to 30 minutes.
People normally can park their cars in paid areas for 15 minutes to allow for pick-ups and drop-offs.
Update, Wednesday, March 18 @ 2:32 p.m.
University of Texas Medical Branch is moving to emergency statutes effective immediately, according to a 2:01 p.m. statement from the university.
That means employees might get moved to different locations, shifts or duties and that employees working remotely may be called back in for duty, according to the statement.
Coursework will shift all online starting Monday, according to the statement.
Update, Wednesday, March 18 @ 2:09 p.m.
The Galveston County Election Office will not conduct elections on May 2, Galveston County District Clerk Dwight Sullivan said.
The office on Wednesday afternoon began to notify local cities and other entities about its decision.
The election office's decision likely means that most of the elections scheduled for May 2 will be postponed.
Most cities and local entities contract with the election office to conduct the election. Local entities could still attempt to conduct their own elections or hire someone else to do them. Those plans would need to be made and finalized by April 20, the first day of early voting for the May 2 election.
Sullivan, who is an elected official, said he made the decision to cancel the office's participation. The decision came hours after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation allowing local governments to postpone their elections until Nov. 3.
Update, Wednesday, March 18 @ 1:27 p.m.
A county man with a presumptive positive case of the coronavirus is from League City, officials said on Wednesday afternoon.
The man is the person whose diagnosis was publicly announced by the Galveston County Health District on Tuesday. In its announcement, the health district said the man was from the north part of Galveston County but did not say what city he lived in.
League City officials learned Wednesday morning that the man was from League City, officials said.
Officers within the League City Police Department have been informed where the person lives specifically and will respond to reports in the area with caution, officials said. League City officials declined to release what part of the city the man is from.
The man may be the first example of community spread of the coronavirus in Galveston County. The health district has not identified how he contracted the virus, and he had not recently traveled or come into direct contact with another person who had been diagnosed with it.
Update, Wednesday, March 18 @ 11:16 a.m.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has suspended a part of the Texas Election Code, giving local governments the opportunity to delay their upcoming local elections.
Local entity elections are scheduled to take place on May 2, with early voting beginning on April 20. Abbott's proclamation allows local governments to suspend their elections until Nov. 3.
"I strongly encourage local election officials to take advantage of these waivers and postpone their elections until November," Abbott said. "Right now, the state's focus is responding to COVID-19 — including social distancing and avoiding large gatherings. By delaying this election, our local election officials can assist in that effort."
Galveston County's election calendar promises dozens of races, some of which will result in major leadership changes. Galveston, Texas City and Dickinson are all set to elect new mayors. Voters in Friendswood, Galveston and Dickinson are slated to vote on hundreds of millions of dollars in school bonds.
There were no immediate announcements from any local governments announcing plans to change their election dates.
Update, Wednesday, March 18 @ 11:15 a.m.
The lobby of The Galveston County Daily News, 8522 Teichman Road in Galveston, will close to visitors immediately.
Daily News customers and members of the public are still encouraged to call with questions or concerns at 409-683-5200.
Update, Wednesday, March 18 @ 10:56 a.m.
Health district officials are investigating signs posted on the La Marque VFW hall announcing it was closing, because a patron that visited on March 9 had coronavirus.
As of Wednesday morning, the county still had only two confirmed cases of coronavirus, officials said.
It is unclear where the hall received its information, officials said. But health district officials are looking into it.
Update, Wednesday, March 18 @ 10:47 a.m.
The University of Texas Medical Branch will suspend in-person courses beginning Monday, March 23, officials announced on Wednesday morning.
The medical branch will also close its Health Education Center and its library.
In a message to students and parents, Charles Mouton, the provost and dean of the medical branch's school of medicine, said officials were developing plans how the change will affect students' educational plans.
"We appreciate everyone’s concern about the impact that this interruption and reorganization has on each student’s progress toward the completion of degree requirements," Mouton said. "We ask for your continued patience as we realign the various curricula to meet our educational outcomes. "
Update, Wednesday, March 18 @ 10:15 a.m.
College of the Mainland will move all instruction possible to an online format starting March 23. All college events are postponed or canceled through the middle of May and may include moving the graduation ceremony to a later date, said Monique Sennet, spokeswoman for the college.
The gymnasium, child care center and Lifelong Learning Center at the college are closed until further notice. The campus library will remain open with limited staffing.
Through the end of the semester, library computer classrooms will remain open for students needing computer and internet access, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays. Tutoring services provided through the college's student support services will continue to be available with an increased online tutoring presence, the college said.
Should there be a need for physical presence on campus, the college will institute social distancing and protective hygiene measures. Any student, faculty, staff or visitor experiencing symptoms of illness should stay home.
For more information, visit www.com.edu/coronavirus.
Update Tuesday, March 17 @ 10 p.m.
• NASA announced that effective immediately all employees and contractors will telework until further notice after “a limited number of employees have tested positive” for coronavirus. Mission-essential personnel will continue to be granted access onsite.
Update, Tuesday, March 17 @ 7 p.m
Texas A&M University at Galveston has canceled its May commencement ceremony, the school announced on Tuesday evening.
