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The Houston Rodeo Is Scheduled To Return In 2021, After March’s COVID-19 Cancellation

The event is set to return in May, though state health officials estimated that general distribution of a vaccine would not begin until July.

A person wears a mask at the Houston Rodeo. on March 9, 2020.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is scheduled to return in 2021, after the COVID-19 pandemic forced its cancellation earlier this year, organizers said Tuesday.

The March event was abruptly canceled less than two weeks after it began after news of 14 presumed positive cases of COVID-19 in Greater Houston, and evidence of community spread in Montgomery County — the first such cases in Texas outside of a group of quarantined cruise passengers who were moved to a military base in San Antonio.

It's now scheduled for May 4-23, subject to change depending on the severity of the virus. Pre-Rodeo events will also be pushed back.

Additional details surrounding the 2021 Rodeo will be shared in March, along with health and safety guidelines.

It was the first time in more than 80 years that the rodeo was forced to shut down, as Harris County declared a health emergency due to the spread of coronavirus. It also came amid news that an unidentified man from Montgomery County who was diagnosed with the coronavirus had attended the rodeo barbecue cookoff in February, though it was not clear if he had symptoms at the time.

It was later revealed, through reporting by the Texas Tribune, that officials knew at the time that COVID-19 could spread at the event, but proceeded regardless. At least 18 people who attended the rodeo in Greater Houston tested positive for the coronavirus, though it could not be confirmed if they contracted it at the event, which attracts more than 2 million people a year and generates nearly $400 million.

It was also not clear whether any of those people spread the virus to others.

The May event comes at least two months before a vaccine is expected to be distributed to the general public. Texas health officials on Monday said that vaccinations would be phased in, with critical populations estimated to receive the vaccine through June before widespread vaccinations begin in July.

Mayor Sylvester Turner said he was optimistic about returning to normal activities by mid-next year.

"As we move forward, the City of Houston will continue to monitor the positivity rate, hospital capacity, wastewater virus load, and reproduction rate," read a statement from Turner. "If we work together, we can create a safe environment for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo."

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo called the rodeo “part of the DNA” of Greater Houston, and said her office had remained in touch with organizers over the past few months to provide public health guidance.

But in a statement, she added that it may not be “feasible, safe or advisable” to hold such a large event before the pandemic comes to an end.

“We desperately wish we could return to normal with a regular show in the Spring,” Hidalgo said. “Sadly, we are far from reaching a point where any gathering is advisable, let alone one the size and scale of our rodeo.”

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