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Houston coronavirus updates: August 6

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.

The Houston Chronicle’s ongoing coverage is available to subscribers. Subscribe now for full access and to support our work.

Total coronavirus cases:

• 483,224 cases in Texas, including 8,264 deaths.

• 115,823 in the Houston region, including 1,926 deaths.

• More than 4.8 million in the U.S., including 159,990 deaths. Click here to see a U.S. map with state-by-state death tolls and the latest coronavirus case counts.

• More than 18.9 million in the world, with more than 712,476 deaths. More than 11.4 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: 

9 p.m. Visitors can again go see relatives and friends in some Texas nursing homes and assisted living facilities under new state rules issued Thursday — a shift in a 5-month-old policy that had banned visits across the state to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among a vulnerable population, reports Emily Foxhall. 

Outdoor visits will be permitted at nursing homes that have no active cases of infected residents and that have not had a staff member test positive in the previous two weeks, according to a Texas Health and Human Services Commission news release. Staff must be tested weekly.

At assisted living facilities, outdoor visits will be allowed under the same circumstances, except that staff will not be required to be tested weekly. Visits will also be allowed with a plexiglass barrier indoors, according to the release.

7:40 p.m. The statewide positive COVID-19 test rate on Thursday jumped to 17.05 percent, the second-highest positive rate since the pandemic began, according to a Houston Chronicle analysis of state data.

The positive test rate on Wednesday was 15.58 percent. The state also reported a case increase of 7,377, bringing the total number of infections to 483,224. The state’s seven-day rolling average increased to 8,300.7.

Texas also saw 261 new deaths — the 4th highest death increase to date — for a total 8,264. Five of the last seven days have seen top ten days for death increases from COVID, the Chronicle analysis found.

The Houston region’s case count is 115,823, up 1,621 from Wednesday. Harris County added 1,005 new cases, and is now at 81,919 cases total. There have been 1,926 deaths in the Houston region, up 60 from Wednesday.

The rolling average of viral tests is 55,834.

Statewide, there are 8,302 patients hospitalized for lab-confirmed COVID-19. There are 56,254 total staffed hospital beds, and 11,666 beds available, including 1,139 ICU beds. There are 6,553 ventilators available.

5 p.m. About 45,300 students in Alief ISD were expected to log on to their first day of school Thursday morning, making them the first in the Houston region to start their school years online, reports Shelby Webb.

School officials spent the past several weeks handing out tens of thousands of laptops and hundreds of mobile internet hotspots to students, nearly 84 percent of whom are considered economically disadvantaged by the Texas Education Agency. Read more.

3:07 p.m. Gov. Greg Abbott announced a partnership between the Houston Astros and the Texas Division of Emergency Management to open a free COVID-19 testing site at Minute Maid Park starting Aug. 8.

The site will be able to process 2,000 tests per day.

“We’re pleased to partner with the state and local health departments to provide another testing option in our city,” said Jim Crane, Astros owner. “We are happy to continue to assist our community as we collectively fight this pandemic.”

Testing will be conducted from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. There will be eight drive-through lanes and four walk-up lanes. Spanish-speaking staff will be available for assistance. No health care referrals are necessary.

To book an appointment, visit Texas.curativeinc.com.

2:20 p.m. A COVID-19 outbreak has sent infected staff and residents of the Houston Area Women’s Center shelter into quarantine and forced the organization to place clients in hotel rooms and other facilities.

Eleven staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19 are self-quarantined at home and nine survivors of domestic violence — three adults and six children over age 10 — who have also contracted the virus are quarantined in the shelter.

The outbreak also comes at a time when demand for emergency shelter is higher than HAWC has ever experienced, due to increasing rates of domestic violence during the pandemic.

— Hannah Dellinger

2:17 p.m. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t list hair loss as a symptom of COVID-19, but doctors aren’t surprised they’re seeing it more and more in survivors.

It’s a condition called telogen effluvium, and it happens when (physical or mental) stress pushes large numbers of hair follicles into a resting phase before eventually causing it to fall out.

Evidence shows that women in their 40s and 50s are more likely to experience chronic telogen effluvium than other genders, but experts say, that too, cannot be accurately predicted in the face of coronavirus.

Read more about this possible longterm coronavirus effect here.