The university is considering options for an in-person ceremony later this summer, but no plans were immediately, the school said in an update on its website.
The school has canceled or postponed more than a dozen other events planned for this school year, including its Ring Day ceremony and Campus Muster Ceremony.
Most local colleges and high schools have not announced their commencement plans as of Tuesday evening.
In a tweet, the Texas City Independent School District said it was still hopeful it could hold prom and graduation ceremonies this year.
Update, Tuesday, March 17 @ 5:05 p.m.
Cinemark Theaters nationwide, including those in Texas City and Webster, will close to help slow the spread of coronavirus, officials said.
The theaters will remain closed until business administrators decide it's safe to welcome customers again, officials said.
The chain will pause movie club membership, extend the expiration of rewards points until June 30 and refund all tickets purchased in advance, officials said.
Update, Tuesday, March 17 @ 5:03 p.m.
League City Police Department Chief Gary Ratliff will host a press conference at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and the department's procedures.
The department will be making several changes, including taking more reports by phone, officials said.
The department also will be investigating price gouging, officials said.
Update, Tuesday, March 17 @ 4:30 p.m.
In effort to reduce foot traffic in the state's eligibility offices, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission is asking Texans to submit benefit applications and other paperwork online at www.yourtexasbenefits.com or use the Your Texas Benefits mobile app.
The commission administers assistance programs such as Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP food benefits, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF cash assistance and Women Infants and Children or WIC nutrition program. Applying online will minimize the potential for staff and public exposure to COVID-19 while allowing staff to process applications effectively during the COVID-19 outbreak, Wayne Salter, executive commissioner said.
Office locations will remain open but applicants should work through the website if they can, the commission said. Visitors on foot are encouraged to used hand sanitizer placed in the state offices. Sick people should not visit.
People with questions about using the website or the mobile app, including those with special needs, should dial 2-1-1 and select option 2. To check benefit amounts, visit YourTexasBenefits.com or call the help desk at 800-777-7328.
Office closures will be announced on the health and human services COVId-19 page at www.hhs.texas.gov.
Update, Tuesday, March 17 @ 4:25 p.m.
The Galveston Art Center has announced it will close until further notice.
"Except for a few Art for All sites, all programming is canceled or postponed until further notice," the center said in an announcement.
ArtWalk is still scheduled as usual, as of Tuesday. Arts center directors will continue to monitor the situation and give updates as they develop.
Update, Tuesday, March 17 @ 2:19 p.m.
The second person presumptively diagnosed with the coronavirus in Galveston County is a man between the age of 40 and 50 who lives in the north part of Galveston County, officials said.
The man's age range and the general area of the county where he lived are two of the small pieces of personal information released by the Galveston County Health District on Tuesday.
The man began showing symptoms of a coronavirus infection on Sunday and went to be tested at an emergency health center on Monday, Galveston County Local Health Authority Philip Keiser said.
The Galveston County Health District was notified about the man's presumptively positive diagnosis on Monday evening, Keiser said.
The man had not traveled and had no direct connection with another person believed to be infected with the virus, Keiser said.
Update, Tuesday, March 17 @ 1:41 p.m.
Despite the presumptive positive case of the coronavirus in Galveston County that could indicate community spread, Galveston County Judge Mark Henry and Local Health Authority Philip Keiser on Tuesday said they would not go so far as to order a county-wide closure of bars, restaurants and other gathering places on Tuesday.
In fact, during a press conference announcing the second local presumptive positive case, the two officials said they were still researching their authority to do so.
"We're looking into that to make sure that we as a county and as a health authority know what we have the legal right to do, which may be different then the cities," Keiser said. "We want to make sure where we are."
On Tuesday afternoon, Galveston Mayor Jim Yarbrough said he would order bars and restaurants and other public venues to close or offer only takeout service. No other Galveston County cities had announced such measures Tuesday.
More details about Galveston's plans to close businesses were expected later this afternoon.
There have been growing calls for the county to make such a call since Monday evening, when both Dallas County and Harris County issued closure orders.
Despite the precedent set by those Texas counties, Keiser and Henry said they weren’t sure the sure the decisions made in those other places were legal.
In light of the diagnosis, the county is recommending anyone who at high risk from exposure to the coronavirus — the elderly and people with complicating conditions — to stay indoors for two to three weeks, Keiser said.
He also urged event planners to cancel any events they have planned in coming days and weeks.
Henry announced that he would issue a disaster declaration for Galveston, for the purpose of setting price limits on certain items.
Update, Tuesday, March 17 @ 12:04 p.m.
The city of Galveston is suspending its tourist buses for two weeks beginning noon, according to a city statement.
The buses, which are decorated like trolleys, are geared toward island tourists. Island Transit buses will continue to operate, but will make changes to keep passengers 6 feet apart, according to the statement.
Update, Tuesday, March 17 @ 11:30 a.m.
The Galveston County Health District has confirmed a second presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in a Galveston County resident.
A male aged 45-50 presented to a University of Texas Medical Branch clinic with fever, dry cough, sore throat, headache and body aches and tested positive for the virus. Initial test results must be confirmed by the Houston Health Department laboratory to make a confirmed positive diagnosis.
