COVID-19 Latest: Austin And Travis County Extend Rules On Masks And Gatherings Until December

Aug 14, 2020

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Friday, Aug. 14. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Average of hospital admissions in the region remains steady

Austin Public Health reported 152 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Friday, down from 297 reported the day before. The seven-day average of daily new cases is 199. APH reported four new coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total to 332.

There are now 236 people hospitalized with the virus in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell), down from 263 on Thursday. Despite that net decrease, APH reported 22 new COVID-19 hospital admissions in the region. The seven-day average of new admissions remained at 33.

Local officials are keeping an eye on that average and adjusting restrictions based on it and other factors, like ICU and ventilator capacities. An average below 40 could push the region down to stage 3 of APH’s risk-based guidelines, but officials have recommended the area remain in stage 4, the second-highest level, for now.

Austin and Travis County extend COVID-19 orders until December

Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe has extended the local disaster declaration and public health emergency for the county until Dec. 15. A few hours later, Austin extended its order to that date as well.

Biscoe's order prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people, with the exception of gatherings allowed by the governor like church services and child care services. The county judge's order also continues to require every person in Travis County to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when inside a public building — or outside when unable to keep a 6-foot distance.

The order says fines for violations of the gatherings order will not exceed $1,000, while violations of the mask order will not be over $250.

The order says that while the infection rate has leveled somewhat, Dr. Mark Escott, the interim health authority for Austin-Travis County, expects the number of infections to rise if the current rules are lifted.

Escott says people should stay home except when necessary, noting the area still needs to increase testing and contact tracing capabilities. 

Austin's order also adjusts rules at nursing homes to allow for some visitors, per new state guidelines. In addition, it outlines a phased-in approach to in-person learning at K-12 schools.   

Both the orders can be found here.

Resolution calls for equal access to services for people with disabilities

The Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities passed a resolution Friday calling for pandemic prevention efforts in Austin to consider the rights and needs of people with disabilities.

The resolution highlighted that the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 had not been modified because of the pandemic and that people with disabilities needed to maintain access to public goods and services. Commissioners said access could be restricted, for example, in indoor spaces that have a one-way flow of traffic that can’t be followed if a person enters from a more accessible doorway.

Commissioner Emily Shryock, who helped draft the resolution, encouraged the city to communicate that safety measures do not mean there is an exemption from providing access. 

“Those messages can and should be paired together so that people with disabilities are not being put at further risk because of changes that have been made to access because of health and safety restrictions,” she said. 

The resolution has no binding power, but will be sent to the Austin City Council for consideration. 

– Sangita Menon

Williamson County holds free coronavirus testing in Taylor this weekend

Free, walk-up COVID-19 testing will be available in Taylor on Saturday and Sunday.

Tests will be offered at Main Street Intermediate School starting at 9 a.m. and continuing until supplies last.

The test offered will be a cheek swab, so people cannot eat, drink or use tobacco products 20 minutes prior to the test. 

Food bank’s take-home meal program extended through end of month

The Central Texas Food Bank is extending its take-home meal program for schoolchildren through the end of the month. The program was slated to end Friday, but the food bank partnered with the YMCA to provide two additional weeks’ worth of breakfasts and lunches.

Parents or guardians must prove a child's enrollment at an Austin school to pick up meals. The food is distributed at the YMCA on Ed Bluestein Boulevard and the North Austin YMCA on Rundberg Lane on Thursdays. The meal packs include seven breakfasts and seven lunches.

More information can be found here.

COVID-19 Dashboards

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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