COVID-19 Latest: APH To Host Virtual Event Addressing Black Austinites' COVID-19 Concerns

Jul 16, 2020

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Thursday, July 16. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

More than 400 new cases reported in Travis County

Austin Public Health reported 413 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Thursday, down from 572 the day before. There were six more deaths.

There are now 479 people hospitalized with the virus in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell), 13 fewer than on Wednesday.

Despite that net decrease, there were 62 new COVID-19 hospital admissions in the region on Thursday, bringing the seven-day average of new hospital admissions to 70.6, down slightly from 71.1.

Health officials worry about people infected with the coronavirus overwhelming local hospitals, so they’re keeping an eye on that average and adjusting restrictions based on it and other factors.

A number above 70 could push the area into stage 5, the highest level, of APH’s risk-based guidelines, but health officials haven’t made that move yet. That shift also depends on other factors, like how quickly the average of new hospital admissions is rising, officials say.

Texas sees highest total of COVID-19 deaths reported in one day

State health officials reported 129 new COVID-19 deaths in Texas on Thursday, the highest single-day increase in coronavirus-related deaths the state has seen so far. Wednesday saw the previous highest number at 110.

This is the third time the state has reported a triple-digit COVID-19 death total.

Officials reported 10,291 new cases of the disease in the state on Thursday, down from 10,791 reported on Wednesday.

There are currently 10,457 people hospitalized with the virus across the state, 14 fewer than the day before. This is the seventh day in a row that hospitalizations have totaled more than 10,000.

The testing positivity rate (the percentage of tests administered that come back positive) is now back to the record-high it hit on Monday — 16.89%.

Austin Public Health adds three languages to its COVID-19 testing enrollment form

Austin Public Health is adding three languages to its coronavirus enrollment form to make it more accessible. In addition to English and Spanish, the online portal will be available in Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese, APH said.

The enrollment page will be down from 8 p.m. Thursday until 5 a.m. Friday, as APH makes the language upgrades. Users will still be able to navigate the city's COVID-19 page — covid19.austintexas.gov — but will not be able to log in or create an account to set up a testing appointment.

People can also enroll in testing by phone. APH's nurse hotline (512-972-5560) allows people to complete the assessment and schedule an appointment in more than 200 languages.

Since April, APH says, more than 91,000 accounts have been created.

Local leaders to host virtual conversation addressing COVID-19 and Austin’s Black community

Austin Public Health and community leaders are hosting a virtual conversation Saturday to address concerns and questions from Black Austinites regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Local data shows the disease has disproportionately impacted Austin’s Black community. Black Austinites comprise 9% of COVID-19 deaths in Travis County and 9.8% of hospitalizations in the Austin-Round Rock MSA, according to APH.

The health authority says it wants to work closely with this community “to identify and take actions that will address COVID-19 impacts and long-term public health challenges.”

The conversation will take place on Facebook Live at 10 a.m. Saturday. People can submit questions or concerns they want addressed in the conversation in this survey.

Georgetown ISD undecided on in-person learning

While Round Rock ISD has committed to virtual learning for the first three weeks of the upcoming school year because of coronavirus concerns, Georgetown ISD Superintendent Fred Brent says their district is undecided and will launch a second survey on Monday to gauge families' preferences. 

"Georgetown ISD has not omitted that option, nor have we committed to that option," Brent said. "And here's why I feel like I owe you an explanation: We feel like that's a decision our community needs to make."        

In an online weekly briefing, Brent laid out plans for the coming school year. Two parent question-and-answer sessions are planned for near the end of July.

By Aug. 3, campus-level plans will be released. Texas Education Agency officials said Wednesday schools can be all-virtual this fall if local health officials order it — and not risk losing state funding.

Dripping Springs ISD closes in on plan to return to school

The Dripping Springs ISD Board of Trustees is closing in on a plan to start school back up in the fall. At a special meeting Wednesday, the board evaluated Texas Education Agency guidelines for beginning classes this year. Based on those guidelines, the district is offering two options to parents and students for the upcoming school year: 100% in-person learning or 100% remote learning. 

"There’s risks. You know for some kids' mental health they need to be back in school," Dripping Springs ISD Board member Barbara Stroud said. "Were gonna have to be upfront with the community that we can't guarantee the safety because we are gonna have COVID spread when we have kids in school.”

Board members have not taken a vote on the plan. They're still considering joining other local districts in delaying in-person instruction by three weeks at the start of the school year. School is scheduled to start in Dripping Springs ISD on Aug. 18.

More than 105,000 Texans filed for unemployment last week

New numbers out this morning show 105,590 Texans applied for unemployment benefits last week. That's about 11,500 fewer new claims than the week before.

Since mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic started hitting the Texas economy hard, just about 3,104,130 Texans have applied for first-time unemployment benefits.

The number of workers seeking unemployment benefits nationwide remained stuck at 1.3 million last week, the Associated Press reports. The total number of people who are receiving jobless benefits dropped by 400,000 to 17.3 million.

The total number of people who are receiving jobless benefits dropped 400,000 to 17.3 million, the government said.

City of Austin providing grants to child care centers

The City of Austin will provide $1 million in grants to help child care centers and providers hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The grant program will give up to $50,000 to reimburse eligible child care facilities for operating expenses.

Family child care home providers, centers owned by people from underrepresented communities or those that haven't received other recovery funding are encouraged to apply. Providers must be Texas Rising Star-certified or have national accreditation.

They must be within Austin city limits and show proof of economic loss from COVID-19. Applications for the Austin Childcare Provider Relief Grant open Tuesday at 10 a.m. Read more at ATXRecovers.com.

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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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