COVID-19 Latest: The Coronavirus Becomes Fourth Leading Cause Of Death In Travis County

Aug 21, 2020

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Friday, Aug. 21. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Austin Public Health reports seven new deaths due to the coronavirus

Austin Public Health reported 206 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Friday, down from 291 reported the day before. The seven-day average of daily new cases is 241. Seven new deaths were reported.

APH says there are now 190 people hospitalized with the virus in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell), 18 fewer than yesterday. Despite that net decrease, APH reported 20 new COVID-19 hospital admissions in the region Friday. The seven-day average of new admissions is 26, down slightly from 27.

Local officials are keeping an eye on that average and adjusting restrictions based on it and other factors, like ICU and ventilator capacities. An average below 40 could push the region down to stage 3 of APH’s risk-based guidelines, but officials have recommended the area remain in stage 4, the second-highest level, for now.

COVID-19 becomes fourth top killer in Travis County

COVID-19 has surpassed cerebrovascular diseases like strokes to become the fourth leading cause of death in Travis County, Austin Public Health said Friday. Cancer, heart disease and accidents are the top three causes of death.

APH looked at vital records data from 2018, which found 1,229 residents died of cancer, 1,092 died from heart disease, 512 died from accidents and 337 died of cerebrovascular diseases. As of Thursday, APH said, 346 people have died from complications related to the virus.

“We have hit an unfortunate milestone in our community," Director Stephanie Hayden said in a press release.

Austin-Travis County interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said the finding is being released in an effort to counter  “the vast spread of misinformation around COVID-19.”

“If we do not take this virus seriously in our community, we have the real possibility that every family will know someone who was hospitalized or who has died from COVID-19,” he said.  

Infectious disease expert says leaders could be setting teachers up to fail

One of the state's top infectious disease experts is sounding the alarm about opening schools and universities while there's still community spread of the coronavirus.

Peter Hotez, a professor of tropical medicine at Baylor University, joined interfaith leaders today who called for the state to grant school districts full autonomy over when to bring students back to class.

Hotez said Texas has the third highest infection rate in the country, and even though K-12 schools and universities are trying to be as safe as possible, it won't be enough in many communities.  

"If you try to do this in an area where this is lots of virus transmission, you will fail," he said. "That is what I am worried about is that some of our elected leaders nationally and elsewhere are setting up teachers to fail." 

Many public school districts are starting the school year online-only and will bring students back to classrooms after a few weeks. UT Austin starts in-person classes Wednesday. 

Austin seeks submissions for art exhibit responding to COVID-19

The City of Austin is looking for artists to submit proposals for a socially distant, participatory art exhibit.

The exhibit, ArtsResponders: Social Practice Responds to COVID-19, will feature art that involves people as the medium, an approach known as “social practice.”

“Social practice uses the participatory element as the artwork, integrally developing an idea and turning it into public will,” the Austin Parks and Recreation Department said in a press release.

Watch the city explain social practice below:

The projects will be set up outdoors — one in each of the 10 Austin City Council districts. Selected artists must comply with COVID-19 health and safety guidelines and will be given a $2,000 stipend. Artists can submit proposals online through Sept. 13. The exhibit will run Oct. 5 to March 31.

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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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