A new coronavirus (COVID-19) was detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and is causing an outbreak of respiratory illness across the world. According to the CDC, the current risk of contracting the virus in the United States remains low. However, Harris County is working closely with HCPH, Houston Health Department, The Texas Department of State Health Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor this rapidly evolving situation.
Unfortunately, the uncertainty surrounding the novel coronavirus outbreak has led to misinformation and unsubstantiated rumors regarding the virus in Harris County. It is vital that residents rely on trusted and reliable health sources of information regarding novel coronavirus. Misinformation and rumors have spread quickly on social media; thus it may not be the most reliable source of information. Residents concerned about novel coronavirus can check and share this page for updates and visit the following websites:
RUMOR: Is Harris County going on “lockdown” due to the Coronavirus?
False. It is important that residents understand that local officials are not putting areas under “lockdown” or ordering businesses to close. Residents should continue to be vigilant, and take reasonable steps to help prevent the spread of the virus by taking common sense steps provided by trusted sources. Current guidance for communities strongly discourages events or gatherings greater than 10 people.
RUMOR: There’s no way to test for COVID-19 in Harris County.
False. The Houston Health Department is able to test for COVID-19. The Houston Health Department is currently testing for COVID-19 cases that meet CDC testing criteria.
RUMOR: Anyone can request testing for COVID-19.
False. Currently, only persons meeting the CDC’s criteria are being tested for COVID-19. If you suspect you have been exposed to COVID-19 due to recent travel to countries with the ongoing spread of COVID-19 or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, please contact your healthcare provider. Inform them of your symptoms, recent travel history and/or contact with a confirmed positive case.
RUMOR: Private laboratories or medical offices are able to test for COVID-19.
False. Only laboratories approved by the CDC can provide testing for COVID-19. Testing is done only if an individual meets the CDC’s criteria for testing. Private facilities can offer to test for known coronaviruses. Coronaviruses are types of viruses that infect the respiratory system.
RUMOR: It is unsafe to travel to Chinatown due to the COVID-19.
False. There is currently no reason for residents in Harris County to avoid visiting Chinatown or any other Asian businesses. All businesses are safe to visit. As always, routine healthy habits, such as handwashing and staying home when are you sick, help prevent the spread of the flu and other viruses.
RUMOR: I should wear a mask to protect myself from the Novel Coronavirus.
False. The CDC does not recommend that people who are well to wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. For additional information on the prevention and treatment of coronavirus, visit the CDC website here.
RUMOR: The flu vaccine can protect me against novel coronavirus.
False. The flu shot (vaccine) won’t protect against COVID-19. We are still in an active flu season. Residents are encouraged to get a flu vaccine and take every day preventative steps to avoid spreading respiratory illnesses. This includes covering your cough, washing hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, and staying home if you are sick.