AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas joined other states Thursday in imposing quarantines on travelers from the New York area, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., and put similar restrictions on people arriving from nearby New Orleans as the number of cases there surges dramatically.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the moves as Texas surpassed 1,400 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and 18 related deaths. Concerns over the virus also forced the Houston school district, the biggest in Texas, to indefinitely suspend meals for low-income families after a worker went into self-isolation over a possible exposure.
By requiring anyone arriving by plane from New Orleans and the New York area — including New Jersey and Connecticut — to quarantine for 14 days, Texas became the latest state to race to isolate travelers coming from places where the coronavirus crisis is most severe. Governors in Florida and Maryland announced similar restrictions this week pertaining to New York.
New Orleans is also becoming a major center of COVID-19 worries, as the number of cases Thursday surpassed 2,300 and deaths climbed to 86.
Asked about the new Texas order, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said, “I can’t say that that is inappropriate.”
Abbott said those who don't comply with the quarantine risk jail time, adding that state troopers would conduct visits to make sure people were staying put.
Abbott said 100 Texas patients were hospitalized and that the state had added about 3,000 beds in recent days in preparation for the worst ahead.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough but also milder cases of pneumonia, sometimes requiring hospitalization. The risk of death is greater for older adults and people with other health problems.
Another member of the U.S. House of Representatives has self-quarantined. Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher of Houston said in a statement that she self-quarantined and was tested for COVID-19 at her physician's recommendation Thursday. That was after she experienced flu-like symptoms, including a temperature above 101 degrees.
Fletcher said she would work from home while awaiting her test results.
Houston Independent School District officials said Thursday that a worker who may have been exposed was not showing any symptoms and that the risk of public exposure was believed to be small. Families who need food can still get it at city-run food distribution centers, according to the district.
Another school district near San Antonio, Hondo ISD, also suspended its meals program Wednesday after a district employee tested positive for COVID-19. The man was in isolation at his home, the district said.
The uptick of cases in Texas also continued spreading through jails. Dallas County officials said five inmates had tested positive, and in Houston, a positive test came back Wednesday for someone under the age of 16 at the Harris County Juvenile Detention Center. Kendall Mayfield, a spokeswoman for the center, said the juvenile has been in detention since December.
Associated Press writers Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, La., and John L. Mone in Houstn contributed to this report.
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