DALLAS (AP) — Dallas has banned large public gatherings amid coronavirus concerns and a local disaster has been declared for the city.

Mayor Eric Johnson issued the proclamation late Thursday for the city of 1.3 million people, shortly after a countywide ban on large public gatherings of 500 or more people was announced.

The new coronavirus — which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on Wednesday — causes only mild or moderate symptoms for most people. But it can cause more severe illness including pneumonia in older adults and people with existing health problems. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus, which causes COVID-19, within weeks.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said smaller gatherings of 250 people should be canceled or rescheduled. He said schools, office towers, airports and movie theaters are exempt, the Dallas Morning News reported.

"I know Dallas County is up to the challenge," Jenkins said. "Use your brains, as we're all very good at doing in this community. … I want everyone to soberly consider and take responsibility for your life decisions."

Also late Thursday, Dallas County announced five more cases of the illness, including one that was being investigated as community-spread.

The announcement comes as Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has resisted calls for a statewide ban on large gatherings.

In Austin, local health officials said early Friday that the first two cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the area.

Austin health officials said the two patients are a man in his 60s who is hospitalized in critical condition and a woman in her 30s who is quarantined at home. The man had already been ill when he was transferred from a rural area elsewhere in the state. The woman was connected to another previously diagnosed case in the Houston area.

Officials said the two cases are not connected and they are working to reach anyone they may have been in contact with, said Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority for Austin.

"These do not represent community spread. They are linked to another case or jurisdiction," Escott said. "We expect to see more cases, we expect there to be some element of community, person-to-person spread."

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the city had been preparing for the virus to arrive and had taken advance steps to mitigate, most notably canceling the South by Southwest music, movie and tech festivals that bring more than 400,000 people to Austin. The city canceled schools Friday ahead of next week's spring break.

"This is a virus that we have known was coming to us. It has no come to us," Adler said. "Let's be calm and deal with what's in front of us."


Associated Press writer Jim Vertuno contributed to this report from Austin.


The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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