It appears the man has not recently traveled or come into contact with another infected person, suggesting the first sign of community spread in Galveston County, according to the health district.
The health district is not releasing the man's identity but is investigating and quickly identifying people who have come in close contact with him.
In its announcement, the health district strongly encouraged event organizers to consider whether their gatherings can be held virtually or postponed, urging everyone to consider the health of others when making those decisions. Older people and those with chronic medical conditions are at highest risk of complications from the virus.
Update, Tuesday, March 17 @ 11 a.m.
Rosenberg Library, 2310 Sealy St., in Galveston, will be issuing temporary cards via its online services at www.rosenberg-library.org, by phone, 409-763-8854, Ext. 111, or by email at email@example.com. Emails must include name, birthdate, valid ID number, address and phone number. Temporary cards will give patrons access to the library's databases.
Update, Tuesday, March 17 @ 10:27 a.m.
The Port of Galveston estimates that the cancellation of 26 cruises over the next month will result in about $1.6 million in lost revenue, officials said on Tuesday.
On Friday, Royal Caribbean canceled its cruises for 30 days and Carnival Cruise Lines canceled its cruises through April 10. For Galveston, that means that 26 scheduled cruises will not leave through the Port of Galveston, Port Director Rodger Rees said at a special meeting of the Wharves Board of Trustees on Tuesday morning.
The port's lost revenue estimate is a combination of the fees generated from passengers boarding cruise ships and from parking revenues, Rees said.
More than 700 people have attempted to cancel their parking reservations that were scheduled over the next month, Rees said.
In this year's budget the port estimated generating $38 million in revenue from cruise ships and parking, according to the budget.
Update, Tuesday, March 17 @ 10:15 a.m.
A Matagorda County man who tested positive for coronavirus has died, becoming Texas’ first death related to the illness, according to Associated Press reports.
The man, who was in his late 90s, died Sunday evening at Matagorda Regional Medical Center, according to the Associated Press.
The Houston Department of Health and Human Services notified the hospital of the positive coronavirus test Monday night.
Update, Monday, March 16 @ 6:35 p.m.
The City of Galveston has canceled all its committee, board and advisory group meetings except the March 24 City Council meeting.
The city will limit public attendance and will stream the meeting live online, a spokeswoman said.
The city is still determining how it will accept public comment.
Update, Monday, March 16 @ 6:28 p.m.
The City of League City is postponing or canceling all city-sponsored events scheduled through May 4, including:
• Household Hazardous Waste Event
• Community Garage Sale
• Grand Opening of Fire Station No. 6
• Walk for Wellness
• League City Egg Scramble
• League City Hiring Expo
• 2nd Annual Pet Fest
• Nature with Kristine
• Astronomy in the Park
Also postponed are Brews 'n More, Salute to Heroes and League City Wellness Expo, hosted by city-partner organizations.
All sports programs and leagues in League City have been suspended until March 30.
Starting March 17, all city board, committee and advisory group meeting are canceled. City Council on March 24 is still scheduled at this time, but residents are encouraged to watch on Channel 16 or online at the city's website.
Update, Monday, March 16 @ 6:20 p.m.
Galveston County school districts late Monday issued a flurry of announcements that their classes would be halted until at least April 10, extending a closure meant to blunt spread of the coronavirus by three weeks.
Update, Monday, March 16 @ 6:15 p.m.
Jury duty for March 20 at Texas City Municipal Court has been canceled.
Update, Monday, March 16 @ 4:47 p.m.
Galveston has declared a local state of disaster over coronavirus.
Mayor Jim Yarbrough signed the order Monday afternoon, three days after Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state disaster for Texas, according to a release from the city.
The measure means that Galveston will have access to federal and state money for city expenses related to coronavirus and means the city can take actions necessary to prevent the spread of coronavirus, according to the statement.
The city was not considering any additional action as of 4:45 p.m. Monday, according to the statement.
“Similar to other parts of the country, the city of Galveston is faced with a public health threat and our first priority is protecting the health and safety of our community,” Yarbrough said.
Update, Monday, March 16 @ 4:30 p.m.
Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council has canceled the FeatherFest Birding & Nature Photo Festival planned for April 14-20 in and around Galveston.
The council would begin making refunds over the next few days as it finalized details, officials said.
Update, Monday, March 16 @ 4 p.m.
The Grand 1894 Opera House in downtown Galveston has canceled the remainder of its spring season and has canceled its Grand Kids Festival, a yearly event that was scheduled for April 4, as it joins a growing number of organizations responding to the coronavirus crisis.
The Grand likely won’t reschedule the Grand Kids Festival, which was in its 25th year, until next year, Maureen Patton, executive director, said.
The Grand, 2020 Postoffice St., also has put on hold plans for the summer season and for dance classes usually held in the spring.
Patrons have the option of using tickets when a performance is rescheduled, asking for credit, donating their tickets or asking for a refund, Patton said.
Update, Monday, March 16 @ 3:55 p.m.
Island East-End Theatre Co., 2317 Postoffice St., in Galveston has canceled performances of its production "First Date" through March 31, according to Kim Mytelka, executive/artistic director.
