Here's How Many Coronavirus Cases There Are in Texas — and Everything Else You Need to Know

click to enlarge Here's How Many Coronavirus Cases There Are in Texas — and Everything Else You Need to Know
Centers for Disease Control
Local and state officials in Texas are taking action to prevent the further spread of the new deadly strain of coronavirus that originated in China.

Texas is not yet home to community spread of the disease. But several people who have traveled outside of Texas (and a handful of people related to or close with those people) have since tested positive for COVID-19. The largest numbers of cases have largely been centered in the Houston area, North Texas and at a federal quarantine site in San Antonio.

Here’s what you need to know.

How many people in Texas have coronavirus?

There have been at least 32 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, in Texas.

Several new cases were confirmed across the state on March 10 — including two in Collin County where a Frisco man in his 30s gave the disease to his wife and 3-year-old child.

Need to keep tabs on the latest coronavirus news in Texas? Our evening roundup has you covered.

There were also two more cases in the Houston area Tuesday. One was in Montgomery County, but officials there wouldn’t comment on whether the case was travel related. Harris County’s seventh case involved a woman in her 20s who experienced flu-like symptoms after returning home from studying abroad in Italy.

The latest Harris and Montgomery positive tests brought the Houston area’s total number of cases to 14.

The first 12 Houston-area cases were among people exposed overseas when they traveled to Egypt. Six of those cases were identified in Harris County, home to Houston. The other six cases have been reported in neighboring Fort Bend County.

Is coronavirus spreading person to person in Texas?

Yes, but so far the handful of cases of known spread within Texas involve people who traveled elsewhere and then passed the virus to people close to them. A Frisco man who traveled to California passed the virus to his wife and 3-year-old child. His relatives’ positive tests were publicly disclosed March 10.

Dallas County’s second case was a person in their 50s who "is a close contact" of a 77-year-old “out-of-state traveler.” Both Dallas County cases were disclosed March 10. County officials said they expected the second person's coronavirus test to come back positive and “there is not a cause for concern."

"These cases are not indicative of community spread," Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a release late Tuesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines "community spread" as the “occurrence of cases for which the source of infection is unknown.”

The first instance of coronavirus spreading from person to person in the U.S. occurred in January, when a 60-year-old woman from Illinois contracted the virus in China and transferred the virus to her spouse, according to the CDC.

What’s the latest at Texas’ federal quarantine site in San Antonio?

The state’s first 11 cases were people who caught the COVID-19 disease overseas and were quarantined at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

Since February, hundreds of American evacuees from China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the illness’ outbreak, and two cruise ships have stayed on the base during their quarantine periods.

The 11 people who tested positive while in quarantine were sent to San Antonio’s Texas Center for Infectious Disease for isolated treatment. Ten of those people remained there as of March 10.

Almost 100 people from a cruise ship arrived at Lackland to be quarantined on March 10, after the initial hundreds of evacuees who tested negative had been allowed to leave.

Have there been major event cancellations in Texas?

Yes. South by Southwest — an annual international festival that attracts hundreds of thousands of people to the state's capital — was canceled after Austin and Travis County officials issued local disaster declarations. That is one of the state's biggest cancellations of conferences, major events or festivals in response to COVID-19. The 10-day event was scheduled to begin March 13.

Rice University canceled in-person classes for the week of March 9 after an employee, one of the Harris County residents who had been on a cruise in Egypt, tested positive for the virus. The university also asked 14 people to self-quarantine.

How does coronavirus compare with the flu?

Coronavirus comes with seasonal flu-like symptoms, including fever, cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. Severe cases of the virus can lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome and kidney failure. It also can be deadly for a small percentage of the population, according to the World Health Organization.

Similar to respiratory illnesses like the flu, coronavirus spreads from person-to-person contact, such as coughing, sneezing or touching infected surfaces, according to the CDC. Both diseases are especially dangerous for people who are older than 65, but the flu is more dangerous for children and pregnant women, according to The New York Times.

However, early reports indicate the coronavirus appears to be more contagious and have a higher fatality rate than the flu. Unlike the flu, there is no vaccine available to prevent or reduce cases of coronavirus.

How long does it take for symptoms to start showing?

The time between catching COVID-19 and showing symptoms — the incubation period — ranges from one to 14 days, most commonly five days, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO plans to update that estimate as more information is gathered.

What’s the fatality rate for coronavirus?

"Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said March 4. The seasonal flu has a mortality rate of about 0.1%.

According to a paper published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, the fatality rates for the elderly or people with other underlying health conditions can be much higher — as high as 14% for people over the age of 80.

It is important to note that it is very early and data is still being gathered, so the fatality rate for COVID-19 could change, according to PBS NewsHour.

Does Texas have tests for the coronavirus? What is testing like? How do I get tested

A doctor can determine whether the test is necessary using guidance from the CDC. The test includes a mouth and nose swab. That sample is then sent to the nearest public health lab for testing.

Abbott announced March 5 there are six public health labs open in Texas for COVID-19 testing, with plans to have four additional labs open by the end of month. The labs are in Austin, Houston, Dallas, El Paso, Lubbock and Fort Worth, and the additional labs will be in Tyler, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Harlingen. Once all 10 are open, Abbott said the state lab network should be able to perform 125 tests a day.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said March 9 that his city does not have enough tests available for residents.

I saw a headline about a possible vaccine for the coronavirus. Is that good news?

While it is true researchers are testing possible solutions, they are almost certainly a long way off from a commercially available vaccine that could prevent the virus. Don’t expect anything immediate.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN it would take around a year for a potential vaccine to be approved. He said the vaccine would need to go through a Phase 1 clinical trial with a few dozen people for three months and then be tested in a second trial with hundreds of people for six to eight months, according to CNN.

How long does the virus live on surfaces?

Studies suggest it may last for a few hours or up to several days, depending on the type of surface and the temperature and humidity of the room, according to the World Health Organization.

Experts advise cleaning frequently touched surfaces — like doorknobs and elevator buttons — with disinfectant and recommend that people wash their hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or soap and water, and avoiding touching their eyes, mouth or nose.

What things can parents do to help protect our children besides making sure our kids wash their hands and are vaccinated?

The CDC recommends children take the same preventive measures as adults: washing hands, avoiding contact with those who are sick and staying up to date on vaccinations. They note there is no evidence children are more susceptible to the virus than adults, and in China, the majority of cases — and the majority of severe symptoms — occur in adults.

Edgar Walters contributed to this report.

Disclosure: Rice University, the University of Texas at San Antonio and SXSW have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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