— ShaCamree Gowdy

1:44 p.m. Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday urged Texans to get flu vaccines early and take action to protect themselves to avoid overburdening already-strained Texas hospitals dealing with the pandemic, reports the Chronicle’s Taylor Goldenstein

Abbott said with the possibility of a more prolific flu season, hospitals across the state could be “completely overrun with an inability… to take care of the medical needs of everybody in the entire region.”

Hospitalizations statewide from coronavirus have decreased since hitting record highs in July but still remain high at about 8,455 as of Wednesday. About three months ago, statewide hospitalizations were at 1,855.

1:38 p.m. With ventilator supplies low in some countries, a group of Rice University researchers and a Houston manufacturing company are introducing an automated version of type of ventilator known as bag valve mask.

Born from a student project and the brainchild of an emergency physician who works with young engineers at Rice and medical students at Baylor, the ApolloABVM could be the “bridge” that replaces human power with machine power in helping patients breathe.

Even with more than 6,500 ventilators available in Texas as of Tuesday, there’s still a lot of potential for use in an emergency setting. The FDA has already approved their device for emergency use during the pandemic.

Read more on bag valve masks here.

— Gwendolyn Wu

12:34 p.m. Nineteen residents at Paradigm at First Colony, a Missouri City nursing home, who were infected with COVID-19 have died, according to state data and a city news release, marking the second-highest death toll among nursing facilities in the Houston region.

Focused Care at Westwood has the highest death toll in the region; it reported 24 residents who had died, according to the data, current as of July 22.

The state has banned visitors to nursing homes since early in the pandemic and stopped group activities in an effort to keep the virus out. Advocates say the moves have come at a cost to residents’ mental and physical health.

Emily Foxhall and Jordan Rubio

12:17 p.m. CenterPoint Energy reported a $105 million profit in the second quarter, compared with $195 million profit during the same period in 2019. Revenues were $1.6 billion in the second quarter, compared with $1.7 billion for the same three-month period one year earlier.

This reflects reduced commercial and industrial utility use from the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and lower net revenue from the recent rate case in Texas in which CenterPoint received only a small fraction of what it was seeking.

L.M. Sixel

11:27 a.m. The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) on Wednesday voluntarily suspended U.S. cruise operations until at least Oct. 31.

This marks the third time the association has suspended operations due to the novel coronavirus. The CLIA is the world’s largest cruise industry trade association with cruise line members that include Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line, all of which frequently set sail from Galveston.

According to a recent study from the association, one day of suspended U.S. cruise operations results in a $110 million loss in economic activity.

— Rebecca Hennes

10:39 a.m. New claims for unemployment benefits in Texas fell for the fourth consecutive week, indicating that layoffs across the state may be slowing.

About 62,000 people in Texas applied for unemployment benefits last week, a near 20-percent decline from about 77,000 a week prior. Nationally, initial jobless claims fell last week to 1.2 million from 1.4 million a week prior. It’s well below the nearly 7 million per week in late March.

In Texas, employees aren’t allowed to refuse returning without losing unemployment benefits, except in very limited situations related to COVID-19. Read what those limited situations are here.

— Erin Douglas

10:32 a.m. Talos Energy posted a loss during the second quarter as the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic upended the oil and gas industry.

The Houston oil and gas company on Thursday said it lost $140.6 million during the quarter, compared with a profit of $94.8 million during the same period a year ago.

Talos responded to the oil bust by deferring oil and gas production by 14,400 barrels per day and permanently shutting down about 600 barrels per day of oil and gas production from older shallow-water offshore wells.

— Paul Takahashi

9:30 a.m. Do you have coronavirus symptoms and need to get tested?

The Houston Chronicle has created an interactive map of Houston-area coronavirus testing sites that don’t require a doctor’s referral. Just type in your address to find the closest testing location, whether it is appointment-only or has drive-through testing.

Find a location here. The map updates daily.

8:29 a.m. The past few months will undoubtedly inspire years of song, fiction, film and other storytelling art. A few artists have already found ways to put the pandemic down in their creative thoughts.

Austin-based singer-songwriter Amy Annelle is among them with a new single, “Distance Lullaby (Stay Away, Stay Alive).” Annelle says she often uses songwriting “to cope,” and this song was no exception.

“I felt scared,” she says. “And for me, songwriting can be a way of processing and approaching things I don’t have the words to explain in a normal conversation. So I wrote it down at a time of fear and a time of not knowing. It felt like a way of reaching out and trying to say things that might bring somebody some comfort.”

— Andrew Dansby


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