This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Thursday, July 2. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.
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More than 400 people are now hospitalized with COVID-19 in Austin area
Austin Public Health reported 571 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Thursday evening, slightly fewer than the 597 cases reported on Wednesday. Five more coronavirus-related deaths were reported.
There were 71 new hospital admissions in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell), 14 more than were reported the day before. Currently, 415 people are hospitalized with the virus in the area, 39 more than on Wednesday.
The seven-day average of daily COVID-19 hospital admissions is now at 58.3, up from 55.1. Local officials worry about patients overwhelming hospitals, so they’re keeping an eye on that number and adjusting restrictions 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 social gatherings, and any gatherings of more than two people, and stay home unless absolutely necessary. Lower risk individuals should avoid social gatherings and gatherings of more than 10 people.
Stage 5, the highest risk level, could be triggered if the hospitalization average rises above 70. If the average falls below 40, the area will move down to stage 3.
LULAC declares statewide medical emergency for Texas Latinos
One of the biggest Hispanic organizations in the country sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott today asking him to address the disproportionate affect the COVID-19 pandemic is having on Latinos in the state.
“Texas Health officials say the tragedy now is Hispanics are disproportionately getting sick and dying from COVID-19,” LULAC officials said in the letter. “In some cases, families see multiple loved ones get infected or die.”
LULAC says the Latino community in Texas is in the middle of a statewide medical emergency. The group’s president, Domingo Garcia, said Latinos are making up more than 60% of the positive COVID-19 cases in some of the state’s biggest counties – including Dallas, Harris and Bexar.
“There are several factors and reasons the Latino community is being impacted so disproportionately,” he said during a new conference. “Number one is that Latinos are essential workers. Four out of every five Latinos are working.”
In an effort to protect Latinos, many of whom are frontline workers, LULAC asked Abbott to implement a statewide mask requirement that includes fines. The governor did issue such an order shortly after LULAC held a press conference.
The group is also asking for an emergency legislative session to address hard-hit populations. They want the state to set aside funding for students who currently can’t access online learning – as well as emergency funds for small businesses.
– Ashley Lopez
Texas State moves most summer classes online
Texas State announced Thursday the school will transition nearly all classes online for the second summer session due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in Hays and Williamson counties. Classes were originally scheduled to resume Monday.
"The President’s Cabinet and I have been monitoring daily the COVID-19 situation in Hays and Williamson Counties," Texas State President Denise Trauth said in a statement. "In consultation with Chief Medical Officer Emilio Carranco, M.D., this afternoon, we made the decision that for summer II we will transition nearly all face-to-face classes to online delivery.”
The only courses that will remain in person are those that require a face-to-face component for licensure or a degree. The move will bring the number of students down to 200 on the San Marcos campus and 200 on the Round Rock campus, the university said.
Trauth said the school still plans to return to in-person classes in the fall.
Hays County Jail reports 47 COVID-19 cases
The Hays County Jail reported that 36 inmates and 11 correctional officers have tested positive for COVID-19. The county is awaiting results from another 34 tests – for both inmates and officers.
A spokesperson for the Hays County Sheriff’s Office said officers are taking every precaution to prevent the virus's spread – including providing masks to inmates and sanitizing common areas.
But Samantha, who recently spent three days in the jail, told KUT she never got a mask. (She did not want to use her last name for fear it would cost her her job.)
“Some of the inmates did ask if we could have masks, but they weren't provided. And even before I was in the dorm, it did not seem [many employees had] any masks. Some of the stuff that they did … as far as sanitizing did seem a little purposeless,” she said.
Spokesman Lt. Dennis Gutierrez said inmates are issued a mask and have their temperatures taken when they first come in.
“It is their choice whether or not to wear [a mask]. Some just throw them away because they refuse to wear them," he said. "Twice a day corrections officer enters into the common areas where they are housed and they wipe down table tops and they wipe down anything within the common area.”
– Riane Roldan
Austin parks amenties, facilities and summer camps will remain closed after holiday weekend
The City of Austin is extending closures for facilities and amenities in its parks, due to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases and the trajectory of hospitalizations, City Manager Spencer Cronk said in a memo to City Council on Thursday.
In-person city sports, fitness and cultural programs, as well as summer camps, have been suspended for the month of July.
Initially, all city parks and recreational facilities were closed only for the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Starting Monday, facilities – including city pools, golf courses, tennis centers and other park amenities like volleyball courts and playgrounds – will remain closed.
City of Austin parks and trails will reopen Monday, but rules for mask use and social distancing will be in effect. Cronk says Parks and Recreation Department rangers will patrol parks to educate visitors about the rules. The city says it will keep the Barton Creek and Bull Creek greenbelts closed.
Deep Eddy and Barton Springs pools were already closed starting Tuesday and will stay closed. A full listing of closed facilities is available at austintexas.gov/parkclosures.
The city manager says any Parks and Recreation sites identified as polling locations will open as scheduled for voting.
Texas' Latino population has been disproportionately affected by unemployment
The Latino population has been disproportionately affected by rising unemployment in Texas, according to the nonprofit Urban Institute.
The organization's data looks at the share of adults in households where at least one person has lost employment income since March 13. Researchers found that share is now almost at 70% among Texas’ Latinos.
That’s higher than the national average among Latinos, which has hovered around 50% in the past several weeks. As a result, the share of adult Latinos under 65 who don’t have health insurance has also been climbing in the past several weeks.
Texas Latinos have — by far — the highest uninsured rates in the state, even before the pandemic. That includes some of the highest uninsured rates among children. Some cities, including Austin, have also reported that Latino residents are twice as likely to be hospitalized for the coronavirus compared to other groups.
— Ashley Lopez
More than 96,000 Texans filed for unemployment last week
New numbers out this morning show 96,141 Texans applied for unemployment benefits last week. That's about 6,590 more new claims than the week before. Since mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic started hitting the Texas economy hard, slightly more than 2.8 million Texans have applied for first-time unemployment benefits.
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