COVID-19 April 27 Updates: Catholic Charities Inundated With Calls For Aid Money

Apr 27, 2020

We'll be updating this story throughout the day Monday with the latest local news on the coronavirus pandemic. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Update at 5:35 p.m. – Group says Bastrop County's targeted arrests are dangerous during pandemic

Local groups in Bastrop County are asking the sheriff to stop targeted arrests aimed at Latino communities in the area, which they say complicate things for many families during the COVID-19 pandemic

Bastrop Interfaith, a coalition of neighborhood groups and church congregations in the county, is asking Bastrop County Sheriff Maurice Cook to stop his crackdown on minor traffic violations, which was flagged by the Austin American-Statesmen last week.

The group says the crackdown has led to a spike in deportations and arrests in mostly immigrant and Latino communities, and is putting many residents at risk.

Edie Clark, a leader with Bastrop Interfaith, said families already dealing with financial insecurity are now too scared to even pick up food at a food pantry.

“These people are just dealing with so many issues right now,” she said. “The last thing that we need is to be scaring people about being arrested. You know, we want to keep everybody safe.”

Clark said filling up jails during the pandemic is also a public health hazard. Her group has asked to meet with the sheriff to discuss this new policy.

– Ashley Lopez

Update at 5:15 p.m. – Gov. Abbott announces phased-in approach to reopening Texas economy

Retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls can reopen Friday provided they limit occupancy to no more than 25%, Gov. Greg Abbott said.

Abbott said it was not yet safe for salons, barbershops, bars and gyms to open, but that if Texans continues safe-distancing practices to tamp down new COVID-19 cases, they could be allowed to open in mid-May.

A second phase, that would allow more businesses to open and expand occupancy to 50%, could come as early as May 18. Abbott said the state would first need to see two weeks of data showing there are no flare-ups.

The governor's order supersedes local orders.

Read more here from Marisa Charpentier.

Update at 1:57 p.m. – Catholic Charities of Central Texas opens its phone lines for people seeking funds

In just under two hours this morning, Catholic Charities of Central Texas received 400 phone calls from people looking for financial assistance because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The nonprofit received $1.6 million in aid money from the City of Austin, one of a handful to get a portion of a $15 million relief fund the Austin City Council approved earlier this month.

Catholic Charities of Central Texas Executive Director Sara Ramirez said applicants can get help paying their rent, mortgage, utility bills and/or car payments. In anticipation of a large volume of calls, the organization set up four different phone lines; which number you should call depends on the spelling of your last name.

To qualify, people must be ineligible for a federal stimulus check, have been affected financially by the coronavirus pandemic and live in Austin and/or Travis County. There are also income restrictions; for example, a family of four cannot currently make more than $52,400 a year.

– Audrey McGlinchy

Update at 1:18 p.m. – More than 500 residents to be tested after online screening through Austin Public Health site

More than 500 of the 1,800 people who’ve signed up for Austin Public Health’s testing enrollment form met the criteria needed to warrant a COVID test.

Three hundred people are scheduled to be tested for COVID-19 on Tuesday after using the online form that eliminates the need for a face-to-face meeting with a physician. About 120 patients were tested for the virus Saturday, the first day of scheduled testing.

Officials expect to administer 2,000 tests a week using the form as more people sign up. Austin Public Health is also adding more than 100 people into its contact tracing unit with the help of the city and county departments, as well as partners.

Read more here from Jerry Quijano.

Update at 12:17 p.m. – Cap Metro to continue free service next month

Capital Metro rides will continue to be free in May. The agency started offering free service this month to keep riders and staff safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cap Metro says fare-free service helps the community practice social distancing, speeds up boarding and reduces crowding as people board.

After the latest stay-at-home order went into effect April 13, Cap Metro has been passing out masks to passengers who do not have their own face coverings. Passengers have been boarding buses through the rear door and are asked to keep a safe distance between themselves and others.  

Update at 8:31 a.m. — Governor's update scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will be giving an update on the state's COVID-19 response at 2:30 p.m. at the State Capitol.

Abbott is expected to discuss the next steps in his plan for the gradual reopening of the state's economy. Some previously-closed stores began offering retail-to-go on Friday, as part of the governor's loosened restrictions for businesses.

Watch the governor's update on KUT.org at 2:30 p.m. 

Update at 5:30 a.m. — Williamson County debuts online assessment tool, new testing site

An online COVID-19 assessment tool for Williamson County residents is launching Monday.

The assessment will determine if someone is eligible for a COVID-19 test based on screening criteria from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eligible people will be given an appointment time and be sent to a new public testing location run by Williamson County and the Williamson County and Cities Health District.

The tests are free of charge and are available via drive-thru. People cannot drive up and fill out the assessment; tests are by appointment only. 

“We are offering this new testing option for our county residents who do not have the ability to visit with their personal doctor or go to another testing site to be tested,” County Judge Bill Gravell said in a statement.

The online screening will be available here. The first tests will be conducted Thursday, according to the county, and test results take a few days to be determined. Appointments will be available between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Here’s what happened over the weekend

COVID-19 cluster emerges at Williamson County nursing home

Williamson County and Cities Health district identified a COVID-19 cluster in a nursing home facility, the county announced Saturday. There were 46 confirmed cases among staff and residents. 

WCCHD is working with the facility to mitigate the spread, according to a press release. This is the county’s first COVID-19 cluster in a nursing home. 

“Our top priority, from the beginning, has been to protect our most vulnerable residents,” said County Judge Bill Gravell in the release. “We are putting all of the resources we have available into isolating this cluster so that no others will be infected.” 

WCCHD issued updated control orders April 23 for 65 facilities, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities and long-term care facilities. The orders state that if there is a confirmed case in a facility, all patients, staff and next of kin must be notified. If a cluster does occur at a location, meaning two or more patients are infected, the facility is restricted from receiving new patients, it must make all staff available for testing and additional personnel and equipment may be sent to the facility until the outbreak is controlled. 

Other local coronavirus news from the weekend:

  • After experiencing large numbers of visitors, Travis County Parks closed two parks for the day Sunday – Pace Bend and Milton Reimers Ranch Park — to protect visitors and staff. 

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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