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COVID-19 Latest: Texas Will Give Nursing Homes Funds To Help Make Visits Safer

Cars wait in line at a Central Texas Food Bank emergency relief food distribution at Toney Burger Center in April.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Cars wait in line at a Central Texas Food Bank emergency relief food distribution at Toney Burger Center in April.

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Friday, Oct. 2. If you have a news tip or question, email us at

Travis County sees 71 new cases and one more death

Austin Public Health reported 71 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Friday, up from 62 reported Thursday. The seven-day average of daily new cases is 82. One more death was reported, bringing the county’s death total to 430.

There are now 79 people reported to be hospitalized with the virus in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell), four fewer than yesterday. APH reported a total of 14 new COVID-19 hospital admissions in the region Friday. The seven-day average of new admissions is 12, the same as yesterday.

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.

Texas to provide funding to nursing homes to help make visits safer

The state is providing $3.5 million in federal funding to nursing home facilities so they can buy equipment intended to make visitation safer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nursing homes can apply for the funding through the Texas Health and Human Services Commission starting Monday.

The HHSC expanded in-person visitation rules at long-term care facilities last month.

"As we open nursing facilities to essential caregivers and visitors, the State of Texas is working to protect the health and safety of both residents and their families," Gov. Greg Abbott said in a press release. "With this funding, we will help keep nursing facility residents and their families safe while ensuring that residents can be with their loved ones and receive the support they need." 

Facilities approved for funding will get up to $3,000 to buy plexiglass barriers and tents. Nursing homes can use plexiglass barriers during indoor visits to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and tents can be used for outdoor visits or to screen visitors before they enter a facility.

Details on how to apply can be found here.

Williamson County launches Parks Pass program

Williamson County has launched its first-ever Parks Pass, which will offer residents deals and benefits when visiting county parks. The $50 pass provides discounts on activities like overnight camping, pavilion rentals, day-use fees and other amenities. 

Parks Director Russell Fishbeck said the program has been in the works since last year, but the Williamson County Commissioners Court approved it last month. He said the launch happened to coincide with a time when people are especially eager to be in parks, regardless of the fact that some amenities have been closed because of COVID-19. 

“The green, open space of our parks has been open the entire time, which has been a great place for people to come and get outdoors,” Fishbeck said. “We just want our folks to continue to enjoy their parks.” 

More park amenities have reopened as restrictions are loosened in the area. Trails, fields, parks and stadiums are reopened, but they allow only 50% capacity and require people to follow safety protocols like social distancing. Information on the Parks Pass and the county parks and amenities that are open can be found on the county's website.

— Allyson Ortegon

Lyft makes disinfection services available to its Austin drivers

Lyft is rolling out new rideshare-specific sanitation protocols, including at its Austin driver center. The company partnered with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and P&G for the procedures, which are part of its ongoing health and safety program. 

Like other transportation-related sectors, ride-hailing companies have seen a steep decline in usage during the pandemic, although business has recovered somewhat as the economy has slowly reopened. 

“We see health and safety, and these kinds of programs in particular, in being a key driver in getting us through these times,” said Max Loosen, Texas regional director for Lyft. “And it is important for us to focus on that. … I think that’s helping us drive forward and be optimistic about the future.”

The first disinfection services for Lyft drivers at the Austin facility will be free, subsequent ones will cost $3.99. The cleaning includes everything from door handles to seat belts to floor mats. Lyft has also been rolling out vehicle partitions as another safety effort.

The guidance will be made available to drivers who wish to sanitize their vehicles on their own. 

– Samuel King

Emergency relief food distribution happening Saturday

The Central Texas Food Bank is distributing food to families financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The first drive-thru distribution of the month is on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Nelson field, 7105 Berkman Dr., Austin.

Pre-packed food boxes will be loaded directly into your vehicle. The food bank asks that you make room in the trunk of your car before arriving.

Here are the other food distribution dates planned for October:

  • Thursday, Oct. 8: Travis County Expo Center from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 24: Del Valle High School from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
  • Saturday Oct. 31: Lehman High School in Kyle from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
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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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