Coronavirus & COVID-19 | KERA News

Coronavirus & COVID-19

Scientist at the California Department of Public Health demonstrating how to test for the novel coronavirus. No actual sample is being tested in the photo.
Credit California Department of Public Health / Via Associated Press

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.

The World Health Organization has officially designated the disease a pandemic. Cases of the illness have been found in at least 114 countries, including the U.S. 

Below you'll find the latest stories from NPR, KERA News and the Texas Newsroom on how the disease is affecting North Texas, the state and the nation.

Here's more information on the virus from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention:

How Does The Virus Spread?

The virus that causes COVID-19 probably emerged from an animal source, but is now spreading from person to person. The virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It also may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

How You Can Protect Yourself

People can help protect themselves from respiratory illness with everyday preventive actions.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. 

What Are The Symptoms Of COVID-19?

Patients with COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of:

  • fever 
  • cough 
  • shortness of breath

What You Should Do If You're Sick

If you are sick with COVID-19 or suspect you are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, the CDC recommends following the steps below to help prevent the disease from spreading to people in your home and community.

  • Call ahead before visiting your doctor: If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider immediately.
  • Stay home except to get medical care
  • Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home
  • Wear a facemask if you are sick or are in the same room with someone you're caring for who is sick and can not wear a facemask.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Clean your hands often
  • Avoid sharing personal household items
  • Clean all “high-touch” surfaces everyday

Global cases of COVID-19 tracked by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Full-time public school teachers across Texas are finagling digital setups to teach classes online, calling to check in on students and their parents, and volunteering to help hand out meals — all while knowing their salaries are secure.

White House
Noah Fortson / NPR

Watch the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic, including regular White House briefings.

Today's White House Coronavirus Task Force update is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. CT.

A park bench is cordoned off Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Houston.
AP Photo/David J. Phillip

In a matter of weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has changed daily life for millions of North Texans. Local and national groups are offering resources to help manage anxiety, stress and uncertainty in this time of transition.

Dallas City Hall

Get live updates throughout the day on how COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, is affecting North Texas. 

To stop the spread of coronavirus, health officials have a favorite refrain: After being in a city or region where there have been a lot of COVID-19 cases, spend 14 days in quarantine even if you feel perfectly fine, — don't leave your house. Coming from New York? 14-day quarantine. Arriving in Hawaii?

Super Tuesday voting lines at the Metropolitan Multi Service Center near downtown Houston on Tuesday, March 3, 2020.
Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune

Across most of Texas, cities, towns and school boards have cancelled their traditional early May elections in response to the new coronavirus pandemic, temporarily shelving proposals for sales tax changes and city charter amendments and delaying contests for seats on city councils and school boards.

Rent Is Due. But Thousands Of Texans Have Lost Their Jobs Because Of The Coronavirus Pandemic.

5 hours ago
A sharp rise in unemployment in Texas has renters and landlords worried during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune

It’s the first of the month, which means that for millions of Texans, the rent is due.

But much has changed since a month ago. Thousands of people have lost their jobs as the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down businesses across the state. Many more have taken pay cuts. Now, renters who can’t pay and landlords who are losing rent money are both worried about how they’ll make ends meet.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has temporarily halted a lower court ruling that stopped Texas officials from banning abortions during the coronavirus outbreak.

Coronavirus under microscope
National Institutes of Health / Via Associated Press

KERA News has been tracking how COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, is affecting North Texas. Here's what's been happening day-to-day. 

Ricardo ISD

Ricardo in South Texas is a tiny blip on the map. There's no grocery store and no traffic light.

Canned goods line a pantry shelf

Shelter-in-place orders and shutdowns due to the coronavirus have contributed to a 1,500% increase in unemployment claims. Nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for benefits last week.

Christopher Connelly / KERA News

Now, no city in Texas requires employers to provide paid time off for sick workers. The City of Dallas can no longer enforce its paid sick leave mandate, at least for now. That’s after a federal judge blocked the ordinance requiring the time off while a lawsuit proceeds.

Seventy young adults are being investigated for COVID-19 exposure after taking a chartered plane to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for spring break roughly 10 days ago, Austin Public Health says.

Of those 70, 28 have tested positive for COVID-19, and dozens are under investigation by the public health authority; four had no symptoms.

Updated March 31, 8:25 p.m. ET

A few months ago, it may have seemed silly to wear a face mask during a trip to the grocery store. And in fact, the mainline public health message in the U.S. from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been that most people don't need to wear masks.

