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COVID-19 May 8 Updates: COTA Hosting Food Drive Sunday, UT Weighs How To Reopen Campus In Fall

People run and walk near Lady Bird Lake on March 23.
Julia Reihs
People run and walk near Lady Bird Lake on March 23.

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

Update at 5:48 p.m. – Air Force Thunderbirds to fly over Austin to honor essential workers

U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will fly in formation over San Antonio and Austin on Tuesday to honor frontline COVID-19 responders and essential workers.

“We are honored to extend our gratitude to Texans in San Antonio and Austin who have been working hard to keep their communities safe,” Lt. Col. John Caldwell, Thunderbirds commander, said in a press release. “We want Texans to look up to see the display of American resolve and know that the American spirit will prevail beyond this difficult time in our nation.”

Six aircraft will fly over San Antonio starting at 1:20 p.m. and lasting about 30 minutes, weather permitting. Flyovers in Austin will start around 2:30 p.m. Residents along the flight path can expect to hear jet noise as the aircraft pass.

The Air Force said a detailed flight route would be released Monday.

Update at 3:35 p.m. – COTA hosting food "drive" Sunday

Circuit of the Americas is helping the Central Texas Food Bank on Sunday with a unique take on the traditional food drive. The Formula One track will open its gates for the public to drive the 3-plus mile course – in their own cars at 20 mph.

COTA Chairman Bobby Epstein said the event is open to all.

"We ask people to give online or bring a non-perishable item to COTA on Sunday for the drive," he told KUT's Jimmy Maas. "And for those who are unable to give, we want them to still enjoy the event. So, everyone is welcome."

The drive will start at noon and end near sunset.

Epstein said COTA has already raised more than $80,000 for the food bank in advance of Sunday's drive. He said it hopes to raise enough money for half a million meals.

Find out more here.

Update at 2:56 p.m. – Essential workers can get child care through YMCA at Galindo Elementary

The YMCA of Austin is partnering with the Austin Independent School District to provide essential workers child care at Galindo Elementary starting next week.

The program at the South Austin school will run Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is open to children age 5 to 12 and costs $150 per week. YMCA said in a press release that financial assistance was available.

The press release said children would be divided into groups of no more than 10 and that social spacing of 6 feet would be maintained. Children's temperatures will be taken at dropoff and facilities will be deep-cleaned daily with regular wipe-downs. Staff will be wearing masks, it said, and children over 10 must wear them as well.

The YMCA is already offering child care to essential workers at its facilities in Oak Hill, on East 51st Street and in Buda.

For more information, go here.

Update at 2:43 p.m. – UT Austin weighs how to reopen for fall semester

As it prepares for the fall 2020 semester, UT Austin is keeping in mind there could be a resurgence of coronavirus cases. The university says it is looking at which classes could be conducted entirely online and which will require students to be present on campus.

Soncia Reagins-Lilly, dean of students and vice president for student affairs, said UT also plans to house students on campus in the fall.

“Our students will be enrolled; our campus will be active. We’re planning to reopen, and housing is a critical component,” she said. “We’re still exploring all of the options, in terms of the health and safety of our students and our residents. So, all of those factors will be considered.”

Outgoing President Greg Fenves said university officials expect the virus to still be here in a couple months. They’re planning how to test students and trace their contacts, in the event that a student contracts the virus on campus.

He said the university is working UT Health Austin to increase testing capacity, as well as using resources already on campus.

“We have quite a few faculty and research labs that have the type of equipment that does PCR tests,” he said, referring to tests that detect the presence of the virus. "We’re looking at increasing our testing capacity and the supplies ... that are needed to test.”

Fenves says UT is working with the Big 12 to see what the 2020 football season will look like.

“This is one of the most important issues that we are facing now in the Big 12 conference,” he said. “What will football season look like? What kind of schedule? Will we have only conference play?”

Fenves said a formal announcement on the fall semester will come by the end of June.

– Jerry Quijano

Update at 12:58 p.m. — Austin-Travis County extends stay-at-home orders

Austin's stay-at-home order is extended until May 30, while Travis County's will expire on June 15.

Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt admitted not much changes under the extended guidelines – except to allow for salons to reopen under the state's rules. Both asked Austinites to continue social distancing, wearing facial coverings and limiting nonessential travel to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The orders could be revised if the Austin area sees a spike in COVID-19 cases, Eckhardt and Adler said. 

Read more here from Andrew Weber.

Update at 12:55 p.m. — Some hair salons reopen as the governor's loosened rules go into effect

Hair salons, as well as barbershops and nail and tanning salons, were legally allowed to reopen today, with safety restrictions. The move marks the start of phase two of Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to reopen the state’s economy – 10 days earlier than he originally suggested.

Two clients are getting their hair done at Path Salon in South Austin today. The appointments are owner Ryan Driggers' way of testing new protocols at the salon.

Driggers said the reopening comes with a lot of emotions. “I share a little bit of the worry of some of my stylists,” he said. “We're doing everything we can to make sure it's as safe as possible."

Read more about the reopenings from Jimmy Maas.

Update at 8:53 a.m. — Bastrop reopens some city parks

The City of Bastrop is reopening some city parks today after they were closed to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Pedestrians and cyclists can now access the hike and bike trails at Bob Bryant and Fisherman’s Parks, which includes access to ramp and canoe launches.

Other amenities including playgrounds, sport courts and park restrooms will remain closed. The city encourages people to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing.

Update at 5:45 a.m. — Maudie’s Moonlight Margarita Run moves online

Like many events and fundraisers have done amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Maudie’s Moonlight Margarita Run is going virtual this year. The 17th annual 5K benefiting the Trail Foundation starts June 4. 

Normally, participants come together for a 5K race that ends with a party and margaritas from Maudie’s Tex-Mex. This year, participants will run or walk a 5K — any route of their choosing — and submit their time by July 4. Once participants register online, they’ll receive a link to create a virtual bib, which can be shared on social media. After July 4, runners can pick up their T-shirt and a $10 Maudie’s gift card, and there will be a party for them in October.

The event is one of the most important fundraisers for the Trail Foundation, according to a press release. It helps the nonprofit, which protects and enhances Austin’s Butler Trail, fund infrastructure and beautification projects.

Catch up on what happened yesterday

Gov. Abbott eliminates jail time as a punishment for violating COVID-19 orders

Gov. Greg Abbott has removed jail time as a punishment for people who violate his executive orders that require certain businesses to close.

Abbott said the modifications are being applied retroactively to April 2 and supersede local orders.

“Throwing Texans in jail who have had their businesses shut down through no fault of their own is nonsensical, and I will not allow it to happen,” Abbott said in a statement. "And if correctly applied should free Shelley Luther."

Luther, a Dallas hair salon owner, was sentenced to seven days in jail for defying orders to keep her business closed. The Texas Supreme Court had since ordered her release, and she was released Thursday.

Other local coronavirus news from Thursday:

  • Austin City Council approved spending nearly $3.7 million on personal protective equipment and other services to combat COVID-19. 
  • The Council approved using $18 million of the funds the city received from the federal coronavirus relief bill to establish three programs that support local businesses, child-care centers and nonprofits.
  • Austin Mayor Steve Adler said at a the City Council meeting that he would be extending an order banning notices to vacate — the first step in the eviction process — until July 25.
  • Beginning next Thursday, visitors to three Austin parks — Emma Long, Walter E. Long and Commons Ford Ranch — will need to obtain day passes to enter.

What's happening statewide? Check out special coverage from KERA for North Texas, Houston Public MediaTexas Public Radioin San Antonio and Marfa Public Radio.

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