COVID-19 Latest: Austin Area Hits Record 56 New Hospitalizations, UT Waives Testing Requirements

Jun 23, 2020

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Tuesday, June 23. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Austin Public Health reported a record 56 new COVID-19 hospital admissions in the five-county region. There are now 236 people hospitalized with the disease in the area, which includes Travis, Williamson, Hays, Blanco and Caldwell counties. 

The health authority also reported 257 new coronavirus cases in Travis County on Tuesday evening, up from 129 reported the day before. Two more deaths were reported. 

The seven-day average of new hospital admissions is now at 39.3, up from 27.7 on Monday. Local officials worry about patients overwhelming local hospitals, so they’re keeping an eye on that number and adjusting restrictions and precautions based on it.

The area is 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.

Masks are now required in Austin and Travis County businesses

Starting today, all publicly facing businesses in Austin and Travis must require employees, visitors and customers to wear face coverings. Businesses that don’t comply could face a fine. 

There are some exceptions under the new order. Masks do not have to be worn when eating or drinking or when you’re alone or around only other members of your household. The orders are set to expire Aug. 15. Unlike the Travis County order, the Austin order requires all businesses in the city — even those that don’t directly interact with the public — to follow this face-covering mandate.

In the City of Austin, if you think a business is not requiring people to wear face coverings, you can report it to Austin 311. The code department will reach out to the business and remind it of the requirement, the city says. If the business receives a second offense, a code department inspector will go to the business and see if it is following the order. If not, the business will be issued a $1,000 fine each day until it complies, the city says. 

If a customer refuses to wear a face covering, the business can ask the person to leave. If the person refuses, the business can call the police, and if the person still refuses to leave, he or she could be arrested and charged with trespassing. 

Monday’s 129 cases in Travis County are only a fraction of the real number

Austin-Travis County saw a decline in the number of reported coronavirus cases Monday, but Austin Mayor Steve Adler said that's because the city couldn't count them all. There were 129 more cases, bringing the total to 6,339. Over the weekend, Austin-Travis County saw record-breaking numbers of daily cases – with the highest being 506 new cases on Sunday. 

Adler said on Facebook Live that Monday's number is only a fraction of the area's new cases.

"We have been inundated with so many new cases that today we didn't have the capacity to be able to actually log in all the new cases,” he said. “They come in from lots of different places, some of them come in by faxes.”    

Adler said new numbers released later Tuesday will likely include the balance left over from Monday. 

SAT and ACT requirements waived at UT Austin due to COVID-19 barriers

UT Austin is waiving testing requirements for high school students who apply for fall 2021 undergraduate admission. Applicants won't have to submit an ACT or SAT score, but they can if they want to. 

The university said the change is being implemented to make sure limits on tests because of COVID-19 do not affect students’ ability to apply to go to college. Tests were canceled in the spring, and future in-person tests will likely be limited because of COVID-19 as well. UT said it will consider a number of other factors to determine who gets admitted. 

“Submission or exclusion of test scores will not advantage or disadvantage an applicant,” UT said in a press release. “ACT or SAT test scores, when provided, will continue to serve as just one of the many factors considered in our review of a student’s application.”

Six Travis County jail inmates test positive

The Travis County Sheriff’s Office said six jail inmates and six employees tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday. Three inmates were released on bond and three remain in quarantine. 

A total of nine inmates in Travis County have tested positive, as have 18 Sheriff’s Office employees. 

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.

If you find this reporting valuable, please consider making a donation to support it. Your gift pays for everything you find on KUT.org. Thanks for donating today.