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DSHS announces first case of COVID-19 in Texas

Last updated on March 23, 2020

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The Texas Department of State Health Services and Fort Bend County Health and Human Services are reporting the first positive test result for COVID-19 in Texas outside of the passengers returned under federal quarantine from Wuhan City, China or the Diamond Princess cruise ship. The patient is a resident of Fort Bend County who recently returned from travel abroad and is currently isolated in the hospital.

The test was performed at the public health lab in Houston and will be confirmed by testing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. DSHS is supporting Fort Bend County in identifying any close contacts of the patient while he was sick so they can be isolated and monitored for symptoms and quickly tested, if needed.

“Having a COVID-19 case in Texas is a significant development in this outbreak, but it doesn’t change the fact that the immediate risk to most Texans is low,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS commissioner. “This travel-related case reinforces the fact that we should all be taking basic hygiene steps that are extremely effective in limiting limit the spread of COVID-19 and all respiratory illnesses.”

From the research into COVID-19, we know that about 80 percent of cases are mild with most people not needing hospitalization. However, older adults and people with underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes are at a greater risk of complications.

DSHS and other state agencies in Texas have been preparing for the arrival of COVID-19 since it was first identified in China and began spreading to other countries. Planning has been going on continuously for laboratory testing, public health investigation and isolation and care for people who test positive.

“Over the past month, the state of Texas has been preparing for this moment, and we are confident in the steps we have taken to safeguard our communities against the coronavirus,” said Governor Greg Abbott. “We anticipated this situation, we have protocols in place, and our state agencies and personnel are trained and ready to respond. The state of Texas remains in contact with our federal and local partners, and we will continue to work together to ensure Texas communities have the resources they need to respond to any additional cases of the coronavirus. Our top priority is public health and safety, and I urge all Texans to follow the preventative guidelines provided by the Department of State Health Services.”

A travel-related case in Texas doesn’t indicate spread within the state, but DSHS, the Texas Division of Emergency Management, and all state agencies continue their ongoing preparations so that all of state government is working together to limit the spread of the virus and protect Texans.

“Protecting and preserving the health and safety of Texans is at the very core of what we do at HHS. We will do everything we can to make sure Texans have the information and resources they need to take care of themselves and their families,” said Dr. Courtney N. Phillips, Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner. “We have in place a comprehensive public health surveillance system to proactively identify, respond to and prevent the spread of disease, all led by the outstanding team at DSHS. Please watch our HHS social media channels and website for updates as events and circumstances warrant.”

Human coronaviruses like the one that causes COVID-19 are most commonly spread through coughing and sneezing, personal contact like shaking hands, and touching a surface with the virus and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. There are simple steps everyone can take to help prevent spreading them:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

The public can find up-to-date coronavirus information at, and DSHS will be sharing new information on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @TexasDSHS.

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