COVID-19 Latest: Austin Public Health Opens New Testing Site For Bastrop County Residents

Jul 6, 2020

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Monday, July 6. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Key hospitalization figure inches up in Travis County, could trigger additional restrictions

Austin Public Health reported 247 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Monday evening, down from 548 reported Sunday. Seven new deaths were reported.

There were 69 new hospital admissions in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell). Currently, 418 people are hospitalized with the virus in the area. 

The seven-day average of daily COVID-19 hospital admissions is now at 64.6. 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 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, could be triggered if the hospitalization average rises above 70. If the average falls below 40, the area will move down to stage 3.

In a Facebook Live on Monday night, Mayor Steve Adler said now that the city can mandate masks, he hopes Austin will see a decline in the hospitalization number. 

"Our hope is that the hospitalization numbers flatten out over the next week or so as we start to get hospitalizations from that period of time when we had the masking in place," he said.

Adler has said if hospitalizations don't decline, he would consider another shelter-in-place order. 

Limited in-person classes start back up at ACC

Austin Community College resumed in-person classes today for workforce-related courses, like welding technology, auto technology and nursing.

ACC says it has put in place several safety precautions: Students and staff will be required to answer online questions about their health and possible exposure to COVID-19 every day before coming to campus and will have their temperature checked once they get there. Masks will be required at all times.

Classes will now have fewer than 10 students. ACC expects most classes for the rest of summer and likely fall will continue to be held online.

Austin Public Health opens new COVID-19 testing site in Bastrop County

A new coronavirus testing site in Bastrop County will be able to test nearly 200 people a day, health officials say. Austin Public Health, in partnership with Bastrop County, says county residents can now use APH's online testing enrollment form to see if they qualify for a test.

If residents quality, they can then schedule a free drive-thru test in Bastrop. And, if a resident does not qualify, APH says that person can try again at any time if their symptoms change in the following days.

APH says appointments will be available on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Currently, residents need to have COVID-19 symptoms, exposure to others who tested positive or high-risk factors in order to qualify for a test.

"This new open test site will allow us to identify and slow the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Desmar Walkes, Bastrop County Health Authority, said in a press release.

APH says the Bastrop testing site is one of two non-Austin sites included in the its online enrollment form — the other being the Williamson County site added in May.

Visit AustinTexas.gov/COVID19 to see if you qualify for a test.

Advocates call for statewide order banning health care rationing for Texans with disabilities

Disability rights advocates are pushing Gov. Greg Abbott to issue a statewide order prohibiting health care rationing that discriminates against Texans with disabilities during the coronavirus pandemic. The advocates want statewide standards similar to federal laws protecting people with disabilities.

Lisa Snead, an attorney with the group Disability Rights Texas, says states already have faced issues with health care rationing. That’s when providers have to make a decision about who gets the limited supplies of medical equipment or medicine they have available.

Some of those states have since been forced to implement statewide standards about how those decisions are made. Snead says the fact that Texas doesn’t have any standards in place right now is a problem.

"This means that in Texas individual hospitals and doctors can make these allocation decisions," Snead said. "So, there is no transparency on how some of these decisions about rationing are being made, which makes this a really scary time for persons with disabilities."

Snead says her group and others asked Abbott to consider putting standards in place in April. She says the situation is getting more serious as COVID-19 cases surge in Texas.

— Ashley Lopez

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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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