This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Friday, Sept. 25. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.
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Travis County sees 169 new cases and three new deaths
Austin Public Health reported 169 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Friday, up from 159 reported Thursday. The seven-day average of daily new cases is 100. Three more COVID-19 deaths were reported, bringing the county’s death total to 420.
There are now 85 people reported to be hospitalized with the virus in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell), four fewer than yesterday. Despite that net decrease, APH reported 13 new COVID-19 hospital admissions in the region Friday. The seven-day average of new admissions is 15, down from 16.
The area is in stage 3 of APH’s risk-based guidelines. At this level, people are encouraged to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.
New advocacy group forms for Austin venues and bars
Music venues and production companies have formed a new advocacy group to push for a dedicated relief fund for the live music community during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Amplified Sound Coalition announced its formation this week, ahead of discussions about relief funds at City Council next week. Co-founder Jeannette Gregor, who was furloughed from Mohawk after it was forced to close, told KUT Friday she hopes city leaders find a way to support the ecosystem of stagehands, bartenders and promoters who work largely behind the scenes in Austin's live music industry.
"There are humans that are behind this word that you're saying is 'industry.' Pay attention to us and give us a lifeline," she said. "We want sustainability, which is, you know, that's been a big buzzword in all forms of government. And that really applies to what we're doing right now. Because we need to survive, but we also need an industry that has longevity."
While congressional efforts to provide relief for independent music venues, bars and restaurants have largely stalled out, City Council will hear proposals on city-backed programs to help the industry as soon as Tuesday. Looming over those discussions will be the expiration of a countywide moratorium on evictions for commercial properties.
The coalition includes owners of clubs like Mohawk, Sahara Lounge and Elysium. Gregor says ASC is also partnering with nonprofits like the SIMS Foundation to address the mental health and well-being of industry workers. (Full disclosure, Cactus Cafe, a venue owned by UT Austin and operated by KUT/X, is also a member of the coalition.)
– Andrew Weber
Face masks and hand sanitizer to be distributed in Del Valle on Saturday
Austin Public Health, Central Health and CommUnityCare are distributing free personal protective equipment on Saturday in Del Valle. People will be provided with hand sanitizer, face masks and educational materials.
The PPE distribution event will be at the Travis County Community Center, 3518 FM 973, Del Valle, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Health insurers agree to continue payment parity for telehealth appointments
Major health insurers will continue to reimburse doctors in their network for telehealth appointments at the same rate they would in-person visits through the end of the year.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced Friday that big insurers in Texas all agreed to continue paying a higher rate than usual for telehealth appointments because of the pandemic. Telehealth allows people to receive health care services using the phone or their computer, so they don’t have to go in person to a doctor’s office.
Usually, these services are reimbursed lower than in-person care, which means telehealth wasn’t widely used before. But according to one industry estimate, about 4.5 million Texans have begun using telehealth services since the COVID-19 pandemic.
This extension of telehealth reimbursements only applies to people with state-regulated plans, though, which is about 20% of Texans, as well as plans within the state’s Employee Retirement System and Teacher Retirement System.
— Ashley Lopez
Williamson County offers free COVID-19 testing in Leander on Saturday
Free, walk-up COVID-19 testing will be offered in Leander this Saturday.
The tests offered will be done with a cheek swab, so people should not eat, drink or use tobacco products for 20 minutes beforehand. No appointment is needed.
Testing will take place at the Leander Extended Opportunity Building at 300 S. West Drive from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., or until supplies last.
Testing will be open to all Texas residents, not only those in Williamson County.
Pflugerville moves COVID-19 testing site
Pflugerville's free, walk-up COVID-19 testing site is relocating on Monday. The site has been operating at the Pfield, but will be moving to 103 North Railroad Ave. in Pflugerville and will stay there for the rest of the year.
The site will operate Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. until noon, and will serve up to 300 people each day.
For information on how to access the site, visit PflugervilleTX.gov.
Note: This post has been updated to say the site will move on Monday. It previously said the site would move Saturday due to an error in a press release.
Emergency relief food distribution happening in Del Valle on Saturday
The Central Texas Food Bank is distributing food in Del Valle on Saturday to families financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Emergency food boxes will be loaded directly into vehicles. Drivers are reminded to clear space in their trunks before arriving. Walk-ups are not allowed.
The drive-thru event will be held at Del Valle High School at 5201 Ross Road, Del Valle, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
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