Update, Monday, March 16 @ 2:15 p.m.
The Galveston-based environmental nonprofit Artist Boat has halted education and outreach programs through March 31. The Oppenheimer Bird Observatory at the Coastal Heritage Preserve will remain open for public use, according to Karla Klay, executive director.
Update, Monday, March 16 @ 1:45 p.m.
Texas State Parks are open and are taking steps to make visits safe. Visitors are asked to print their day-use and camping permits before arrival to eliminate in-person check in if possible. Visitors are urged to pack extra soap or hand sanitizer; they may not be available at remote locations.
Texas State Parks are waiving cancellation fees for visits scheduled in March. To cancel without fees, call customer service at 512-389-8900 or email customer at the state parks website.
Update Monday, March 16 @ 1:38 p.m.
Texas City’s Water Department is asking customers to exercise social distancing precautions when paying their bill by paying online at www.texascitytx.gov , calling 409-643-5923 or dropping off payment at the dropbox located at the Moore Memorial Public Library.
Disconnects for non-payment are temporarily suspended, but the city urges residents to pay water bills as soon as possible.
Update, Monday, March 16 @ 12:04 p.m.
Moore Memorial Public Library in Texas City has canceled all library programs until further notice, according to Maegan Rocio, the young adult librarian at the library. The library will remain open to provide technological, reference, and general services to patrons and guests.
Update, Monday, March 16 @ 11:45 a.m.
The fifth annual Women in Industry Conference, which was set for Friday at the Moody Gardens Convention Center, has been canceled.
Update, Monday, March 16 @ 11:41 a.m.
The city of La Marque announced extensive closures of city facilities on Monday morning.
La Marque City Hall and the La Marque Public Library will be closed until further notice, the city said.
The city will continue accepting utility billing payments online and through a drop at city hall. However, the city has also decided it will not conduct utility disconnects for the time being.
All city council and city committee meetings are postponed until further notice, the city said.
On Friday, La Marque became the first city in Galveston County to declare a public emergency over the coronavirus.
Update, Monday, March 16 @ 11:10 a.m.
The Galveston Arts and Culture Conversation scheduled for March 18 at Garten Verein has been canceled. The conversation was to be the kickoff event of an effort by the city to coordinate arts and culture events, announcements and planning through a central coordinating office. Joshua Ojeda, cultural collaboration coordinator, will be moving the conversation online this week.
Visit the office’s Facebook page to participate and learn more at https://www.facebook.com/galvestonartsandculture/ .
Update, Monday, March 16 @ 11:04 a.m.
Galveston's Rosenberg Library is closed until further notice, the library announced this morning.
Update, Monday, March 16 @ 10:36 a.m.
The City of Galveston is now saying it will not issue special event permits for events through May 30, 2020.
"Any currently scheduled event of 50 or more people will be canceled or postponed until after June 1, 2020," the city said in a tweet.
On Saturday, the city announced it was suspending special event permitting for events of over 250 people.
Galveston is so far the only city Galveston County to announce measures meant to limit or cancel large events.
The cancelation will affect 15 events that were already planned in the city between today and June 1, a city spokeswoman said.
Update, Monday, March 16 @ 9:50 a.m.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has canceled statewide school testing requirements for the 2019-2020 school year.
In an announcement on Monday morning, Abbott said the decision was made because of his emphasis on "public health over all over priorities."
"Your health and safety are top priorities, and the state of Texas will give school districts flexibility to protect and ensure the health of students, faculty, and their families," Abbott said. "We will empower schools to make the best decisions to protect their communities from COVID-19."
Abbott also asked the U.S. Department of Education to waive federal testing requirement for the 2019-2020 school year.
Update, Sunday, March 15 @ 8:35 p.m.
While schools will not hold classes this week, school districts say they are planning to serve meals to students.
School districts across Galveston County have announced the places and times they will serve meals. The schools are all offering ways for parents and students to drive to a place, pick up food and leave.
Follow the links below for information about each local school districts' plan to distribute meals.
- Clear Creek Independent School District
- Dickinson Independent School District
- Friendswood Independent School District
- Galveston Independent School District
- Hitchcock Independent School District
- Santa Fe Independent School District
- Texas City Independent School District
Update, Sunday, March 15 @ 1:00 p.m.
A patient is in quarantine at the University of Texas Medical Branch awaiting results of a coronavirus test. But the woman, who asked to be unnamed, said it was doubtful that she contracted the infection. She said she suffers from an underlying health condition with similar symptoms that also puts her in a very high-risk category.
She entered the hospital Thursday and doctors told her it could take three to five days to get results. As of 1 p.m. Sunday, she had not gotten results. Medical branch officials declined to comment about whether others were in similar quarantine.
Her husband said the family is on “pins and needles.”
Update, Saturday, March 14 @ 8:50 p.m.
The Brazoria County Health Department is tracing the steps of two people who tested positive for the coronavirus to figure out who they might have made contact with, county officials said.
The two Brazoria County residents who tested positive are between the ages of 35 and 45 and share a home in Alvin. They have been self-quarantined since going for the test Thursday in Harris County, Brazoria County spokeswoman Sharon Trower said. Officials declined to provide any more information about them, citing federal privacy laws. That includes whether anyone else lives in their home and, if so, whether those people would be tested.
