Friday's Coronavirus News in the Houston Area [UPDATED]

The testing center at Butler Stadium
The testing center at Butler Stadium Photo by Reggie Mathalone
On a day when more stores (Kohls for instance) announced they were temporarily closing and the number of confirmed coronavirus cases Texas stood at 325  and 5 deaths, one of the four city-county publicly-operated free drive thru centers in Harris County was due to open Friday.

As Mayor Sylvester Turner detailed in a Thursday press conference otherwise dominated by millennials urging their peers to take the virus seriously since as it turns out, they are not immune to it, the first people tested at Butler Stadium will be health care workers and first responders.

Turner said despite receiving some supplies that are enabling them to start operations at one of four test centers, Houston, like the rest of the country, lacks the necessary materials to ramp up these testing efforts by any huge amount yet.  He has scheduled another press conference at noon today to further discuss the testing sites.

Noon press conference Friday:  Officials said about 160 first responders and health care workers experiencing symptoms are being tested at the Butler Stadium today. On Saturday the testing site will open up for the high risk group of people 65 and older with a fever of at least 99.6 degrees.

9:30 p.m. From the City of Houston: "People 65 and older with cough, difficulty breathing, and fever may call the Houston Health Department COVID-19 call center at 832-393-4220 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to be screened. People who meet the testing criteria will be provided a unique identification code and instructions on where to go for testing. The site will only accept people with a unique identification code obtained through the screening process. People who show up without an identification code will not be tested."

As some other universities have chosen to do, the University of Houston will be offering Spring 2020 courses remotely. The Spring commencement will be postponed to late summer or early fall. And all events sponsored by the university are canceled.

12:46 p.m. Houston Baptist University announced it is postponing its graduation ceremonies from May. They wil lbe invited to participate in a graduation ceremony in August.

The Metropolitan Organization applauded Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo for suspending all evictions through the end of March and called for a state-wide moratorium on evictions during this time.

The Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston has cancelled the rest of its 125th Anniversary Season as well at the 25th Annual Grand Kids Festival that had been set for April 4. All events scheduled by outside organizations at The Grand have also been cancelled.

10:45 a.m. Houston's Society for the Preforming Arts just announced it is cancelling all performances now through mid-May. and is trying to reschedule some of them. 

11:15 a.m. Theatre Under the Stars has just announced a cancellation of all its programming through July due to the coronavirus.

The impacted events include the cancellation of its upcoming productions at the Hobby Center of the new musical Pure Country (April 14-26) and Disney’s Newsies (May 19-30). Also cancelled are two free productions at Miller Outdoor Theatre, the TUTS Public Works Houston production of The Music Man (July 14-19) and the TUTS Humphreys School production of Madagascar JR (June 10-13).

The Tommy Tune Awards (April 28), a celebration of high school musical theatre, also planned for the Hobby Center, is cancelled. However, an online event will take place on YouTube and Facebook.

Houstonians who wish to support the future of professional musical theatre are urged to visit to donate.

Houston Grand Opera has announced it will cancel its outdoor performances at Miller Outdoor Theatre and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, It had previously announced the cancellations of Salome and The Magic Flute.

Gov. Abbott has announced he is ordering a waiver of  health care fees related to COVID-19 services for inmates in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
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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.
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