A Texas Death and More Closings Due to Coronavirus [UPDATED]

Discovery Green shuts down programming for now.
Discovery Green shuts down programming for now. Photo by Katya Horner
It's Tuesday morning and we’ve been greeted with news of the first death in Texas due to the coronavirus. A man in his late 90s in Matgorda County in South Texas died late Sunday. The death, confirmed by the Texas Department of State Health Services, was thought to be the result of community spread rather than international travel.

Meanwhile, closer to home, organizations and businesses continued to close their doors, cancel or postpone their events. Today is the first day that Harris County bars and clubs will be closed and restaurants in the county can no longer allow customers to dine in for 15 days. More and more employees are working from home.

After almost an hour of discussion, the Houston City Council Tuesday morning approved the extension of the emergency orders authorizing Mayor Sylvester Turner to extend the proclamation of a local state of disaster due to the coronavirus beyond the original seven-day limit to the order.  The extension makes the end of the emergency declaration indefinite, as has been done in previous disasters such as Hurricane Harvey.

Update 2:25 p.m. Governor Abbot is activating the Texas National Guard to help with the state's response to coronavirus. There have been no deployments yet but the guard is standing by.

Some of the other latest changes:

The YMCA of Greater Houston announced Monday night that it was temporarily closing.

Discovery Green is canceling or postponing all events scheduled through May 15. The Roller Rink closed at 6 p.m. today, March 16, and will not reopen again this season.

The Houston Health Department will close its Bureau of Vital Statistics (birth and death records) office to the public until further notice, effective March 17, 2020. The closure is a measure to help contain and mitigate COVID-19 spread.

The health department will continue to offer online birth and death record ordering services via and will waive the standard shipping fee.

The Health Museum closed temporarily, starting today.

The Houston Press Menu of Menus event scheduled for April 7 has been rescheduled for June 2.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston has closed the MFAH main campus, Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, and Rienzi temporarily. Also closed temporarily are Art League Houston, Asia Society Texas Center, Blaffer Art Museum, Buffalo Soldiers Museum, Children's Museum, Contemporary Arts Museum, Czech Center Museum, DiverseWorks, Holocaust Museum,  Houston Center for Photography, Houston Museum of African American Culture, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston Zoo, Lawndale, Menil Collection and Moody Center for the Arts.

The Houston Center for Contemporary Craft will close Wednesday, March 18.

Cantare Houston has cancelled its performance of "Unclouded Day" on Saturday, April 4.

And for Spring Breakers, South Padre Island on Monday issued a local state of disaster proclamation and rescinded all special event permits. Beach goers were discouraged from gathering in large crowds. The number of Spring Breakers were already down from previous years.

In Montgomery County, County Judge  Mark Keough signed an order Tuesday morning saying that all restaurants should reduce occupancy to 50 people or less at any one time and that tables should be spaced a minimum of ten feet apart.

4th Wall Theatre Company has suspended public performances for the next eight weeks. 

The Hobby Center has closed through April 2 which means BAPS Live, Fiddler on the Roof, Secrets and Illusions, Apollo Chamber Players and Origins Dance Competition won't be happening at this time. Patrons should retain their tickets which will be valid for the new dates and times once they are determined.

Inprint and ZE Books have announced today that they are postponing the event celebrating the publication of Nick Flynn’s Stay, the second release from ZE Books. The event was originally scheduled to take place on Wednesday, March 25 at the Moody Center for the Arts.

The counter Currents Festival scheduled for April 14-19 has been cancelled.

The Rotary Club of Houston is postponing the 2020 Distinguished Citizen Award Gala from March 28 to June 12, 2020 at 6 p.m. at The St. Regis Houston.

3:25 p.m. The Houston Community College System has decided to extend the re-opening of its classes. Students should not report back until Monday, March 30. Faculty and staff are still expected to return to work on Monday, March 23. "The expectation is the vast majority of faculty and staff will migrate to remote work." In coming days students will hear directly from their faculty about changes to classroom instruction for each course.

4:30 p.m. All Houston Public library locations will be closed through the end of March. Previously no dates of the suspension of onsite service had been released.

Houston Baptist University has announced that there will be online instruction for its students for the rest of the year, beginning Monday, March 23. 
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing