COVID-19 April 3 Updates: Barking Springs Closed, More UT Students Test Positive
We'll be updating this story throughout the day Friday with the latest local news on the coronavirus pandemic. If you'd like to go through a roundup of COVID-19 news from Thursday, read it here. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.
- Confirmed cases in Austin-Travis County: 430
- Confirmed deaths in Austin-Travis County: 4
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Update at 9:31 p.m. – City closes Barking Springs
The Barton Creek spillway, also known as Barking Springs because of the dogs that frequent the waterway, is closed to the public, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department said Friday.
The department tweeted that park users were not following physical distancing requirements ordered by the City of Austin to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Update at 8:24 p.m. – Five more UT Austin students test positive for COVID-19
Forty-nine UT Austin students who traveled to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for spring break have tested positive for COVID-19, the university said Friday. The number is up from 44 reported a day earlier.
“This incident is an urgent reminder of the responsibilities students have to their communities, each other and themselves,” Soncia Reagins-Lilly, the university’s vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said in a statement. “We are deeply concerned for the health of the students affected and for their broader impact on the communities where they live.”
Health officials have instructed students with positive tests to self-isolate for "a minimum of seven days from symptom onset and at least two days past the resolution of symptoms." Those who were asymptomatic and tested negative were told to self-quarantine for 14 days since their last exposure.
The university is working with Austin Public Health to trace the contacts these students may have had. It said in a press release that additional cases were expected to be minimal "due to the low number of people potentially remaining to be tested from the UT Austin cluster."
Find more information here.
Update at 5:54 p.m. – H-E-B says it will start providing masks and gloves to all employees
Starting Saturday, H-E-B will provide masks and gloves to all employees and “strongly encourage” anyone who works in stores, warehouses, manufacturing and transportation facilities to wear them.
“As an essential service provider at this time, masks and gloves are just another safeguard we’ve implemented across our company to protect the health and safety of our Partners, customers and communities,” Martin Otto, H-E-B chief operating officer, said in a statement. “We are here for all Texans and we take our role to protect public safety seriously.”
H-E-B says it has already been monitoring the number of customers who can enter a store at any time.
Update at 5:34 p.m. – Musician Christopher Cross says he tested positive for COVID-19
Singer-songwriter Christopher Cross announced on Twitter that he has tested positive for the coronavirus, calling it “possibly the worst illness I’ve ever had.”
The Austin resident said he’s “not in the habit of discussing medical issues on social media,” but wanted people to know how “serious and contagious” the virus is.
The 68-year-old Grammy winner said he’s fortunate to be receiving care at home.
Update at 3:23 p.m. — State says it will backdate unemployment claims, asks people to stagger their calls to apply
The Texas Workforce Commission, which oversees the state’s unemployment benefits system, has been overrun with hundreds of thousands of jobless claims over the past two weeks. The agency’s website and phone lines have been jammed — frustrating many people who are worried about being able to pay their bills this month and into the future.
The agency now says it will backdate all claims to when a person lost their job — if it was due to the pandemic. Previously, claims were not effective until the application date, which could delay when an applicant would actually start getting their benefits.
The agency is also asking people to follow a schedule to try to alleviate some of the problem. Instead of everyone trying to call at once, the Workforce Commission wants people to call or access the website during specific times, based on their phone number’s area code.
- Area codes beginning with 9: Monday ,Wednesday and Friday, 8 a.m.-noon
- Area codes beginning with 3, 4, 5 or 6: Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 1-5 p.m.
- Area codes beginning with 7 or 8: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 8-a.m.-noon
- Area codes beginning with 2: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 1-5 p.m.
“The outbreak of COVID-19 has reminded each of us the importance of acting with others in mind,” said TWC executive director Ed Serna in a news release. “Just as with the virus, we can treat this problem far more effectively if we work together and space out the demand rather than having everyone call at the same time.”
Update at 1:11 p.m. – Bastrop announces cash grants for local businesses
The Bastrop County Economic Development Corporation is offering cash grants to businesses to help them retain employees during and after the coronavirus pandemic. Local businesses should apply by next Friday at 1 p.m. to be considered.
The BEDC will hold a virtual meeting April 13 to approve grants and decide how much money goes to each business. The corporation plans to distribute funds within about 30 days.
Find more information here.
Bastrop County had 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Friday morning. Another 275 people are being monitored, which means they have symptoms and have seen a doctor but have not been tested.
Update at 1:04 p.m. – Employee at juvenile correctional facility tests positive
A worker at Giddings State School, a juvenile correctional facility, has tested positive for COVID-19.
The Texas Juvenile Justice Department says the employee does not interact with youth as part of their job.
TJJD says the employee left work Monday after starting to feel sick. Those who had close, direct contact with the worker are self-isolating.
All staff at Giddings State School will now wear masks on the job, the department said. No other staff or youth have reported any symptoms.
Update at 6:30 a.m. — City of Austin allows all construction to continue
The City of Austin is no longer prohibiting residential and commercial construction under it's stay-at-home policy. This comes after Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an order – which went into effect Thursday – that all construction is considered essential.
Last week, the city put most construction on hold, unless it was considered critical infrastructure. The city's Development Services Department was going to review all other construction requests. But Austin Mayor Steve Adler says that's no longer the case.
"The Governor’s Order trumps the city and allows construction to proceed," he said in a statement. "We’ll continue to enforce the non-conflicting parts of the City Order to mitigate the risk for workers, their families, and the city at-large."
Austin inspectors will monitor construction sites to make sure crews are following proper distancing and hygiene guidelines.
Update at 5:45 a.m. — Austin ISD has to stop serving weekend meals
The Austin Independent School District will no longer be providing weekend meals starting Friday.
The district says it’s not able to provide them anymore because the Texas Department of Agriculture changed its policy for reimbursement of weekend meals. The district recommends families reach out to the Central Texas Food Bank for food assistance during the weekends.
AISD has been distributing breakfast and lunch for students and their parents or caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. On Fridays, the district had been offering weekend packs to help provide additional food security. Now, Fridays meals will consist only of breakfast and lunch.
Families can pick up food at more than 70 locations while school is closed. Parents can pick up the meals without their children being present if they provide documentation, like student ID cards. More information on the program can be found here.
Catch up on what happened yesterday
More UT Austin spring-breakers test positive for the coronavirus
UT Austin said now a total of 44 students have tested positive for COVID-19 after chartering a flight to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico over spring break.
The university and Austin Public Health initially said 28 students had tested positive for the disease caused by the new coronavirus on Tuesday.
According to KVUE, the travelers chartered the flight through JusCollege, leaving March 14 and returning March 19. The company reportedly refused to give refunds on the prepaid trip – and suggested it was safe to travel to Mexico amid COVID-19 concerns in the lead-up to March 14.
Other local news from Thursday:
- Texas public schools won’t receive a rating this year, the Texas Education Agency announced. Instead, they’ll receive the label “Not Rated: Declared State of Disaster.”
- More than 275,000 Texans filed first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week, according to new numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor.
- Movies that would have been shown as part of the South by Southwest Film Festival are getting another shot at screenings on Amazon Prime Video.
- Four Capital Metro staff members — three drivers and one mechanic — have tested positive for the coronavirus, the transit provider said.
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