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Health

COVID-19 Latest: Number Of Texans Without Health Insurance Increased Right Before The Pandemic

A sign at Mission Funeral Home reminds visitors that masks are mandatory.
Michael Minasi
/
KUT
A sign at Mission Funeral Home reminds visitors that masks are mandatory.

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Thursday, Sept. 17. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Travis County sees 109 new cases and no new deaths

Austin Public Health reported 109 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Thursday, down from 142 reported Wednesday. The seven-day average of daily new cases is 113. No new deaths were were reported, so the county’s death total remains at 413.

There are now 79 people reported to be hospitalized with the virus in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell), up from 74 on Wednesday. APH reported a total of 17 new COVID-19 hospital admissions in the region Thursday. The seven-day average of new admissions is 13, down from 14.

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 City Council approves Trail of Lights operating as a drive-thru this holiday season

The Trail of Lights is planning to go drive-thru this year, after an Austin City Council vote Thursday.

Each December, the Trail of Lights Foundation sets up a series of holiday light displays at Zilker Park. This year’s drive-thru version will last twice as long: 30 days instead of 15. City staff estimates the drive-thru will be able to accommodate about 1,300 vehicles a night.        

James Russell, executive director of the foundation, says more details about scheduling and pricing will be available in mid-October.

“The Trail of Lights Foundation and the City of Austin are thrilled to be moving forward with the 56th annual Austin Trail of Lights as a drive thru experience,” Russell said in a statement. “What is old is becoming new again and on behalf of the Foundation, I would like to thank the City Council and City staff members for their continued trust in allowing us to be the steward for this beloved Austin tradition.”

CVS to expand drive-thru testing to three more Central Texas locations

CVS will start offering drive-thru COVID-19 testing at 50 more CVS Pharmacy locations in Texas starting Friday — including at three in the Austin area:

  • CVS Pharmacy, 13510 W. Highway 290, Austin
  • CVS Pharmacy, 14057 Bee Cave Parkway, Bee Cave
  • CVS Pharmacy, 851 South Bell Boulevard, Cedar Park

The openings are part of more than 2,000 drive-thru test sites CVS is planning to open at its pharmacies across the country by mid-October, according to a press release. The company began operating drive-thru testing at locations in Austin and other cities in May.
The pharmacies offer self-swab tests. Depending on the location, patients may be directed to go through to the pharmacy’s drive-thru window or park in a parking space when they arrive. Patients are given a test kit and instructions, and a pharmacy employee observes the process. Test results are usually available in two or three days. Patients must register in advance at CVS.com.

50,000 Texans applied for unemployment last week

New numbers out Thursday morning show 49,644 Texans applied for unemployment benefits last week. That's about 15,647 fewer claims than the week before.

Since mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic started hitting the Texas economy hard, just about 3.6 million Texans have applied for first-time unemployment benefits.  

Georgetown ISD launches COVID-19 dashboard

Families in the Georgetown Independent School District can view weekly totals of positive student and staff coronavirus cases on the district’s website.

Georgetown ISD has reported two positive cases this week — one student at Cooper Elementary and one staff member at Mitchell Elementary. Since Aug. 19, the district has had six student cases and 12 staff cases, according to the tracker.

While the dashboard refreshes every 15 minutes, the district says parents will be notified directly of confirmed cases at their student's campus.​ 

Number of Texans without health insurance continues to increase

Texas already had the highest number of people without health insurance, but it got worse right before the pandemic.

According to the Census Bureau, about 5.2 million Texans did not have health insurance in 2019. That’s about 230,000 more people uninsured than in the year before. Anne Dunkelberg with the policy think tank Every Texan said the uninsured rate has been steadily climbing, especially among working-age adults.

“Being uninsured means that they are constantly running a risk of crippling medical debt that prevents them form being able to move up that economic ladder,” Dunkelberg said. “So we went into this pandemic with 5 million people potentially in that boat. Now, we may be looking at a couple million or more who have been added to that number.”

According to estimates, by May of this year about 1.6 million Texans had lost their employer coverage. Dunkelberg said state leaders could address this growing crisis by expanding Medicaid to low-income adults like most states in the country have already done — including Republican-led states Arkansas and Indiana.

— Ashley Lopez

COVID-19 Dashboards

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

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