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Coronavirus live updates: UH football player explains opt-out after positive COVID test

The Houston Chronicle’s Live Updates blog documents the latest events in the coronavirus outbreak in the Houston area, the state of Texas and across the U.S. with a focus on health and economic impacts.

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Total coronavirus cases:

• 560,833 cases in Texas, including 10,427 deaths.

• 133,662 in the Houston region, including 2,419 deaths.

• More than 5.4 million in the U.S., including 170,559 deaths. Click here to see a U.S. map with state-by-state death tolls and the latest coronavirus case counts.

• More than 21.9 million in the world, with more than 774,682 deaths. More than 13.9 million people have recovered. You can view the worldwide totals here.

Resources on COVID-19 and Texas’ reopening: Use our interactive page to track the spread of cases through Harris County and the rest of Texas. For a detailed look at our state, check out the Chronicle’s Texas Coronavirus Map. To get regular updates on our coverage, sign up for our coronavirus newsletter.

Latest updates from today:

4:05 p.m. Montgomery County health officials reported the death of a 70-year-old Porter man Tuesday, bringing the county’s COVID-19-related death total to 98, the Chronicle’s Alan Fossler reports.

Health officials also reported the county’s total COVID-19 case count increased by 167 to 7,327 since Monday. The active COVID-19 case count dropped by 237 to 1,099.

The Tuesday report from the Montgomery County Public Health District includes additional cases that officials have not been able to contact for more than 30 days. There are 281 additional “inactive” cases Tuesday.

3:09 p.m. Even they are told to stay put, it appears Houston area residents can’t stay still, Chronicle features reporter Julie Garcia reports. That’s made Dr. Milton “Chip” Routt a busy man.

Since March, Routt, professor of orthopedic surgery at UTHealth, has noticed an uptick in traumatic injuries. May and June were two of the busiest months for trauma at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, he said.

When the pandemic started, school was canceled, and many adults transitioned to working from home. Everything that wasn’t considered essential was closed during the lockdown, which led to people “getting after things,” Routt said.

“They were crashing cars, ATVs, shooting each other,” he said. “Everybody was getting frisky, and we were very busy. It continued in May, June and July.”

The volume of traumatic injuries dramatically increased, he said, because people may have been less cautious after being cooped for up weeks.

2:15 p.m. COVID is on pace to be the third-leading cause of death in the United States, behind only heart disease and cancer, according to a new analysis of fatality data by the independent National Safety Council.

“It would mark the first time since 2016 that preventable deaths – which include drug overdoses, motor vehicle crashes and falls – would not be the third leading cause of death in the United States,” the group said in a new release.

Nationally the more than 170,000 deaths caused by the virus already exceeds the number of preventable deaths in 2018.

1:41 p.m. Houston officials are reporting slight growth in the number of cases, as the number of fatalities dipped from yesterday.

.@HoustonHealth reports 382 new cases of #COVID19 today, bringing Houston’s total to 58,554.

Unfortunately, our city’s death count increased by six to 655.

With Houstonians practicing social distancing and wearing face coverings, we all can help combat COVID-19.

— Sylvester Turner (@SylvesterTurner) August 18, 2020

City officials reported 10 deaths yesterday, but 354 new cases.

12:07 p.m. “I just know that my life is more precious to me than football could ever be.”

Any other year and University of Houston defensive lineman Sedrick Williams would be in the middle of summer workouts in preparation for the upcoming college football season. Instead, Chronicle Cougar beat reporter Joseph Duarte writes, Williams will sit out the season after a positive test for COVID-19 and a concern for one of the virus’ side effects — myocarditis, a heart condition that if left untreated can cause heart damage or sudden cardiac arrest.

“As a result of the virus, I’ve had complications with my heart and I really don’t know the outcome or what’s in store for me in the future,” Williams wrote.

Williams, a junior from Houma, La., said he had been leaning toward opting-out this season when he heard the tragic plight of Michael Ojo, a former Florida State basketball player who had tested positive for COVID-19, recovered and weeks later collapsed and died during practice with his professional team in Serbia. Williams was not available for additional comment.

“I’ve had my mind made up for a (minute) now, but hearing this story made it even easier,” Williams wrote about Ojo.

11:34 a.m. Houston-area renters, landlords and small business owners can sign up for COVID-19 relief through two assistance funds that are set to open applications this August, the Chronicle’s Rebecca Hennes reports.

Harris County is providing $25 million and the city of Houston is providing $20 million for a joint emergency rental assistance program administered by the nonprofit BakerRipley to help residents and landlords affected by the pandemic, according to a release from the office of Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

Those approved through the county program may receive up to $1,200 and those approved through the city program may receive up to $2,112. Only one application is required. Applications for landlords opened on Monday and run through Wednesday, August 26. Applications for tenants will open Aug. 24 and run through Aug. 30.

10:57 a.m. A new analysis puts the economic effects of the pandemic for many Texans into sharper focus, with more than 3 million living unsure of where there next few meals will come from.

