First death in North Texas from COVID-19 as big Texas cities limit bars, restaurants


AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The second death in Texas related to COVID-19 was announced Tuesday, hours after Austin joined other major cities statewide in closing bars and restaurant dining rooms to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

In North Texas, Tarrant County health officials say test results on a 77-year-old man who died Sunday came back positive Tuesday for COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. In a statement, county officials say the man was a resident of the Texas Masonic Retirement Center in Arlington. Tarrant County teams are working with retirement center administrators to assess other residents and staff as a search is mounted for the possible source of the infection.

Across the U.S., 100 people have now died from the disease.

“We are taking proactive measures and utilizing every resource available to us to help protect public health and prevent the spread of this disease in our community,” Dr. Cynthia A. Simmons, Arlington’s public health authority, said.

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The announcement came after that late Monday night from Matagorda County health officials, along the Texas coast, that a man in his late 90s who died had tested positive for COVID-19. He was the first COVID-19-related death known in Texas.

Officials said they were reviewing a possible community link between that man and the county’s first COVID-19 case, a 60-year-old woman who is being treated at a hospital for pneumonia. The woman traveled around Texas but had not left the state, said Mitch Thames, a county spokesman.

The Texas Capitol in Austin also will be closed to the public starting Wednesday, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the State Preservation Board. The Capitol Visitors Center, the Texas State Cemetery and the Capitol Visitors Parking Garage also will be closed for the duration of the coronavirus emergency.

The University of Texas System on Tuesday instructed its eight academic campuses to, effective immediately, move all classes online for the rest of the spring semester and postponed graduation ceremonies until the fall. With no classes held on campus, system officials are urging students to go home. Campus residence and dining halls will be limited to only those students who don’t have alternative housing. Graduating students will still receive their degrees.

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Also Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott activated the Texas National Guard in response to the outbreak, describing it as a “preparative measure.” Abbott said there were no current plans for deployments.

El Paso closed its bars and ordered restaurant capacities cut in half Tuesday in an effort to deter the COVID-19 spread. Galveston Mayor Jim Yarbrough ordered the island city’s bars and restaurants to close, as well as all public amusement venues, including museums, the Pleasure Pier and Moody Gardens, effective Wednesday. Hotel restaurants will be allowed to serve hotel guests only.

“These decisions do not come lightly, but are the most prudent we can make at this time,” Yarbrough said. “This is not to create panic, but is out of an abundance of caution to meet the (federal) guidelines and the guidance we have received from the medical community about social distancing.”

Houston has also enacted restrictions on bars, clubs and restaurants in hopes of keeping people home.

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For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. On Monday, Dallas restricted public gatherings to 50 people.


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