COVID-19 April 6 Updates: Bastrop County Confirms First Death, Free Child Care For Frontline Workers

Apr 6, 2020

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Monday, April 6. Read Tuesday's live updates here. If you'd like to go through a roundup of COVID-19 news from the weekend, read it here. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Update at 6:11 p.m. – Travis County isolates new inmates to try to prevent COVID-19 spread

The Travis County Sheriff's Office began isolating all new inmates in single-person cells last week over coronavirus concerns.

If they don't show symptoms of COVID-19 after 10 to 14 days, they are transferred to the general population. The jail is taking in roughly 40 people a day. On Monday, there were 162 people in isolation.

The preemptive isolation is coupled with an overall reduction in arrests, prosecutions and bookings – an effort to reduce the risk of the virus spreading in Austin jails.

So far, no cases have been reported.

Update at 5:30 p.m. – Cap Metro expands food delivery program with Good Apple

Capital Metro launched a new food delivery partnership with the local produce delivery company Good Apple on Monday.

The “Stay Home, Stay Healthy Food Delivery” program provides food boxes to at-risk groups to help minimize their exposure to COVID-19. People 55 and older or anyone who has an underlying condition that puts them at risk can apply online.

Cap Metro has also been delivering “help-at-home” kits to MetroAccess subscribers and other vulnerable populations. The kits include grocery items from the Central Texas Food Bank and are dropped off at people’s doors. 

Now, the transit agency says per day it will do 240 grocery deliveries through the Good Apple partnership and 180 through the Central Texas Food Bank. In total, it said, that’s 400 stops and 9,600 meals per day.

Update at 5:15 p.m. – Austin ISD food service worker dies after testing positive

A food service worker with the Austin Independent School District died Thursday after testing positive for COVID-19.

Patricia Hernandez, who worked at Casis Elementary for 10 years, had not been involved in any AISD food distribution since schools closed March 13, the district said.

Read more from Claire McInerny here.

Update at 4:38 p.m. – Texas WIC increases food items eligible for purchase

Texas WIC, the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, is increasing the number of food items people on the program can buy, Texas Health and Human Services announced Monday. 

For example, there are now more milk, bread, rice, pasta and egg options to get families "during these difficult times," the agency said. It is also permanently adding canned fruits and vegetables to the food package.

Texas WIC also updated the MyTexasWic app “to ensure Texans who need access to nutritious food will be able to find it in their local grocery stores,” according to a press release. The app, which can be downloaded on the Apple App store or the Google Play Store tells families what food items they can buy with their benefit package.

WIC is a U.S. Department of Agriculture program for qualifying pregnant women, new moms and children under 5. It gives participants nutrition education, breastfeeding support, referrals and nutritious foods.

Update at 12:16 p.m. – Governor announces free child care membership for frontline workers in Texas

Care.com is offering frontline workers and caregivers responding to the COVID-19 crisis 90 days of free access to an online portal to find child care services, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday.

"This Care.com initiative will provide an additional avenue of support for our frontline workers throughout the COVID-19 response," he said in a press release. "I am grateful for Care.com's commitment to ensuring accessible child care is available to Texans fulfilling essential services during this time."

CEO Tim Allen said in a statement that Care.com was honored to offer these services.

"We are all dependent on the commitment of these essential workers as they look after our families and they deserve nothing less from each of us," he said.

Frontline workers looking for child care can enroll here.

Update at 12:03 p.m. – Austin History Center asks public to contribute to new COVID-19 series

The Austin History Center is documenting life during the coronavirus pandemic and is asking the community to contribute to the collection for a series called "The COVID-19 Files: Austin Responds to a Pandemic."

The idea is to archive this period in Austin by highlighting how things have changed – from social distancing practices to small-business closures to the strain on essential services. Find a list of ways to share your stories here.   

Update at 11:26 a.m. — Bastrop County confirms its first death from the coronavirus

A 58-year-old man from Elgin has died from COVID-19, the Bastrop County Health Authority said in a statement Monday morning. It's the first confirmed death in the county from the disease.

