This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Thursday, Sept. 24. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.
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Travis County sees 159 new cases and no new deaths
Austin Public Health reported 159 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Thursday, up from 102 reported Wednesday. The seven-day average of daily new cases is 99. No new deaths were reported, so the county’s death total remains at 417.
There are now 89 people reported to be hospitalized with the virus in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell), three more than yesterday. APH reported a total of 20 new COVID-19 hospital admissions in the region Thursday. The seven-day average of new admissions is 16, the same as yesterday.
The area is in stage 3 of APH’s risk-based guidelines. At this level, people are encouraged to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.
Travis County judges extend ban on evictions for some renters through end of 2020
The Travis County Justices of the Peace are extending a ban on eviction hearings for nonpayment of rent through Dec. 31. But they are limiting the ban to tenants who pay no more than $2,475 a month on rent. Previously, judges had banned evictions through the end of this month regardless of a tenant's rent.
Judges are not extending this ban for commercial properties, meaning eviction hearings for these properties can go forward once the current ban expires Wednesday.
Residential renters are still potentially protected from eviction through an order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the protection is not automatic; tenants need to sign a declaration and present it to their landlord or a judge. The Texas Supreme Court ordered local courts to provide a copy of this declaration when a tenant is served with an eviction.
— Audrey McGlinchy
Some Austin pools reopen with approval from Austin Public Health
The City of Austin is reopening some public pools after consulting with the local public health authority. The pools will operate on a modified fall schedule starting Saturday.
Reservations will not be required, but there will be certain health protocols. For example, visitors will have their temperatures taken before entering, and capacity limits will be in place.
Humane Society distributes pet food to help owners impacted by COVID-19
The Austin Humane Society is distributing 13,000 pounds of pet food to help dog- and cat-owners impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pet Food Pantry event aims to serve more than 1,000 dogs and cats with food donated by Heritage Ranch by H-E-B, Tomlinson’s Feed and Hill’s Pet Food.
The food will be distributed via drive-thru from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at the Austin Humane Society at 124 W. Anderson Lane. Attendees must sign up in advance. Another food distribution is happening Dec. 5. Those interested can sign up for the waitlist here.
Austin ISD superintendent says elementary school parents want students to return to campus
Responding to rumors that the district might delay the start of in-person classes, Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said the Austin Independent School District is moving ahead with plans to bring some schools back to campus starting Oct. 5.
The Texas Education Agency has said school districts must start bringing back students whose guardians want them to be on campus. Students can stay at home doing virtual learning, however, if that's what a family chooses.
AISD sent out surveys asking families their preferences between virtual and in-person classes. The deadline for that survey is Friday.
“Currently, it is clear that our elementary families are absolutely requesting that if at all possible, that we open up our campuses, knowing that we will be beginning with only 25% of the campus capacity,” Elizalde said at a news conference Thursday.
She also said that if an outbreak of COVID-19 happens at a campus, the school can quickly return to virtual learning.
– Claire McInerny
UT Austin’s proactive COVID-19 testing falls short of initial goal
UT Austin said when classes began this fall, it wanted to test up to 5,000 members of the UT community each week for COVID-19 through a proactive testing initiative to try and find asymptomatic carriers. But the university is not even testing half that number.
Jay Hartzell, who was confirmed as the new UT president Wednesday, says the university is not requiring students to get tested. Instead, it is encouraging them to do so voluntarily. Hartzell says the university is changing its strategies in the hopes of getting more students tested.
"For us, it's been everything from moving testing sites out into the community,” he said. “So taking a site into West Campus or Jester Dormitory or other places where we can make it easier for people."
He says while UT is not forcing students to get tested, the university will continue to tie testing to extracurricular activities. For example, some students who wanted to attend the last football game had to get tested before going.
— Claire McInerny
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