This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Friday, Oct. 9. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.
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Travis County sees 90 new cases and four more deaths
Austin Public Health reported 90 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Friday, up from 78 reported Thursday. The seven-day average of daily new cases is 74. Four more deaths were reported, bringing the county’s death total to 441.
There are now 87 people reported to be hospitalized with the virus in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell), seven more than yesterday. APH reported a total of 24 new COVID-19 hospital admissions in the region Friday. The seven-day average of new admissions is 15, up from 13.
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.
Hays County judge to let bars reopen next week
Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra announced he will let bars reopen at 50% capacity starting Wednesday.
Gov. Greg Abbott said this week that county judges can decide whether or not they want bars to reopen at this capacity, but they have to enforce certain health protocols. Bars, which the governor has called “COVID-spreading locations,” have been closed since June, but many have started to operate as restaurants to meet requirements that allow them to reopen.
Becerra joins other Central Texas county judges — in Williamson, Bastrop and Burnet counties — in opting to allow bars to reopen. He said he made the decision based on feedback from local elected officials and the county’s health department and emergency management team.
“The majority of mayors and other elected officials were supportive but cautious,” Becerra said in a press release. “They want to be able to tell business owners they can get back to work and earning a living but recognize that if we do, the process must be deliberate and thoughtful. This is a public safety issue and our goal is to always protect public safety.”
He said local officials want customers and bar employees to keep practicing safety measures — wearing masks, staying safe distances from others and washing hands frequently. Local officials also recommended bar owners consider using outdoor seating, removing half of their tables, removing bar stools and having musical guests outside instead of inside. Bars also need to close by 11 p.m., according to guidance from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Another Round Rock ISD high school postpones football games because of COVID-19
The Westwood High School football team in Round Rock Independent School District is postponing its games this week and next after a student tested positive for the coronavirus, requiring the team to quarantine. The postponement includes tonight’s Hutto-Westwood game.
A letter from Westwood’s Principal Mario Acosta went out to families Thursday informing them of the delay and that purchased tickets would be honored at a later date.
A similar announcement went out at Round Rock’s Stony Point High School on Tuesday. The Stony Point football team was put on a two-week quarantine after a staff member who was in close contact with the team tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Weiss High School football team in Pflugerville ISD also faces a two-week delay in games after this week. A letter went out to parents and staff on Sunday that said a faculty member tested positive, and, “out of an abundance of caution,” the district was requiring anyone who came in close contact with the individual to quarantine for 14 days.
Both districts say the games will soon be rescheduled.
— Allyson Ortegon
Hays County offers free testing in Buda starting Monday
Starting Monday, Hays County will offer free COVID-19 testing in Buda. All residents can get tested Mondays through Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — or Fridays through Sundays during those same hours.
The mobile testing site will be located at the Onion Creek Senior Center at 420 Barton Crossing. You can find a list of other COVID-19 testing locations on the county's website.
UT Austin staff member dies from COVID-19-related complications
A UT Austin staff member has died from COVID-19 related complications, university President Jay Hartzell announced Thursday. UT did not release their name but said the employee worked for the university for 10 years on the Utilities and Energy Management team.
Hartzell said the worker had not been on campus since mid-September and is believed to have contracted the virus elsewhere. UT's contact tracing team has not found any spread of COVID-19 on campus connected to this case.
This is the second UT employee who died because of the coronavirus. A member of the custodial services team died over the summer.
Mobile food pantry will offer food to UT students and employees on Saturday
UT Austin is hosting a Central Texas Food Bank mobile pantry on Saturday for UT students, faculty and staff facing food insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic.
Volunteers will give out free emergency food boxes filled with shelf-stable grocery items, dairy and protein. Drivers are asked to make room in their vehicle’s trunk before arriving. The drive-thru food distribution is open for walk-ups as well. Face coverings are required.
The event will be in Lot 118 just north of the Frank Erwin Center from 8 to 11 a.m.
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