The affected residents told officials they had not traveled outside the Houston area but attended the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which shut down last week after learning an infected Montgomery County man had been at an affiliated event. It is not known when the Brazoria County residents attended or whether that is where they contracted the virus, Trower said.
Update, Saturday, March 14 @ 6:44 p.m.
President Donald Trump has tested negative for the new coronavirus, according to the president's personal physician.
The White House released the test results Saturday night after Trump told reporters hours earlier that he had taken the coronavirus test, following days of resisting being screened despite the fact that he had been in recent contact with three people who have tested positive for the virus.
The president had multiple direct and indirect contacts with people who have since tested positive for the virus, including three people he spent time with last weekend at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.
Update, Saturday, March 14 @ 4 p.m.
H-E-B's San Antonio-based headquarters announced Saturday that all H-E-B stores will close AT 8 P.M. and operate from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. daily until further notice.
H-E-B spokeswoman Dya Campos said the reduced hours will give the stores time to restock the items in high demand from shoppers apparently worried about the spread of the coronavirus.
“There is no need for panic buying, this is not like a hurricane,” Campos told The Associated Press. “This should not be a ‘stock up’ event.”
Campos said the company is also closing in-store restaurants in about 20 stores and using those employees to help the grocery operations.
Hours normally vary at the stores from 24 hours a day to 6 a.m. until midnight, Campos said.
Update, Saturday, March 14 @ 12:14 p.m.
Early Saturday morning, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a sweeping bill that would expand access to testing for coronavirus, as well as provide food aid and sick leave benefits to some Americans.
The House passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act by a vote of 363-40.
U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, a Republican from Friendswood who represents Galveston County, was one of the votes against the bill.
Weber explained his vote against the aid in a statement on Saturday afternoon.
"Congress will continue provide funding and legislative resources needed to ensure families and communities weather this storm," Weber said. "While we must address this situation, we cannot use it as an excuse to create permanent programs or government spending that will long outlast this virus. Early this morning, the House passed legislation that was not made available to Members until just minutes before the vote. I did not support it because I am not in favor of passing a bill to find out what is in it."
If the bill is passed by the Senate on Monday and then signed into law, Weber said he would "make sure it is implemented and our district receives the full benefits afforded by law."
Update, Saturday, March 14 @ 10:24 a.m.
The City of Galveston has suspended permitting for large special events of 250 people and more to stop the spread of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, officials said.
All commission and committee meeting will also be postponed for 14 days, said Marissa Barnett, spokeswoman for the city.
City employees will also try to conduct as much business over the phone and online as possible, Barnett said.
City officials are also asking private event organizers to consider postponing events, Barnett said.
Update, Saturday, March 14 @ 8:53 a.m.
The Galveston Wharves Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting on Tuesday, March 17 to discuss the effect the coronavirus could have on the port and its operations.
The meeting is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at the board's headquarters.
The wharves board is scheduled to go into executive session to receive legal advice about its operating agreements with cruise lines, and to talk about economic development negotiations, according to the posted agenda. Port director Rodger Rees is also scheduled to discuss the effects and impacts COVID-19 will have on port operations.
On Friday, the two major cruise lines that operate out of the Port of Galveston announced they would cease all cruises nationall until April. Royal Caribbean and Carnival were scheduled to conduct 24 cruises between March 14 and April 10, according to the port's cruise schedule.
Carnival on Friday announced that it would not begin cruises again until April 10. Royal Caribbean announced a 30-day halt to its operations.
Update, Friday, March 13 @ 8:39 p.m
Carnival Cruise Lines has paused all service nationally until Friday, April 10, the company said.
The announcement came hours after Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines announced a similar, 30-day suspension of cruises.
Carnival operates three cruise ships out of Galveston. According to the Port of Galveston's cruise schedule, five cruises were supposed to leave Galveston between Saturday and Monday.
Update, Friday, March 13 @ 8:34 p.m.
The University of Texas Medical Branch has canceled classes for some students, spokesman Christopher Smith Gonzalez said.
Students who were on spring break this week, which include students in the schools of nursing and health professions, will remain on spring break next week, Smith Gonzales said.
Students in the school of medicine and the graduate school of biomedical sciences were not on spring break and will remain on their normal schedule next week, he said.
Students on clinical rotation should follow up with their dean for updates, he said.
Also Friday, organizers of the Divas Half Marathon & 5K in Galveston announced the race was postponed.
Update, Friday, March 13 @ 8:12 p.m.
The 2020 Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 Texas in Galveston, which was scheduled for April 5, has been postponed, according to an Ironman press release.
The release did not include information about when the race will be rescheduled.
Update, Friday, March 13 @ 7:39 p.m.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has suspended all visitation until further notice. Updates can be found at www.tdcj.texas.gov.
Update, Friday, March 13 @ 5:57 p.m.
H-E-B stores in the Houston area, including League City, have limited their hours and will only be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. starting Saturday, President Scott McClelland said in a video statement. Normal store hours are 6 a.m. to 12 a.m.
