What Harris County is doing to prep for COVID-19 threat

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Thursday, March 5, 2020
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Judge Lina Hidalgo stressed there is no confirmed case in Harris County right now, but said the reality is that a test will be positive at some point.

Although there are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19, better known as coronavirus, in Harris County, Judge Lina Hidalgo said they are testing possible cases.

Hidalgo did not say where those possible cases are.

The county judge, along with officials from Harris County Public Health and the Houston Health Department, gave an update Thursday morning on the county's response to the growing concerns over the threat and how officials are preparing.

UPDATE ON CORONAVIRUS PREPARATION: "The reality of it is, one of them is going to come back positive at some point."

Leadership says they're ready to go if there is a confirmed case of coronavirus in Harris County, but for now, the message is to continue to wash your hands and stay home if you're sick.

Dr. Umair Shah with Harris County Public Health said they do not know of any cases in the Houston area so far.

On Wednesday, it was announced the Houston Health Department laboratory is conducting COVID-19 testing for specimens collected by medical providers from patients who meet CDC COVID-19 testing criteria. The city said results are expected within 24 hours of the arrival of specimens to the lab, which serves at the regional public health laboratory for a 17-county region of Southeast Texas.

RELATED: Houston health department lab now conducting local COVID-19 testing

The update comes as officials said there is a presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in Fort Bend County.

County health officials explained that the case is a man in his 70s who recently traveled abroad. The man is hospitalized and stable.

Officials did not disclose what part of the county the man lives in, but confirmed the man visited his doctor after experiencing symptoms.

"Right now, we know the origins of this one case. We have other cases that we're testing. The reality of it is, one of them is going to come back positive at some point," Hidalgo said.

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Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner also released a statement on the Fort Bend case:

"I know many Houstonians may feel anxious after learning of the presumptive positive COVID-19 Fort Bend County resident. I want to assure everyone that the city of Houston Health Department is closely monitoring the developments and collaborating with regional, state and federal health authorities. For the general public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 remains low. If you have not been around anyone with COVID-19 or have not visited an ongoing outbreak area, you are currently not considered to be at risk. While people need to remain vigilant, there is currently no need for average Houstonains to take out-of-the-ordinary protective actions. People should continue to practice routine healthy hygiene habits to help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses like COVID-19, such as washing hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes, avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth, and staying home if sick. I also remind Houstonians there is no need to go the emergency room unless you have a medical emergency. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs. If you have symptoms like cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, contact your regular doctor first. While there are currently no confirmed cases in Houston, this is a rapidly evolving situation and additional cases are expected."

Turner recently sent a message to Houstonians via Twitter in hopes of setting the record straight about some social media rumors related to the virus.

On Saturday, Rice University asked a group of its students and employees to self-quarantine after fears that an employee who traveled overseas may have been exposed to the virus.

The university said the procedure was taken out of an abundance of caution.

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