County still clear of coronavirus, MCISD, NZISD close schools until March 30


Staff reports

The World Health Organization Wednesday declared the novel coronavirus a “pandemic,” while a case reported in Montgomery County – two counties south of Madison County – may be the first signs of “community spread” in Texas.

Following the cue of other school districts in the state, Madisonville Consolidated Independent School district said Friday it would cancel all classes and school-related activities until March 30.  The move extends students’ spring break by a week.  North Zulch Independent School District made a similar announcement later Friday.

"Based on the continued spread of the COVID-19, or Coronavirus, North Zulch ISD will be closed the week of March 16-20, followed by Spring Break March 23-27. Beginning Saturday, March 14, all school activities will be suspended until further notice," said Jill May of North Zulch ISD.

CHI St. Joseph hopsitals have amended their visitor policy to counter the spread of the virus.  The system announced Friday it would limit the number of visitors to two  adult visitors per patient per day for patients who are not in isolation and one  adult visitor per patient per day for patients who are in isolation. Signage on the patient’s door will indicate if they are in isolation.

CHI St. Joseph will also limit the number of entry points at each facility and only allow visitors between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Visitors may be asked to wear a mask, gown, or gloves depending on the health condition of the patient they’re visiting. Visitors may be screened upon entering the hospital and visitors who are ill will not be allowed to enter the facility unless seeking care. Visitors will be instructed not to visit common areas, such as cafeterias, waiting rooms, lobbies, and gift shops.

The system has also banned all visitors from long-term care facilities.

The Houston Health Department announced an emergency health declaration Wednesday that shut down the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, an event that draws more than 2 million visitors a year.  The organization said it would close the gates for the event, which had already drawn 566, 405 visitors as of Monday, at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

The Montgomery County Fair and Rodeo has also been cancelled. 

Officials with the Madison County Fair and Rodeo said Friday that officials would meet Friday evening to discuss plans.  The fair is scheduled for March 19-28.

Madison County still has no reported cases of the virus or exposure, according to Emergency Management Coordinator Shelly Butts.

“We have been meeting and planning around the county, particularly focusing on coordinating with our local nursing homes, since they house many people who could be medically vulnerable,” Butts said Wednesday.  “We’ve been pushing out information on social media and have information posted on our doors at the courthouse and annex.

“We have been sending internal messages to our employees, reminding them to use good hygiene, avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, stay home if they are sick, cover coughs, and avoid close contact if possible.”

County housekeeping staff are also performing additional disinfecting measures, she said.

Butts and Madisonville City Manager Camilla Viator participate in daily conference calls with state, federal and regional entities to prepare and plan around the virus.

The calls last for one hour,” Viator said.  They push out the information and open it up for questions.

Like the county, the city is pushing out information to employees and residents about hygienic practices to stem the spread of the coronavirus, including posting information at the Truman Kimbro Center.  City employees are urged to stay at home if sick and residents are encouraged to pay water bills or handle court issues by phone.

There have been at least 32 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, in Texas.  Several new cases were confirmed across the state Tuesday — including two in Collin County where a Frisco man in his 30s gave the disease to his wife and 3-year-old child.

The case in Montgomery County led Montgomery Independent School District to shut down schools ahead of next week’s Spring break.  A number of other school districts around the state are sending students home.  According to reports, a student’s possible exposure to the disease prompted officials with St. Thomas Episcopal School in Houston to close immediately and for two weeks.