COVID-19 Latest: Austin And Travis County Residents Can Apply For Relief Funds
This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Monday, Sept. 14. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.
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Travis County sees 75 new cases and four more deaths
Austin Public Health reported 75 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Monday, down from 123 reported Sunday. The seven-day average of daily new cases is 105. Four more deaths were reported, bringing the county’s death total to 407.
There are now 93 people reported to be hospitalized with the virus in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell), up from 90 on Sunday. APH reported a total of 11 new COVID-19 hospital admissions in the region Monday. The seven-day average of new admissions is 14.8, down from 15.4.
The area is in stage 3 of APH’s risk-based guidelines. At this level, people are encouraged to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.
Austin Public Health releases COVID-19 data for long-term care facilities
A new dashboard outlines the impact of COVID-19 on long-term care facilities in the Austin area. The dashboard, created by Austin Public Health, includes the number of cases and deaths associated with each facility. It will be updated once a week on Fridays.
So far, there have been 167 deaths and 1,558 cases associated with long-term care facilities, according to the dashboard. Three facilities that have seen the most cases are all nursing homes: Heritage Park with 138 cases, West Oaks with 119 cases and Windsor at Duval with 115 cases.
Austin officials had previously refused to release the data associated with each facility, citing privacy laws. But the federal government released COVID-19 data on nursing homes in June, and the state began releasing this information in July.
“After consultation with the City’s legal team, the decision to release the names of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities with cases through public presentation for statistical purposes follows the recent state-established precedence for the release of information,” Austin and Travis County said in a joint press release. “We hope that everyone will continue to respect the privacy of those who call these facilities home.”
Local officials said long-term care facility data reported by the state and federal agencies may not be verified to the same extent that APH verifies its data, so there could be discrepancies between agencies.
UT researchers help develop new coronavirus antibody test
Researchers at UT Austin and three other institutions have developed a new antibody test for the coronavirus. Antibody tests are tests that may tell you if you have been infected with the virus in the past.
Currently, the tests measure the amount of virus-neutralizing antibodies in the blood. But the tests are complex and not widely available. The new test measures different antibodies – the ones that target two parts of the virus’s spike protein.
Researchers said the new test is more accessible, easier to perform and more cost effective. And the results of the new tests correlate with the results of the currently available, more complex tests.
Better antibody tests can be used to identify the best candidates for donating convalescent plasma and measure how good possible vaccines are at eliciting an immune response.
— Sangita Menon
Leander ISD launches COVID-19 dashboard
Leander Independent School District has set up a COVID-19 Dashboard on its website, where it will track and report positive cases on campuses. The district has reported two positive cases — one at Akin Elementary and one at Bagdad Elementary — and plans to update the page weekly.
All Texas districts are now required by the Texas Education Agency to report cases weekly. LISD spokesperson Corey Ryan said the dashboard will help with reporting to the state, as well as to families. He said district members will be notified immediately when there are new cases through a direct messaging system, but the identity of individuals with positive test results won’t be disclosed.
“The top priority for us is being open and honest,” Ryan said. “But we also know that people have a right to privacy, especially when it comes to their health concerns, so we're trying to find that delicate balance."
Other school districts in the area, like Georgetown and Round Rock, are expected to launch dashboards on their websites this week.
— Allyson Ortegon
San Marcos to reopen parks and river access this week
The City of San Marcos is reopening all public facilities, riverfront parks, playgrounds, and basketball and tennis courts starting Wednesday at 8 a.m.
City Manager Bert Lumbreras said the city has seen a steady decline in active COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, which factored into the decision to reopen.
The city still asks that all visitors to these public spaces wear masks and maintain 6 feet of distance from others.
Hartzell says UT’s COVID-19 impact is 'not observable' – yet
UT Austin's interim President Jay Hartzell says he hopes students on and off-campus are realizing the magnitude of the coronavirus. In a Texas Tribune Festival conversation recorded over the weekend, Hartzell said he hopes students are being risk-averse in light of COVID-19 – and that UT is speaking with the City of Austin on how best to restrict large gatherings off campus.
"The good news so far – knock on wood – in Austin is that we're continuing to trend down. Hospitalizations are down. If there's spread from our students to the city so far, it's not observable in the data in a strong way," he said. "So, we're trying."
Hartzell's conversation was recorded just before the Texas Longhorns’ game on Saturday. The university required students attending that game to test negative for COVID-19 to be admitted; about 8% of those nearly 1,200 tested positive for the coronavirus.
— Andrew Weber
Austin and Travis County residents can apply for $2,000 in relief funds
Applications have opened for a second round of assistance for residents of Austin and Travis County who have experienced a financial hardship because of the pandemic. The city will distribute $10 million directly to individuals through a randomized process. Chosen applicants will receive $2,000 per household.
To be eligible, an applicant must:
- be at or below 200% of the federal poverty level
- be a resident of Austin or Travis County
- be 18 or older
- be experiencing hardship related to COVID-19; and
- have not received other financial help in the past 30 days.
The application can be filled out online or over the phone, and is available in English and Spanish. People who need assistance can call 512-714-6950 weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The application period closes at 7 p.m. on Sept. 21. The money will be distributed starting Sept. 23.
The money is part of the Relief in a State of Emergency, or RISE, funds. The city awarded $15 million in the first round of funding to 20 agencies in May and June.
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