This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Friday, July 24. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.
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Austin area sees its highest single-day death toll from COVID-19
Austin Public Health reported 238 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Thursday, down from 243 reported the day before. Twelve more deaths were reported – the first day in which the area saw double-digit deaths related to COVID-19.
Travis County’s seven-day average of new cases now stands at about 280 per day.
There are now reportedly 423 people hospitalized with the virus in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell), 15 fewer people than on Thursday. APH reported there were 47 new COVID-19 hospital admissions in the region on Friday. There were 56 on Thursday.
The seven-day average of new admissions is now 57.3, down from 59.7. Local officials worry about the coronavirus overwhelming local hospitals, so they’re keeping an eye on that number and adjusting restrictions based on it and other factors.
The area is currently in stage 4 of APH’s risk-based guidelines. If the average of new hospital admissions reaches 70 or higher, local officials could opt to move the area into stage 5, the highest level.
Austin extends moratorium on residential evictions
The City of Austin has extended its moratorium on evictions. Mayor Steve Adler announced Friday evening that the city would follow Travis County's suit, banning residential evictions through Sept. 30.
Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe extended that moratorium earlier this week.
Earlier this week, the city said it would be offering $13 million in rental assistance during the pandemic. The city hopes to roll that program out in early August.
The Austin Convention Center can take COVID-19 patients as soon as next week
Austin Public Health says, as of Monday, the facility can take on 100 patients, if need be.
The center could hold a maximum of 1,500 patients, but APH says the recent downturn in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations could mean no patients from the Austin area end up staying in the convention center.
Still, interim Medical Authority Dr. Mark Escott reminded Austinites to continue practicing good hygiene, wearing facial coverings and restricting non-essential travel.
“I am happy to say that we continue to be in a plateau situation,” he said. “But we have to keep in mind that we are still in a very serious situation.”
Texas House Democrats express concern over TEA's guidelines for reopening schools
Members of the Texas House Democratic Caucus Education Working Group say they share constituent concerns about the latest guidelines from the Texas Education Agency regarding reopening schools to students this fall.
During a briefing today, Austin State Rep. Gina Hinojosa said she's concerned TEA's rules could pre-empt school districts from following local public health guidelines.
"For instance in Austin where I represent, if Austin Public Health Authority says we should do certain things to minimize the spread and protect everyone, we should be able to respond to that," she said.
Hinojosa, who previously served on the Austin School Board, says she and other Democrats want the TEA to give districts leeway on their attendance-based funding beyond just the first 12 weeks of the school year, as some schools may not meet the minimum attendance requirement to secure state funding in light of COVID-19.
Formula 1 cancels Austin race due to COVID-19 pandemic
The US Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas will not happen this year.
Formula 1 Chairman and CEO Chase Carey announced Friday, "due to the fluid nature of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic."
Races in Brazil, Mexico and Canada scheduled for this year were also canceled. Formula 1 said local restrictions and "the importance of keeping communities and our colleagues safe" led to the decision to call off this year's races.
Bobby Epstein, the chairman of the Circuit of the Americas, the race track in southern Travis County that hosts the United States' only Formula 1 race, said the cancellation was "prudent, but painful."
"I'm disappointed for the fans, COTA employees, our community, and everyone in the Formula One paddock," Epstein said.
The closure will come at a big cost for the race track. Epstein said COTA planned on hosting its biggest event yet in 2020, and that deposits for tickets were up 250% from 2019.
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