The reduced hours are to give employees enough time to restock shelves, McClelland said.
There are two H-E-Bs in League City, 2955 I-45 and 2755 East League City Parkway.
Update, Friday, March 13 @ 4:48 p.m.
Holy Family Parish in Galveston has modified its St. Patrick's Day Festival. The festival was scheduled for today and Sunday.
The church will still have its fish fry tonight, but orders will be to-go only, leaders said.
Raffle tickets will be drawn at St. Patrick Church, 1010 35th St., at 3 p.m today. There will still be a bake sale and silent auction on Sunday, the church said.
Sunday Mass will be held at 9 a.m.
"For those who can attend, we invite you to come and join us in praying for a speedy cure of the coronavirus and for all those who have been gravely affected by it," the parish said.
Update, Friday, March 13 @ 4:22 p.m.
Moody Methodist Day School will close from Monday through Friday, said Harold McCracken, president of the board of trustees.
The board will continue to evaluate the safety of students and staff next week, McCracken said.
Update, Friday, March 13 @ 4 p.m.
Dickinson Independent School District will begin providing meals for students kept out of school by coronavirus-related closures beginning Monday, the district announced.
A packaged lunch and a breakfast meal for the next morning will be available for each student, the district said in a news release. Parents and students may drive through and pick up the meals from March 16 to March 20 from 11 a.m. until noon.
School district staff will have the meals set up in the drop-off and parking area on the Owens Drive side of Dickinson High School, 3800 Baker Drive.
The Dickinson Independent School District is the first district to announce its school meal policy for the recently canceled school week. Other school districts have said they are making similar plans and will announce them in coming days.
Update, Friday, March 13 @ 3:30 p.m.
Rosenberg Library, 2310 Sealy St., in Galveston, has canceled all programming, meetings and events through March 21, according to John Augelli, executive director of the library.
"Current plans call for the library to maintain regular hours of operation during this time," Augelli said. "There's a strong possibility that the curtailment of meetings, programming and events at the library will be extended beyond March 21, but no firm decision has been made at this time."
Update, Friday, March 13 @ 3 p.m.
President Donald Trump has declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency, The Associated Press reports.
Trump said the emergency would open up nearly $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the outbreak. Trump also waived interest on federally held student loans, and he moved to prop up energy markets by directing the Department of Energy to buy oil to fill the strategic petroleum reserve “'right up to the top.”
Update, Friday, March 13 @ 2:40 p.m.
The Grand 1894 Opera House has canceled performances scheduled in March, which include "Beautiful," "Yamato," "Momix" and the Rob Landes Trio, operators said.
"Our policies remain the same in terms of requesting a refund, credit or donation," Director Maureen Patton said. "All of our ticket holders for this weekend will receive a specific email regarding their tickets to whatever performances in March for which they are holding tickets.
"We will evaluate any additional postponements or cancellations during the next week and keep everyone informed of our plans."
Update, Friday, March 13 @ 2:30 p.m.
Galveston College has extended spring break for students for one week, from March 16 to March 20. No online or in-person classes will be held during this time. Faculty and staff will prepare and coordinate planning for the remainder of the semester during this time.
Classes will resume in a strictly online environment. Face-to-face classes will possibly resume on April 6, pending official determination about the rest of the semester.
All faculty and staff should report to campus on Monday. Part-time employees should not report to work unless they are contacted and instructed to do so by their supervisor. Student workers are not expected to return to campus for work until April 6.
The college has suspended all school-sponsored travel, including athletic travel, until April 6. All college-related travel for employees is suspended until April 6 as well, unless it is approved by college leadership.
Update, Friday, March 13 @ 2:30 p.m.
The Oceans of Opportunity Job Fair, which was scheduled for Wednesday at the Galveston Island Convention Center has been postponed, according to Shawn Lott, a business consultant manager of Workforce Solutions in Houston.
Update, Friday, March 13 @ 1:30 p.m.
League City announced that as of 6 p.m., Hometown Heroes Park, 1001 East League City Parkway, will be closed and all programming there will be canceled through March 30. That includes recreational classes and sporting events. The Helen Hall Library, 100 West Walker St., will remain open to the public, but library programming will be canceled. Facility rentals will be canceled or rescheduled, but all city public parks will remain open.
In addition, the city announced postponement until further notice of the Hometown Heroes Renovations Public Meeting on Monday and Citizen University and the Community Garage Sale on March 28.
The Household Hazardous Waste Event scheduled for March 21 will continue to run.
City employees have been instructed to cancel and/or reschedule all non-essential training/travel for the months of March and April.
Update, Friday, March 13 @ 1:30 p.m.
Governor Greg Abbott has declared the novel coronavirus a statewide public health disaster. At a press conference, Abbott said Texas is ramping up its testing capacity significantly and directed that day care centers, nursing homes and prisons limit visitors.
Abbott said 220 Texans have been tested by either a state public lab or by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An additional 75 Texans are currently being tested, he said.
The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Texas, announced by Abbott, was 49, though that number is changing constantly. A presumptive case announced in Galveston County was not included at the time of Abbott's announcement.
