This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Tuesday, Sept. 8. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.
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Travis County sees 86 new cases and four more deaths
Austin Public Health reported 86 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Tuesday, up from 69 reported on Monday. The seven-day average of daily new cases is 80. Four more deaths were reported, bringing the county’s death total to 399.
There are now 122 people reported to be hospitalized with the virus in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell), five fewer than yesterday. Despite that net decrease, APH reported 14 new COVID-19 hospital admissions on Tuesday. The seven-day average of new admissions is 18.4, down from 19.
The area is in stage 3 of APH’s risk-based guidelines. At this level, people are encouraged to avoid social gatherings and any gatherings of more than 10 people.
Austin and Travis County residents can apply for relief funds starting Monday
The City of Austin is offering a second round of financial assistance to people in the city and county. The money is part of the Relief in a State of Emergency, or RISE, funds.
The city awarded $15 million in the first round of funding to 20 agencies in May and June. This time around, $10 million will be distributed directly to people in the area. They’ll be selected through a randomized process, and chosen applicants will receive $2,000 per household. There are a few eligibility requirements, including being at or below 200% of the federal poverty line.
The application window begins on Monday and will be available in English and Spanish. A hotline where people can find out more about the assistance will be open today through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The number is 512-714-6950.
More information can be found here.
Curative, Inc. to bring Pflugerville jobs and COVID-19 testing
Curative, Inc. is planning to open a lab facility in Pflugerville focused on producing and providing COVID-19 tests for the area. The company already has facilities in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, and it will expand to the city at no cost to residents or the local government.
The company will also use the new facility as a way to roll out its first set of mobile testing kiosks around Texas. These kiosks are walk-up sites offering self-administered, oral fluid swab tests. The locations of the distribution around the state haven’t been announced but are expected later this week.
Amy Madison, executive director of the Pflugerville Community Development Corporation, said the corporation is hopeful for the company’s contribution of testing and jobs. The company announced it plans to hire more than 300 employees locally.
“The fact that [kiosk testing] is touchless, painless, it's quick, and the results can be done within 24 to 48 hours later, really does enhance our opportunities to stop COVID-19 in its tracks,” Madison said.
Curative, Inc. has already been working in the area. Previously, it provided testing kits to the National Guard, which offered residents free testing at Pflugerville Pfield.
COVID-19 positivity rate and hospitalizations rising among young residents
The coronavirus positivity rate has fallen below a target of 5% in Austin-Travis County. The latest figure from Austin Public Health is an overall rate of 4.6%.
At the same time, the positivity rate and the number of hospitalizations has been on the rise for the age group of 10- to 19-year-olds. Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott told Travis County Commissioners on Tuesday that this is a cause for concern.
“When we look at the age breakdown regarding positivity rates, that 10 to 19 age group is significantly higher than most other age groups,” he said. “That’s certainly a concern as we head back to school and college.”
He said Austin Public Health is working with UT Austin and other schools to identify cases and contain the spread of the virus. Escott added that most cases associated with UT are people who live off campus.
— Trey Shaar
Austin ISD begins semester remotely
Today is the first day of online classes for students in the Austin Independent School District.
In a detailed plan sent out by superintendent Stephanie Elizalde, virtual learning will continue for four weeks. Schools will slowly build up the number of teachers and staff on campus in September in anticipation of some students returning Oct. 6.
Whenever students come back to school buildings, there will be temperature checks and social distancing. Some high school students will also be able to do a hybrid of in-person and online learning. Parents who want their children to continue virtual learning will still have that option.
Abbott urged to expand health insurance coverage to more Texans
The Texas Medical Association, along with more than 30 other organizations, is urging Gov. Greg Abbott to create a plan to expand health care insurance coverage to more Texans, as the state’s already high uninsured rate has been climbing during the pandemic.
The organizations represent doctors, nurses, patients, hospitals, clinics, long-term care providers and insurance companies. They are all asking Abbott to start planning now to enact policies that will expand comprehensive health care coverage to more Texans – particularly low-income working Texans — many of whom are essential workers.
The groups say Texas has many options for expanding coverage, including drawing down Medicaid expansion dollars that state leaders have refused to use. The groups point out that conservative states like Indiana, Ohio and Utah have actually used those funds to design unique health care coverage plans.
In just the last two months, voters in Oklahoma and Missouri have approved measures to expand Medicaid in their own states. The Texas Medical Association and others say now is the time to make plans because the next legislative session is just six months away.
— Ashley Lopez
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