Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo cancelled due to Coronavirus
Mayor to sign week-long emergency declaration
HOUSTON- City officials held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to address the shutdown of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and how the county is responding to a new case of COVID-19 in Montgomery County.
Houston Mayor, Sylvester Turner took the podium first starting his speech saying, “The reason why we’re here today is, of course, the Coronavirus. Up until yesterday all of the cases that had been confirmed were related to international travel. All but one tied to the Egyptian cruise line. Yesterday a case was confirmed in Montgomery County that is not tied to international travel. That changed things. Yesterday changed things. That was evidence of community spread.”
Mayor Turner announced he will be making an emergency health declaration for the City of Houston by the close of business Wednesday, that will be in effect for seven days.
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo will be directly impacted. As of today the concerts will come to an end, and all attendees will have to depart the grounds by 4 p.m.
In addition to the Livestock Show and Rodeo, other events organized or sponsored by the City of Houston will either be rescheduled for later in the year or cancelled if rescheduling is not feasible. The Tour de Houston will also be rescheduled and if not it will be cancelled. Mayor Turner stated that town hall meetings scheduled for Wednesday evening and Thursday will be rescheduled for the months of April and May.
Mayor Turner has emphasized that there is no need to panic. His declaration is not intended to incite wide-spread fear, but rather he and his team are weighing the implications of the region’s first community spread case not linked to travel, as well as taking medical advice and scientific counsel into consideration.
“We will carefully monitor this situation and take the necessary steps moving forward,” said Turner.
Next to the podium was Dr. David Persse, Houston Dept of Health and Human Services. Dr. Persse explained that, “This is a new virus and none of us are immune to it. It spreads rapidly and most people see minimal or no symptoms, and they are probably the ones spreading it.” Due to the fact that COVID-19 is a new virus, our immune systems don’t have any protection against it. When a new disease is introduced to the immune system, it doesn’t have any antibodies yet, it means your body doesn’t know how to fight it.
There is a 2% death rate mainly in people over 50 and Dr. Persse said, “we have every reason to expect that it could spread throughout our community.”
The concern with the gentleman who attended the BBQ Cook-Off in Montgomery County, where there were over 73,000 people in attendance, is that his symptoms cannot be traced to any international travel. Meaning the virus is now in the community, which has triggered a response by city health officials to engage in a plan to contain and mitigate.
“I will be issuing today an emergency declaration for Harris County,” announced Harris County Judge, Lina Hidalgo. In addition to winding down the Houston Livestock show and Rodeo a declaration will also be made for the entire county and they will continue to assess what other steps need to be taken.
Judge Hidalgo explained that Harris County currently has limited capabilities to test for COVID-19. “At the moment we have to wait for approval to send a test to the city lab or the labs in Atlanta.”
While 80% of people who even contract the disease will only experience minimal or no symptoms, it’s the other 20% that health officials the world over are concerned about. It’s the 20% who have compromised immune systems that need access to hospital beds and household cleaning and hygiene products the most. Judge Hidalgo implored the community to not go to school or work if you are feeling sick. “No matter if you don’t have insurance or are undocumented, you can call [the city public health hotline] and get help.”
Hidalgo acknowledged that we are not an island nation and therefore cannot completely close our borders. “Containment will not be fullproof. Hidalgo recommends employing social distancing practices to help contain the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing measures and how quickly there are enacted correlate directly with mortality rates of infectious diseases through history.
Executive Director of Harris County Public Health, Dr. Umair Shah, explained that while monitoring the global spread of COVID-19 they have gone from “if, to when, to now.”
Echoing Judge Hidalgo, Shah also encouraged the most vulnerable members of the community to limit their exposure with those who are sick. And he encourages those who are already sick to be mindful of protecting the entire community by staying away from people. “The community is not just Harris County, but our entire region. Take all health precautions not just for yourself and your family, but also for your neighbors,” said Shah.
Shah urges people to remember that the best defense against the spread of any disease is washing hands with soap and water. Hand sanitizer offers a good reinforcement as well as other general hygiene best practices. Including covering your cough, avoiding excessive physical contact, and staying home when you are sick. “It’s not if and when, it’s now.” Harris county public health has more information. There are hotlines with more information.
In the interest of public health, the City of Houston and the Houston Health Department have ordered the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ to close. The grounds will close at 4 pm More info >> https://t.co/jDO5pQEFhf pic.twitter.com/qL5KgjRnaE
— RODEOHOUSTON (@RODEOHOUSTON) March 11, 2020
Finally the President and CEO of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Joel Crowley, expressed the Rodeo’s full compliance with the city’s order to shut down the remaining events. “We have been in constant communication with the City of Houston this past week. We will respectfully and dutifully comply with the orders to shut down the rodeo. We have implemented procedures to ensure an orderly wind-down of the events. We are requiring that people depart the grounds by 4.”
Crowley preemptively quelled concerns regarding the funds that are raised through the Rodeo for college scholarships. “Regarding the scholarships, we are in a position to fulfill our annual contributions and committed to youth and education.” The room erupted in applause.
In conclusion Mayor Tuner came back to the podium and reiterated the signing of the emergency health declaration is not a choice made out of fear, but rather a strategic move to put the safety of Houston-area community first and to manage city assets and also to secure federal assistance in responding to this public health issue.
“This will help to contain and mitigate. Students are on spring break right now, and Rice University among others will be on spring break next week. So by canceling events right here in the month of March, while students are away, we can contain and mitigate. That’s the goal.
Mayor Turner jokingly said that he recommends never leaving the house without hand sanitizer, but purchasing the toilet paper…I don’t get that one!”
Mayor Turner reminded everyone that, “Were going to continue to go about our business, but we’re going to do it in a very smart way.”
The City Houston cancels Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
The Rodeo is already underway and was scheduled to run through March 22nd. City Officials will be hosting a press conference at noon today.
There are currently 25 cases of COVID-19 in Texas, fourteen of which are in the Houston area.
This story is still developing.