“While the impact of this pandemic and its economic fallout have been widespread, evidence clearly shows that communities of color continue to be disproportionately impacted,” officials with Every Texan wrote in an online post.

Using Census Bureau data as part of a national assessment, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found many low income families are among the hardest hit by the virus’ effects on the economy. In Texas, Every Texan — an offshoot of the national group — found that means:

About 3.4 million Texans reported their household did not have enough to eat in July.
600,000 more Texans participated in food assistance programs from February to June.
More than 1.5 million Texans reported in June that they could not pay, or had to defer, their last month’s rent.

9:59 a.m. Tuesday’s update from the Texas Medical Center offers a mixed view of the Houston area’s COVID trends.

Tuesday @TXMedCenter update:
=ICUs at 97% capacity (+2% from y’day, -1 COVID, +30 other patients)
=COVID headcount rose (-1 ICU, +33 normal beds)
=Tiny new case count (doubt that holds)
=Images aren’t attaching today, but all data slides can be found here:

— Mike Morris (@mmorris011) August 18, 2020

As a result, officials continue pressing people to take the virus seriously and maintain the social distancing and mask use that they credit with helping contain the virus and limit community spread.

9:23 a.m. You are not the only one adjusting to how to safely exercise during the pandemic.

Bill O’Brien noted how conducting workouts is so much different now with COVID-19 testing plus physical before working them out. It’s a process the team is adapting to, including recent workouts for Floyd Allen, Jamon Brown, Matt Simms and visit from Julian Stanford

— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) August 18, 2020

8:32 a.m. One week after Texas issued new rules to allow in-person visits to resume at nursing homes, a state agency said only four of some 1,220 licensed facilities had been approved to start letting residents see family members again, the Chronicle’s Emily Foxhall reports.

Assisted-living facilities, which have been less hard-hit by the virus and have less-restrictive requirements for visits, meanwhile were approved in greater numbers, with 248 of some 2,020 total facilities cleared as of Friday.

Families of those in long-term care had called for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to find some safe way to let them back in, arguing the outright ban was causing harm. Many consider in-person visits vital to keeping up their relative’s spirits and physical health.

for a nursing home to qualify to allow visits, the commission set markers: staff must be tested weekly (infrastructure for which was not widespread) and none of them can test positive for two weeks. There can also be no active COVID-19 cases among residents.

Officials drafting these standards sought to balance protecting the vulnerable with allowing responsible visits, said Phil Wilson, acting executive commissioner for the state agency, during a webinar Aug. 7.

“We’re trying to find the right balance between two good things,” agreed John Hellerstedt, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services. “We understand that a person isn’t just their physical health. It’s not just whether they have a virus or not.”

8:14 a.m. Adeline Fagan, 28, usually assists in bringing life into the world, but her family is watching her struggle to maintain hers.

Maureen and Natalie Fagan noticed their older sister’s skin pale and dark circles form under her eyes. Then sleep eluded her as her COVID symtoms worsened. If she was not awakened every couple of hours for respiratory therapy sessions, the shortness of breath kept her up. A general sense of anxiety accompanied her symptoms, and the frequent video chats became a way to keep her calm, Maureen told the Chronicle’s Julian Gill.

“At certain points, she was so weak she couldn’t hold her phone up,” she said.

The sisters have not been able to speak to Adeline, 28, since early August, when she was transferred to an ICU in Houston. She has been placed on a ventilator and ECMO machine, which oxygenates her blood. She is constantly sedated and often under drug-induced paralysis. She is expected to be on a ventilator for at least six to eight weeks.

Adeline had been completing her second year of residency as an OB-GYN in Houston. She tested positive in early July, after she began treating COVID-19 patients amid a spike in virus-related hospitalizations.

For Maureen and Natalie, her story is the ultimate cautionary tale. It offers a window into another life overtaken by the virus, someone who they say is an active runner and cyclist — now relying on machines to breathe.

“We would like people to understand the gravity of the situation,” Natalie Fagan said. “There are many people out there who do not think they’ll get sick. But the fact of the matter is Adeline’s story is a universal one right now.”

8 a.m. Texas’ positive test rate saw its first increase since Aug. 11, going from 11.25 percent to 11.87 percent, according to a Houston Chronicle analysis of state data.

The state’s statewide case total jumped Monday from 555,770 to 560,833, an increase of 5,063 cases. Another 71 deaths brings the overall fatality count to 10,427. The state’s seven-day rolling average for new cases hit 7,507.

The Houston region’s case count is 133,662, up 1,470 from Sunday. Harris County added 691 new cases Monday, and is now at 92,944 cases total. There have been 2,419 deaths in the Houston region, up 9 from Sunday.

Statewide, there were 6,200 patients hospitalized for lab-confirmed COVID-19, the 17th straight day with a decline and the fewest number of patients since June 29. There are 55,018 total staffed hospital beds, 12,180 beds available and 1,263 ICU beds available.

– Julian Gill and Jordan Rubio 

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