State capacity for testing, which was at about 270 people per day, will expand into the thousands when private labs come online, Abbott said. When that will happen remains unclear.
More than 20 states declared an emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak prior to Texas.
Update, Friday, March 13 @ 12:06 p.m.
Galveston County has confirmed its first presumptive case of coronavirus. The person diagnosed with the virus is a woman in the early 30s from the north county. She is currently being treated in Austin, according to the Galveston County Health District.
More details are available here.
Update, Friday, March 13 @ 11:48 a.m.
Texas City officials have decided to cancel the St Patrick’s Day and Texas City Little League and Youth Softball Parade. Future events are still scheduled to occur until further notice, the city said. Residents are advised to monitor the City of Texas City's social media for official updates.
Update, Friday, March 13 @ 10:37 a.m.
Jury duty in Galveston County courts has been canceled through the end of March, District Clerk John Kinard said Friday morning.
There is no need for people called for jury duty to report, he said. Their service has been excused.
The District Clerk’s Office is electronically notifying affected jurors, Kinard said.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, including at the federal court in Galveston, has also canceled civil jury trials until April 1.
Bankruptcy court hearings are still being held.
Update, Friday, March 13 @ 10:14 a.m.
Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Galveston will close through the end of March, the company announced on Twitter.
"While there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at our properties, we believe this is the right decision for our guests, associates and community," the company said.
Schlitterbahn opened for the 2020 season on Feb. 29.
Update, Friday, March 13 @ 9:20 a.m.
Upward Hope Academy and Mainland Preparatory Classical Academy will also be extending its spring break through March 20 over concerns about the spread of coronavirus, according to emails sent by school administrators.
Update, Friday, March 12 @ 9:02 a.m.
College of the Mainland will be extending its spring break through March 20 over concerns about the spread of coronavirus, according to a statement released Friday morning.
The measure is being taken to protect students, staff and faculty, even though there have been no reported cases of the virus in Galveston County, according to the statement.
The college has been on spring break this week.
Faculty will come to work Wednesday for training in preparation for online instruction, according to the release.
Update, Thursday, March 12 @ 8:09 p.m.
The Galveston Symphony Orchestra has canceled its Sunday concert with pianist Andrew Staupe at The Grand 1894 Opera House, according to a statement released Thursday night.
The orchestra does plan to reschedule the concert and ticket-holders will be contacted with more information, according to the statement.
Update, Thursday, March 12 @ 4:06 p.m.
The Texas City, Hitchcock, Dickinson, Galveston, Santa Fe, Friendswood and Clear Creek Independent School Districts will be closed next week, the districts announced on Thursday afternoon.
The districts have also canceled all school activities and events.
More local closures are expected to be announced soon. The announcements came after local school superintendents participated in a conference call about coronavirus.
There have been no local cases of coronavirus diagnosed in Galveston County, but officials said the closures were a precaution to prevent local spread of the virus.
Earlier today, local school officials said they would make decisions about closures on Friday or Saturday.
Hitchcock school Superintendent Travis Edwards said his district was working on a plan to distribute meals to students who depend on school meals. Other districts said they would release more information about the closures soon.
Update, Thursday, March 12 @ 3:30 p.m.
Cancellation of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo over coronavirus concerns sparked concern among locals who attend and participate in the Galveston County Fair & Rodeo planned for April 17-15 in Hitchcock.
As of Thursday, organizers said the event, in its 82nd year, is still on.
“We are closely monitoring the situation. Our board is working with the county officials including the Galveston County Health District, who is working with local, state and federal partners to closely monitor the Corona Virus Disease 2019,” organizers said in a statement on its website and in phone interviews.
“There are currently no cases of COVID-19 in Galveston County and the threat remains low in our community. We are preparing for 'Fair Days' and continue to put our fair-goers safety first.”
Update, Thursday, March 12 @ 2:55 p.m.
In the city of Galveston, Lasker Park Community Pool, and the Wright Cuney and Menard Park recreation centers will be closed Friday until further notice, according to Marissa Barnett, city spokeswoman.
Update, Thursday, March 12 @ 2:14 p.m
The Texas University Interscholastic League has suspended its boys basketball state championship in San Antonio.
The league announced the suspension just have 2 p.m.
The announcement means Dickinson High School's boys basketball team will not play a state semifinal basketball game at the Alamodome on Friday night as originally planned.
Fans who bought tickets for postponed games will be refunded from the school or point of sale from which they purchased the tickets, the league said.
Update, Thursday, March 12 @ 1:51 p.m.
There are no changes to city government entities and operations in the cities of Galveston, Dickinson, Santa Fe, La Marque, Tiki Island, Bayou Vista, Hitchcock, Texas City and Jamaica Beach in response to COVID-19.
Update, Thursday, March 12 @ 1:32 p.m.
Most Galveston County school districts are waiting at least another 24 hours before making decisions about whether to delay reopening schools after spring break next week.
Schools districts including Galveston, Texas City, Dickinson, Hitchcock and Santa Fe have said they are monitoring their responses to the coronavirus and will make any announcements about closures Friday or Saturday.
Right now, no school districts in Galveston County have announced plans to extend their spring breaks into next week. Officials from multiple districts said they were participating in calls with state and local officials on Thursday and Friday before making a decision about closing.