There are 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Bastrop County. One other patient has recovered and been released by a doctor.

“Know that the prayers of Bastrop County are with this family as they mourn their loss,” Dr. Desmar Walkes, Bastrop County health authority, said. “We strongly recommend that all Bastrop County residents, workers, students, and visitors take the necessary precautions to protect themselves against COVID-19."

Although most people who contract the virus will not need medical care, residents who develop low to moderate fever, cough and shortness of breath should contact their primary care doctor, the county said.

“Older citizens in our community and those with underlying health conditions or a compromised immune system tend to be more susceptible to COVID-19,” said Bastrop County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes. “These residents should be in immediate contact with their health care provider should they develop a fever, cough or experience shortness of breath.”

Update at 8:51 a.m. — Texas DPS sets up checkpoints on roads entering Texas from Louisiana

The Texas Department of Public Safety will now screen drivers traveling into Texas from Louisiana.

In an effort to enforce Gov. Greg Abbott's statewide executive order, DPS troopers are setting up checkpoints on all roadways entering the state from Louisiana.

Louisiana has more than 13,000 confirmed coronavirus cases so far. Texas has over 7,200 cases.

Drivers will be required to fill out a travel form and then self-isolate for two weeks. The quarantine restriction does not include essential personnel such as first responders, military workers and health professionals. 

Update at 8:16 a.m. — St. David's HealthCare launches appreciation campaign for health care workers

St. David’s HealthCare has created posters — in English and Spanish — available for people to download and post on their windows to show their appreciation for health care workers on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19. St. David's is also encouraging people to string lights in the shape of a heart on their homes or businesses as an additional way to show appreciation.

“Many in our community have asked what they can do to help or show support to the selfless women and men in our hospitals who are caring for patients every day during this pandemic,” David Huffstutler, president and chief executive officer of St. David’s HealthCare, said.

“As we dutifully wash our hands and work from our dining tables and living rooms — enduring social distancing and new grocery habits — these women and men suit up every single day and put themselves on the frontlines of the biggest public health emergency of our lifetimes,” Huffstutler said. “HeroCare is a small way for us to say thank you.”

To participate in the campaign, people can visit the St. David's HeroCare page to download a HeroCare poster or learn about other ways they can show their support.

Update at 4:45 a.m. — Capital Metro gives face coverings to employees

Capital Metro has started giving masks to public-facing employees in response to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that encourage people to wear face coverings in public.

These Cap Metro employees include vehicle operators, cleaning crews, those who work in building and vehicle maintenance, security staff, and administrative and contract employees who are not working remotely.

The agency was able to get the face coverings in part due to donations from organizations such as the Asian Pacific Islander Public Affairs Association. 

Cap Metro has been encouraging people to use its services only for essential trips. On Sunday, the agency announced an employee who tested positive for COVID-19 and worked in bus maintenance had died.

Catch up on what happened over the weekend

Austin-Travis County recommend people use fabric face coverings in public

Austin and Travis County are now recommending people use fabric face coverings when they leave their homes to further slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Dr. Mark Escott, the interim health authority for Austin-Travis County, made the recommendation Sunday with support from Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made a similar recommendation on Friday. 

“This is another piece of a complex process to slow the spread and flatten the curve in our community,” Escott said in a press release. “While you might otherwise feel well and healthy, we need everyone’s help to prevent the potential asymptomatic spread to others who could face more severe symptoms.” 

The city and county urge that even when wearing a face covering, people should still maintain physical distance from one another and follow local stay-at-home orders. 

Other local coronavirus news from the weekend:

  • The City of Austin has posted an interactive map to help social service providers and people experiencing homelessness find the closest locations for services including showers, restrooms, hand-washing, charging stations and food. 
  • The Austin Parks and Recreation Department is restricting access to municipal golf courses starting Monday.
  • The Austin-Travis County Emergency Operations Center has set up a specific branch to address social service needs.

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.

Correction: A previous version of this post said Care.com was offering free child care; it is not. 

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