Blog

Apr. 1, 2020

WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 - 1 April 2020

1 April 2020
 

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.

As we enter the fourth month since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am deeply concerned about the rapid escalation and global spread of infection.

Over the past 5 weeks, we have witnessed a near exponential growth in the number of new cases, reaching almost every country, territory and area.

The number of deaths has more than doubled in the past week. In the next few days we will reach 1 million confirmed cases, and 50 thousand deaths.

While relatively lower numbers of confirmed cases have been reported from Africa, and from Central and South America, we realize that COVID-19 could have serious social, economic and political consequences for these regions.

It is critical that we ensure these countries are well equipped to detect, test, isolate and treat cases, and identify contacts – I am encouraged to see that this is occurring in many countries, despite limited resources.

Many countries are asking people to stay at home and shutting down population movement, which can help to limit transmission of the virus, but can have unintended consequences for the poorest and most vulnerable people.

I have called on governments to put in place social welfare measures to ensure vulnerable people have food and other life essentials during this crisis.

In India, for example, Prime Minister Modi has announced a $24 billion package, including free food rations for 800 million disadvantaged people, cash transfers to 204 million poor women and free cooking gas for 80 million households for the next 3 months.

Many developing countries will struggle to implement social welfare programs of this nature. For those countries, debt relief is essential to enable them to take care of their people and avoid economic collapse.

This is a call from WHO, the World Bank and the IMF – debt relief for developing countries.

===

Three months ago, we knew almost nothing about this virus.

Collectively, we have learned an enormous amount.

And every day, we learn more.

WHO is committed to serving all people everywhere with the best evidence to protect their health.

WHO develops guidance based on the totality of evidence collected from around the world.

Every day, our staff talk to thousands of experts around the world to collect and distil that evidence and experience.

We constantly review and update our guidance as we learn more, and we are working to adapt it for specific contexts.

For example, we recommend handwashing and physical distancing, but we also recognize this can be a practical challenge for those who lack access to clean water, or who live in cramped conditions.

Together with Unicef and the International Federation of the Red Cross, we’ve published new guidance for improving access to handwashing.

The guidance recommends that countries set up handwashing stations at the entrance to public buildings, offices, bus stops and train stations.

We’re also working hard with researchers all over the world to generate the evidence about which medicines are most effective for treating COVID-19.

There has been an extraordinary response to our call for countries to join the Solidarity trial, which is comparing four drugs and drug combinations.

So far, 74 countries have either joined the trial or are in the process of joining.

As of this morning, more than 200 patients had been randomly assigned to one of the study arms.

Each new patient who joins the trial gets us one step closer to knowing which drugs work.

We’re also continuing to study the evidence about the use of masks.

WHO’s priority is that frontline health workers are able to access essential personal protective equipment, including medical masks and respirators.

That’s why we are continuing to work with governments and manufacturers to step up the production and distribution of personal protective equipment, including masks.

There’s an ongoing debate about the use of masks at the community level.

WHO recommends the use of medical masks for people who are sick and those caring for them.

However, in these circumstances, masks are only effective when combined with other protective measures.

WHO continues to gather all available evidence and continues to evaluate the potential use of masks more broadly to control COVID-19 transmission at the community level.

This is still a very new virus, and we are learning all the time.

As the pandemic evolves, so does the evidence, and so does our advice.

But what doesn’t change is WHO’s commitment to protecting the health of all people, based on the best science, without fear or favour.

I thank you.

 

Apr. 1, 2020
Houston Health Department reports 81 new COVID-19 cases

HOUSTON The Houston Health Department reported 81 new coronaviruses (COVID-19) cases today, bringing Houston’s total to 458.
 
The number of Houston deaths remains at four.
 
Investigations conducted by the department will identify potential contacts exposed to the virus. The department will provide close contact with guidance about the virus and monitor them for the development of symptoms.
 
Privacy protection laws only permit the release of limited patient information.
 
Houstonians may visit HoustonEmergency.org/covid19 for updated information about local risk, protective actions, frequently asked questions, communication resources, rumor control, emergency preparedness tips and more.
 

 
Mar. 31, 2020

 

Mar. 31, 2020
Mayor Sylvester Turner supports an extension of Harris County's Stay Home, Work Safe order and announces the opening of second City of Houston COVID-19 testing site on Wednesday, April 1 
HOUSTON - Today Mayor Sylvester Turner, standing alongside Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, announced the Harris County Stay Home, Work Safe order set to expire on Friday, April 3, is now extended through April 30, 2020.
  • Essential businesses can remain open. The Stay Home, Work Safe Order exempts essential workers covered in 16 CISA categories. The list of critical businesses can be found here.
  • Individuals are advised to stay home unless they need to leave their residence to perform "Essential Activities."

"The singular goal is worth repeating, and that is to blunt the progression of the COVID-19 so that we do not overwhelm our health care system," Mayor Turner said. "We know that April 30 may seem a long way off. But if we work together, we can emerge from this health care crisis much quicker and stronger."

Texas Medical Center leaders have endorsed the Stay Home, Work Safe order extension. In a letter, ten CEOs said the order would help prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.




COVID-19 Testing Capacity Doubles 

Beginning April 1, 2020, the City of Houston will operate two free COVID-19 testing sites. The new site will double the testing capacity to 500 people a day. 

The community sites only accept people with the identification code obtained through the screening process. People showing up at the test sites without an identification code will not get tested. 

Call either 832-393-4220 or go to houstonemergency.org/covid19 for an online screening tool. 

As of March 31, 2020, 377 people have tested positive for COVID-19, and four patients have died from the virus in the City of Houston. The virus has also affected the City of Houston employees; eight firefighters, 12 police officers, and 18 municipal workers have tested positive. 

“Opening a second testing site to double our testing capacity is critically important for the City of Houston. We must test people who are sick and have underlying health conditions,” Mayor Turner said. “We need robust testing as we work to blunt the progression of COVID-19.”

Houstonians may visit HoustonEmergency.org/covid19 for updated information about local risk, routine protective actions, frequently asked questions, communication resources, rumor control, emergency preparedness tips, and more.

 

Mar. 25, 2020

The Houston Health Department announced 11 new positive coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to 66.

Information about the cases’ gender, age range, travel and health condition is currently unavailable but the department will release it when obtained and verified.

Investigations conducted by the department will identify potential contacts exposed to the virus. The department will provide close contacts guidance about the virus and monitor them for the development of symptoms.

Social distancing guidance for all Houstonians:

Avoid gatherings of 10 or more people.
Maintain at least 6 feet of separation from other people.
Avoid eating or drinking in bars, restaurants, and food courts – use drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options.
Avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, and social visits.
Do not visit nursing homes or retirement or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical care situations.
Practice healthy hygiene habits:
Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer when you can't wash your hands.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw the tissue away. If you don’t have a tissue, use the elbow of your sleeve.
Don’t use your hands to cover coughs and sneezes.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick, especially if you are at higher risk for coronavirus.
Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat healthy foods, and manage your stress to keep your immunity strong.
Work or engage in schooling from home whenever possible.
Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:
Respiratory droplets released into the air by coughing and sneezing.
Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands.
Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands.
Privacy protection laws only permit the release of limited patient information. The health department is unable to release any additional patient information.

Houstonians may visit HoustonEmergency.org/covid19 for updated information about local risk, routine protective actions, frequently asked questions, communication resources, rumor control, emergency preparedness tips and more.