First, it was SXSW. Then Coachella. Now concerns regarding the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus have hit home.
According to a report by the Houston Chronicle and confirmed by multiple outlets, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has been shut down due to the coronavirus. A man in Montogomery County, who has tested positive for the virus, reportedly visited the HLSR Cook-Off on February 28th which was attended by more than 73,000 people.
City Council members were informed by Mayor Sylvester Turner on Wednesday of a coronavirus-related announcement at noon. Sources confirmed that further events at the rodeo from concerts to bull riding championships and more would be cut short. The event brings about 100,000 visitors to NRG Park on Saturdays and Sundays. A city council member confirmed to KPRC that the rodeo was indeed closing.
It’s unclear when the cancellation will go into effect as the Rodeo was expected to last another 10 days to March 22nd.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a “pandemic” as the number of those diagnosed with the virus climbed nationally to over 1,000 individuals.
In an official statement, Mayor Turner said, “Up until yesterday, all of the cases that had been confirmed in Fort Bend, Harris, City of Houston – all of those cases had been related to international travel. All of them except for one were directly tied to an Egyptian cruise line. Yesterday, a case was confirmed in Montgomery County that was not tied to international travel and appeared to be a situation that took place within our region.”
He added, “As a result of that, I will be signing an emergency health declaration for the city of Houston which will remain in place for 7 days. As it relates to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo which we deeply love and support, they are deeply impacted by the decision. After conferring with the stakeholders, we’re all in agreement that it’s for the best. As of today, the concerts will come to an end and we’ll phase down.”
Among other Houston events, the Tour De Houston will be postponed.
The announcement comes days after rodeo officials said it had zero plans to cancel the annual festival. On Saturday, organizers said that RodeoHouston primarily was a local event and that the spread of COVID-19 had been due in large part to those who’ve recently traveled internationally.
“The Rodeo is predominantly a local event, with 73% of the 2019 Rodeo visitors residing in the greater Houston area, 94% in Texas, and 99% in the U.S.,” the statement read. “In contrast, 26% of the 2019 SXSW attendees were international.”
Rodeo officials are taking extra precautions and measures to make sure that the health and safety of guests throughout the Rodeo season, including hand sanitizer stations, more signage to remind people to wash their hands, an increase in janitorial staff and more.
In regards to the scholarships the Rodeo hands out to students every year, the Rodeo says it will fulfill those commitments still.
The number of Houston-area residents who’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 has risen to 14. The Houston-area is home to the majority of COVID-19 cases in the state.
Official statement from RODEOHOUSTON:
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 Rodeo will respectfully and dutifully comply with the City’s order.
The Rodeo is deeply saddened; however, the safety and well-being of our guests and our community is our top priority. Out of precaution, the City has decided that this is the best course of action for our community.
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has been a fabric of this community since 1932. Having to close early is extremely difficult as guests, volunteers, exhibitors, rodeo athletes and entertainers look forward to the 20 days of the Rodeo each year.
We look forward to the 2021 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to continue to promote agriculture, education, entertainment and Western heritage. We will provide additional information as it becomes available. Updates will be posted at rodeohouston.com/2020.