COVID-19 Latest: Big 12 Limits Football Season, Austin Emergency Center Offers Free Tests

Aug 4, 2020

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Tuesday, Aug. 4. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Travis County sees 273 new cases and two more deaths

Austin Public Health reported 273 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Tuesday, down from 335 reported yesterday. The seven-day average of daily new cases is 218. Two more people have died from the disease, bringing the county’s death total to 287, according to APH.

There are now reportedly 309 people hospitalized with the virus in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell), one fewer than yesterday. Despite that net decrease, APH reported 41 new COVID-19 hospital admissions in the region on Tuesday, five more than yesterday. The seven-day average of new hospital admissions is now at 37, up from 36.6. 

Local officials worry about the coronavirus overwhelming hospitals, so they’re keeping an eye on that number and adjusting restrictions based on it. An average below 40 could push the region down to stage 3 of APH’s risk-based guidelines, but that move also depends on other factors, like ICU and ventilator capacity. Officials are recommending the area stay in stage 4, the second-highest level, for now. 

Texas oil production dropped 15% in May

U.S. crude oil production dropped by record amounts in May, with the largest decrease coming from Texas, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The EIA said oil companies cut output by about 2 million barrels nationally in May. Texas, which pumps more oil than any other state, saw production drop by more than 750,000 barrels a day, about 15%.

The decline in production has reduced dangerous emissions, but also spells trouble for the state’s budget. Texas typically receives billions of dollars a year from oil production taxes.

Austin Public Health considers reopening asymptomatic testing ahead of school reopenings

Austin's top doctor says he's worried people may be backsliding as it relates to COVID-19 precautions.

Dr. Mark Escott, Austin Public Health's interim medical authority, told Travis County Commissioners on Tuesday there are three indicators in last week's cases that have given him pause. For one, the number of new cases has increased at a clip in the last couple of days. On top of that, new hospital admissions have plateaued. And the doubling time for the virus has dropped to 55 days, down from the 70s last week.

The good news? Testing capacity has increased, and Escott says Austin Public Health may soon open up more testing to asymptomatic patients.

"We're working with our testing algorithm so that we can offer those tests to folks who may not have been able to get it before, due to the fact that we had such a high flow of individuals who were symptomatic," Escott said.

Ahead of schools reopening, Escott said he's concerned about the positive test rates among 10- to 19-year-olds. The public health authority is recommending schools only open at 25% capacity, but state officials say it can't preemptively shut down schools. Austin ISD will vote Thursday on whether to delay classes until Sept. 8 and, potentially, allow schools to opt in to up to eight weeks of online-only instruction.

— Andrew Weber

Big 12 moves forward with 10-game plan for 2020 football season

The Texas Longhorns will play fewer games this season because of COVID-19.

The Big 12 on Monday released its football plans for the fall. Texas will play all of its nine conference opponents, plus just one game out of conference. The Longhorns already lost their marquee road matchup against Louisiana State University when it was canceled by the Southeastern Conference last week.

The Big 12 decision also moves the start of the Longhorns’ season a few weeks later into September. 

“We believe this change provides the best opportunity going forward,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “However, we will undoubtedly need to be flexible as we progress through the season in order to combat the challenges that lie ahead.”

The move likely means the cancellation of the Sept. 5 game against South Florida, leaving UT-El Paso on Sept. 19 as the Longhorns’ lone non-conference football game – for now.

Drew Martin, UT's executive senior associate athletics director, said earlier Monday that thousands of hand-sanitizer stations will be set up at the stadium and fans will enter with contactless ticketing on mobile phones.

​ “All of our staff will be screened before assuming any duties on game day," he said. "And to further mitigate the spread of the virus, we’re requiring facemasks or cloth face coverings for all staff and fans immediately upon arrival on the University of Texas campus.”

– Jimmy Maas

Free COVID-19 testing day planned for two Austin Emergency Center locations

Austin Emergency Center is offering free COVID-19 testing at two locations Thursday. The testing will be done via drive-thru, and no appointment is needed, the freestanding emergency room says.

Testing will take place from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the following AEC locations:

  • South Lamar, 4015 S. Lamar Blvd., Austin
  • Anderson Mill, 13435 US Hwy. 183 N., Austin

AEC uses PCR testing, which determines if you have an active infection, as opposed to antibody tests, which determine if you have been infected in the past, according to a spokesperson. AEC says it aims to get test results back to patients within three days.

COVID-19 Dashboards

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.

If you find this reporting valuable, please consider making a donation to support it. Your gift pays for everything you find on KUT.org. Thanks for donating today.