LOOKING BACK: 2 months of coronavirus pandemic coverage by Community Impact Newspaper

Here’s a timeline looking back on the work Community Impact Newspaper has done covering the pandemic in the Spring and Klein area and beyond. (Hannah Zedaker/Community Impact Newspaper)
Here’s a timeline looking back on the work Community Impact Newspaper has done covering the pandemic in the Spring and Klein area and beyond. (Hannah Zedaker/Community Impact Newspaper)

Here’s a timeline looking back on the work Community Impact Newspaper has done covering the pandemic in the Spring and Klein area and beyond. (Hannah Zedaker/Community Impact Newspaper)

Community Impact Newspaper reporters in the Greater Houston area and across the state have been covering the coronavirus pandemic since early March. Here is a look back on that work chronicling notable events that have changed the way life looks in Spring and Klein and beyond.

March 5: Harris County officials announce the first two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county: a man and woman in their 60s who reside in the northwest portion of the county. The cases are tied to international travel, and there are no signs of community spread at this point.

March 9: Hospital systems throughout the Greater Houston area begin establishing restrictions on visitors and implementing screenings for employees to help curb the spread of the virus.

March 10: With a dozen confirmed cases in the region, Harris County Commissioners Court takes several actions to prepare for further spread.

March 11: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announces the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is canceled for the remainder of the season. Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo sign emergency declarations for the city and county, respectively.

March 12: Lone Star College System and Cy-Fair ISD announce closures for the week following spring break, with plans to resume in-person classes March 23. Hidalgo, alongside other area city and county officials, recommends the cancellation or postponement of gatherings of 250 or more people. A number of local events are cancelled or postponed, including the Tomball German Heritage Festival, Honky Tonk Chili Challenge, Spring Flavor Fest, FM 1960 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce events. Klein ISD moves to a Level 3 risk level status after an individual within the district is announced to have a presumptive positive case of coronavirus exposure. The district announces a districtwide closure from March 16-20.

March 13: Gov. Greg Abbott announces a state of disaster for all counties statewide to authorize the use of state government resources to prepare and respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.

March 16: Abbott waives the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, testing requirements for the 2019-20 school year and Spring ISD officials officially announce the cancellation of the standardized test. SISD officials announce the district will remain closed through April 10; CFISD ISD officials announce all campuses and facilities districtwide will remain closed until at least April 13; KISD officials extend its districtwide closure extended to March 16.

March 17: Harris County commissioners vote to extend the public health emergency declaration another week. County restrictions begin for restaurants to offer only delivery and takeout services.

March 19: Abbott announces all restaurant dining rooms, bars and gyms must close; social gatherings are limited to 10 people; and nursing homes cannot accept visitors. Harris County Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Judge Lincoln Goodwin limits services for the foreseeable future, suspends court docket services and enacts emergency protocol.

March 20: LSCS cancels graduations initially planned for May 6-9.

March 23: Harris County
postpones primary election runoffs to July.

March 25: Hidalgo issues a mandatory stay-at-home order for the county, requiring all nonessential workers to stay home through April 3. Harris County ESD No. 9 votes to postpone their May commissioner election date to the November general election ballot.

March 26: KISD officials announce the district will not administer STAAR testing in the 2019-20 school year.

March 27: The Texas Workforce Commission struggles to keep up with calls in the midst of record-breaking unemployment numbers.

March 31: CFISD officials announce facilities in the district will remain closed until May 4. LSCS officials announce facilities in the system will remain closed until at least April 30. All KISD facilities will remain closed until May 4.

April 2: The Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce launches a dues relief program for members.

April 3: A Harris County administrative judge voids an order from Hidalgo that would have released nonviolent jail inmates to help contain the virus.

April 6: In preparing for hospitals to surpass capacity, Hidalgo has construction crews transform NRG Stadium into a medical site for COVID-19 patients.

April 7: State parks and historic sites are closed to the public to limit gatherings.

April 13: A SISD Child Nutrition worker who distributed meals tests positive for coronavirus.

April 15: The Texas Workforce Commission processes a year and a half worth of unemployment claims in one month.

April 16: The Texas Medical Center reports a decrease in the number of COVID-19 patients.

April 17: Abbott announces plans to begin lifting restrictions on Texas businesses to restore jobs in stages. He also announces schools across the state will remain closed for the rest of the academic year.

April 20: State parks and historic sites reopen as part of Abbott’s first step in reopening the state. Crude oil takes a historic price plunge into the negative digits.

April 21: KISD reschedules graduation ceremonies and prom to August and July, respectively.

April 22: Certain elective procedures and surgeries are permitted again for the first time in weeks. Hidalgo announces a new mandate stating that residents age 10 and older will be required for 30 days to wear a face covering in public beginning April 27.

April 24: Retail to-go services are permitted for the first time in weeks at stores across the state.

April 27: Abbott announces the next phase of his plan to reopen the state’s economy, and the business community in the Greater Houston area braces for what the future may hold for them. Abbott also says jurisdictions, such as cities and counties, do not have the authority to fine or jail individuals for not wearing face coverings in public.

April 28: New schedules for proms and graduation ceremonies in CFISD are announced. In a 3-2 vote, Harris County commissioners vote to invest $12 million to expand the county’s mail-in ballot program as a result of a debate as to whether the coronavirus pandemic is a legitimate reason for a voter to request a mail-in ballot.

April 29: State officials authorize restaurants and businesses to continue offering alcohol to go even after they reopen their doors for dine-in service.

April 30: Community Impact Newspaper reports that nearly 9% of Spring and Klein's workforce filed for unemployment in a one-month period.

May 1: Restaurants, retailers and some entertainment venues have the option to open to the public at 25% occupancy with social distancing measures in place. But some establishments—including some restaurants and movie theaters—are not quite yet ready to open their doors. Hidalgo signs a new version of her stay-at-home order, keeping it in effect through May 20.

May 4: SISD delays the launch of 3 specialty programs to the 2021-22 school year.

May 5: Abbott announces salons and barbershops will be able to reopen across the state May 8, despite his previous plan to keep them closed until at least May 18.

May 7: Community Impact Newspaper reports the Spring and Klein area nears 500 confirmed coronavirus cases. ZIP code 77373 is found to surpass 100 cases.

May 8: Salons and barbershops in Spring and Klein scramble to reopen with new safety protocols in place after Abbott’s surprise announcement.

May 11: Harris County Clerk Diane Trautman announces plans to resign by the end of May, citing concerns about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and her own personal health issues. CFISD and SISD announce June dates for in-person outdoor graduation ceremonies.

In addition to the latest news updates, Community Impact Newspaper has also been providing in-depth reports on how the coronavirus pandemic has affected and will continue to affect various industries and aspects of life. This includes small businesses, the office market, nonprofits, travel and tourism, animal shelters, arts organizations, restaurants, prisons, therapy services, hospitals, tutoring services, local churches, homeless outreach, addiction recovery organizations, breweries, child care, domestic violence, local development, the environment, birthing centers, local dance studios, fitness centers, senior living facilities, residential real estate, weddings, local musicians, legal professionals, local transportation projects, local farms, mental health services and the use of social media for good.

Adriana Rezal - Danica Smithwick