But as cases of the coronavirus have skyrocketed, there's new thinking about the benefits that masks could offer in slowing the spread. The CDC says it is now reviewing its policy and may be considering a recommendation to encourage broader use.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order Tuesday requiring Texans to limit personal interactions that could lead to the spread of COVID-19. The order states schools will remain closed until at least May 4.

A nationwide trial is underway to see if the drug hydroxychloroquine can prevent disease in people exposed to the novel coronavirus. A second trial will test to see if the drug can prevent severe disease in people who are already showing COVID-19 symptoms.

The trials are being run by David Boulware, an infectious disease scientist at the University of Minnesota.

"My normal research is doing clinical trials in Africa for fungal meningitis of the brain," Boulware says.

The Texas Education Agency says there's been a 56% increase in the last several years of the number of children tested for a disability.
Laura Isensee / Houston Public Media

When Houston ISD Superintendent Grenita Lathan emailed parents about the district moving to online learning, Jane Friou quickly looked for updates for students like her 12-year-old daughter Elise — students with disabilities.

She didn’t find any.


In normal times, an N95 face mask would cost a big corporation a buck or less — particularly if it ordered a million of them.

But these aren’t normal times, and the pitch from industrial supplier Hatfield and Company to sell as many as 2 million masks to a major U.S. oil company last week wasn’t your typical offer. The Texas-based supplier wanted $6.3 million for a minimum order of 1 million masks, with an option of buying 2 million for nearly $13 million, sales documents and interviews indicate.

Dallas Animal Services has been working to ensure their pets can find homes during the pandemic. In this photo are dogs who've been placed in homes.
Photo courtesy Dallas Animal Services

Animal shelters, like so many other places across Texas, have had to close their doors to limit the spread of the coronavirus. But that doesn’t mean they’ve abandoned the little critters. Shelters are coming up with clever ways to care for animals during the pandemic.

crane operator in Dallas
Allison V. Smith / For KERA News

A Texas judge issued an injunction Monday night against the city of Dallas’ sick leave ordinance, finding that the local measure runs afoul of federal and state law.

Christopher Connelly / KERA News

Two weeks ago, Emilie and Tim Sherrod received a letter from the Denton State Supported Living Center. It said visitation had been suspended due to concerns about coronavirus, so they wouldn’t be visiting their identical twin sons, Ty and Tate, any time soon.

Millions of Americans are currently under stay-at-home orders, part of a wider effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, causing international air travel to plummet. But within the U.S., thousands of domestic passenger flights are still taking off each day.

A look at U.S. air traffic finds thousands of planes in the air – a sight that could be jarring to anyone practicing social distancing, or living under stay-at-home orders that have now been issued in more than 10 states.

A women's health clinic in Texas.
Callie Richmond for The Texas Tribune

A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked Texas' ban on abortions, a prohibition state officials said was necessary to preserve medical resources during the coronavirus pandemic.

For millions of seasonal allergy sufferers, the annual onset of watery eyes and scratchy throats is bumping up against the global spread of a new virus that produces its own constellation of respiratory symptoms.
Associated Press

The spring breezes of 2020 are carrying more than just tree pollen. There’s a whiff of paranoia in the air.

For millions of seasonal allergy sufferers, the annual onset of watery eyes and scratchy throats is bumping up against the global spread of a new virus that produces its own constellation of respiratory symptoms. Forecasters are predicting a brutal spring allergy season for swaths of the U.S. at the same time that COVID-19 cases are rising dramatically.

Several large metal shipping containers are lined up in a warehouse under a large American flag. Their doors are ajar and workers stream in and out, power tools buzzing.

These are no ordinary shipping containers: They represent a huge scientific breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19.

"We're looking at the Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System that we've developed to be able to decontaminate PPE for health care workers on the front-line," says Will Richter, a researcher at the Columbus, Ohio-based company.

Neuroscientist Michael Wells
Associated Press

Michael Wells was looking for a chance to use his scientific training to help fight the coronavirus when — on the same day the pandemic forced his lab to temporarily close — he decided to create his own opportunity.

Inmates on a cell block in the Harris County jail.
Caleb Bryant Miller for The Texas Tribune

As the new coronavirus continues to spread in Texas’ two biggest county jails, Gov. Greg Abbott has made it harder for thousands of inmates to get out of local lockups.

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

To slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, nations around the world have eliminated or severely restricted travel. In addition, airlines have drastically cut local and global flights. Still, some people are flying. Why?

Every day, we hear updated COVID-19 numbers: The number of confirmed cases. The number of people hospitalized. The number of people who have died. We know the numbers are going up, and we expect them to continue to rise. But beyond that, it can be difficult to understand what they teach us about the spread of the disease and whether we’re making progress against it.