Similarly, local colleges have not announced any new plans for next week.
Texas A&M University at Galveston has already announced that it would not hold classes Monday and Tuesday. On Thursday, the school urged students and staff who are currently in Europe to return to the United States in advance of new federal travel restrictions that go into effect Friday.
The University of Texas Medical Branch has not canceled any classes, a medical branch spokesperson said. The medical branch on Tuesday announced that all employees and students who travel for personal reasons must report their travel to administrators — and to be prepared to be required to self-isolate on their return.
Update, Thursday, March 12 @ 11:24 a.m.
The city of Friendswood has canceled programs and events for seniors until further notice.
"Our senior community is precious to Friendswood, and given the high population of seniors diagnosed with COVID-19 around the world, we are taking every precaution to protect this population from possible exposure," the city said.
There have been no diagnosed coronavirus cases, and the city stresses the suspension is a precaution.
Update, Thursday, March 12 @ 10:39 a.m.
Fans planning to attend state playoff basketball tournament this weekend may have a difficult time getting into the games in San Antonio.
The University Interscholastic League announced Thursday morning that it would limit the number of fans allowed to attend games at the Alamodome.
Only people who pre-purchased tickets for semi-final games on Thursday and Friday will be allowed into the stadium on those days, the league announced.
A limited number of championship game tickets will be available after the semifinal games. Each school that advances to the championship games will be limited to 500 tickets.
The league is no longer selling All-Tournament tickets and has canceled honor team presentations.
Dickinson High School's boys basketball team is scheduled to play against against Wylie High School at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
Update, Thursday, March 12 @ 9:10 a.m.
As the work day begins in Galveston County, here are some of the top coronavirus-related headlines this morning.
The World Health Organization declared a pandemic yesterday, and the first local cancellations and closures were announced.
Fewer people seemed to getting on cruises at the Port of Galveston, but the ones that did said they didn't fear the virus.
The NBA has suspended its season until further notice, after a player was diagnosed with coronavirus.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday evening announced a travel ban on some people traveling to the United State from Europe. This morning, the stock market dropped so quickly trading on Wall Street was halted.
This page will be updated throughout the coming days with the latest local developments about coronavirus. If you have a tip, news or questions about the virus in Galveston County, contact The Daily News at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update, Wednesday, March 11 @ 4:50 p.m.
The Galveston County Health District has set up an information call center COVID-19 hotline. Call 409-938-7221 and choose option 1 to ask any questions about coronavirus.
The heath district's website has also added an information page on coronavirus at www.gchd.org/coronavirus.
"We hope people will use the page to learn how to prevent spreading and picking up the virus," said Ashley Tompkins, health district spokesperson.
Patients at the county's Coastal Health and Wellness Clinics in Galveston and Texas City can expect to be screened as they enter the clinic for all appointments, Tompkins said.
"We'll be following CDC guidelines," Tompkins said.
That includes answering a number of questions including whether patients have any symptoms that could be related to coronavirus and whether they have traveled recently. Based on those answers, clinic personnel will decide where patients should be sent to wait or be seen. The clinics will be providing masks to patients as they come in, Tompkins said.
Update, Wednesday, March 11 @ 2:30 p.m.
The University of Texas Medical Branch will limit the number of visitors allowed in its hospitals in coming days as precaution against the spread of the novel coronavirus.
In a message to employees on Wednesday morning, the medical branch announced that patients would only be allowed to be visited by two adult caregivers or other people 18 years old and older.
Only certain types of patients — mothers in labor and after delivery, neonatal intensive care patients and pediatric patients — will be allowed to have a visitor stay with them overnight.
People who are visiting medical branch facilities for outpatient care can be accompanied by two healthy people, who are not showing symptoms of the coronavirus, according to the medical branch.
People should postpone any visits to the hospital if they have a fever, cough or shortness of breath, have traveled in an area where COVID-19 is present or have been in contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
People who are being subject to a COVID-19 investigation will not be allowed any visitors unless under exceptional circumstances, according to the medical branch.
Vendors and contractors who do not provide direct health care services to patients will not be allowed to visit any clinical facility.
The medical branch School of Health Professions also announced Wednesday that its annual fun run over the Galveston Causeway would be postponed.
The UTMB Health — SHP Causeway FunD Run/Walk was scheduled for March 21. The school did not announce a new date for the event.
"As new cases of novel coronavirus disease COVID-19 continue to emerge, including the first cases in the Greater Houston area, UTMB Health is proactively expanding its restrictions and implementing new guidelines to safeguard our students, trainees, faculty, staff, patients and our community supporters," the school's announcement said.
"While there have been no diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in Galveston county yet, public health and infectious disease experts have good reason to suspect the situation may get worse before it gets better."
As of Friday, there have been no diagnosed cases of coronavirus in Galveston County.
Update, Wednesday, March 11 @ 12:30 p.m.
The city of Houston and Harris County health officials have canceled the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and other events through March over coronavirus fears.
The rodeo and other events will end tonight, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced at a noon news conference.
This is a continually developing story. Check back later for updates and more details.