This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Wednesday, July 22. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.
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Travis County sees 302 new COVID-19 cases and four more deaths
Austin Public Health reported 302 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Wednesday, down from 603 reported the day before. Four more deaths were reported.
There are now reportedly 453 people hospitalized with the virus in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell), six fewer people than on Tuesday. Despite that net decrease, APH reported there were 58 new COVID-19 hospital admissions in the region on Wednesday. There were 57 on Tuesday.
The seven-day average of new admissions is now 60.6, down from 63.4. 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.
Ban on evictions in Travis County extended through the end of September
A moratorium on evictions set to expire Saturday has been extended by Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe until Sept. 30. Landlords are prohibited from filing a notice to vacate against a tenant, which marks the beginning of a formal eviction, or removing a renter’s property.
The county justices of the peace, who oversee eviction cases, also put a hold on hearings until the end of September. That means any eviction cases already filed won’t be processed until then.
Both Travis County and Austin had banned eviction proceedings until July 25. Federal protections against eviction are also expiring that day, allowing landlords in places without local restrictions to give tenants 30 days’ notice of an eviction.
Relief bill aims to help independent live music venues affected by COVID-19 pandemic
A bill that would provide grants to independent live music venues impacted by COVID-19 was introduced on Wednesday by U.S. Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota.
The Save Our Stages Act would provide Small Business Administration grants that would give six months of financial support to these venues.
“Texas is home to a number of historic and world-class small entertainment venues, many of which remain shuttered after being the first businesses to close,” Cornyn said in a press release. “The culture around Texas dance halls and live music has shaped generations, and this legislation would give them the resources to reopen their doors and continue educating and inspiring Texans beyond the coronavirus pandemic.”
The bill would create a $10 billion grant program, offering grants equal to the lesser of either 45% of operating costs from 2019 or $12 million.
Austin Public Health leaders say the community's efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 are working
Austin-Travis County health officials are expressing increasing confidence that individual efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus are working. They say things like increased mask use and avoiding gatherings are reflected in the improving numbers.
Austin-Travis County interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott says those efforts must be continued to reach the point where kids can safely go back to school.
"Now’s not the time to dance. Now’s the time to remain cautious," Escott said. "We’re certainly pleased that the numbers aren’t going up, but they haven’t gone down very much yet. And we don’t want the message to be, you know, 'Now it’s time to celebrate and be amongst friends.' It’s not that time yet."
Local health officials say they’re hopeful that if we don’t see a sharp increase in cases later this week, that the area will have avoided a spike stemming from Fourth of July weekend gatherings.
Read more from Jerry Quijano.
Kyle residents can apply for assistance to help pay utility bills
The City of Kyle launched the Kyle Cares Grant program on Wednesday, which provides residents in need with funding to cover utilities, including water, wastewater, trash and storm drainage.
To be eligible, applicants must be a residential customer within the city limits and be experiencing a financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic or have a household income at or below the federal thresholds for low income.
“During a pandemic, utilities like water, wastewater and disposing of trash become more of a necessity — they become an essential if we are going to protect our community,” said Kyle Mayor Pro Tem Rick Koch in a press release. “We hope that this program will help Kyle residents that have been financially-impacted by this disease to not lose access to these essential services.”
Grant funds can only be used for utility bills issued in March, April and May of this year. The funding can cover utility services billed for by the City of Kyle, monthly service charges, late payment penalties and service disconnection fees.
More information and applications can be found here. Paper applications are available at the Kyle Public Library.
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