COVID-19 Latest: Area Sets Record For Hospitalizations, Free Testing For Construction Workers

Jun 20, 2020

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Friday, June 19. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Austin Public Health reported 295 new COVID-19 cases in Travis County on Friday evening. No new coronavirus-related deaths were reported.

The five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell) set a record with 34 new COVID-19 hospital admissions, according to APH. The seven-day average of new admissions is 27.7. Local officials worry about COVID-19 cases overwhelming local hospitals, so they’re keeping an eye on that number and adjusting risk and restrictions based on it. 

The area is currently in stage 4 of APH’s risk-based guidelines, meaning higher risk individuals (people over 65 and those with underlying conditions) should avoid gatherings of more than two people and stay home unless absolutely necessary. Lower risk individuals should avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. 

Stage 5, the highest risk level, would be triggered if the hospitalization average rises above 70. If the average falls below 20, the area will move down to stage 3.

Texas Workforce Commission resumes job search requirements on July 6

Texans who receive unemployment benefits will have to prove they're actively looking for work again beginning July 6. The Texas Workforce Commission says it will resume job search requirements in response to Gov. Greg Abbott's phased reopening of the state.

The job search requirement was initially waived in March because many businesses had shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The maximum number of work search requirements is set to three activities for all areas of the state," TWC spokesperson Cisco Gamez said. "Counties that have set their work search requirement to less than three may keep that number intact."

At last count, more than 2.6 million people in Texas had filed for unemployment since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in mid-March. Texans should report their job searches for the first time on or after July 19 when requesting benefit payments.

Austin launches site for people looking to help during pandemic

The City of Austin has launched a website to host volunteer and donation opportunities for COVID-19 relief. The city's using the Austin-based GivePulse platform to let nonprofits post opportunities for in-person volunteer events, donation drives and other socially distanced ways for helping out during the pandemic.

The site officially launched Friday, and Kim Caldwell with the City of Austin says so far there are roughly 30 organizations offering ways to help out.

"The hope is that this is an initiative that is reflective of – and owned by – the community. And that the city has the opportunity to be a connector and a facilitator of all the good things our community has to provide," she said.

The opportunities range from assembling care packages for those experiencing homelessness to driving elderly Austinites to simple donations. You can find the entire list here.

Groups organize free testing Saturday for Austin-area construction workers

Local groups are creating a COVID-19 testing site in Austin tomorrow for construction workers – a population with many clusters of positive cases.

The concentration of cases among these workers has largely been due to the fact that construction work was exempted from state orders back in March that required all nonessential businesses to shut down.

Since then, the rates of infection have remained high.

That’s why the Financial Literacy Coalition of Central Texas, the U.S. Hispanic Contractors Association and the Austin Latino Coalition are hosting a free COVID-19 testing site to support frontline construction industry workers. They will also offer free antibody testing.

The testing event will take place tomorrow from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 5909 Reicher Dr.

Hotel bookings in Austin pick up

Austin’s hotel industry is slowly recovering from the coronavirus shutdown. The industry analysis firm STR says hotel occupancy in Austin last week was about 44% – up from the low point in April of 20%.

But it's still around half what it was a year ago. Last year, hotel occupancy taxes generated about $100 million in Austin, with much of that going to promote tourism and the arts. 

Central Texas Food Bank to pass out food Saturday

The Central Texas Food Bank will be distributing food tomorrow at Del Valle High School from 8 a.m. to noon.

Emergency food boxes contain groceries including milk, produce and frozen chicken or pork.

One person per household is allowed at the drive-through distribution site. Be sure to have room in your trunk before showing up. Walk-ups are not permitted.

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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