This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Thursday, July 9. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.
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More than 700 new COVID-19 cases reported in Travis County
Austin Public Health reported 703 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Thursday evening, down slightly from the 753 cases reported Wednesday. No new deaths were reported.
There are currently 440 people hospitalized with the virus in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Caldwell and Bastrop). That’s 18 fewer than yesterday. Though the net total decreased, APH reported 66 new COVID-19 hospital admissions in the region Thursday. The seven-day average of new admissions is now 71.6, down from 75.1.
Local officials worry about the coronavirus overwhelming local hospitals, so they’ve been keeping an eye on that average and adjusting restrictions based on it.
Previously, APH said a number above 70 would push the area into stage 5, the highest level, of APH’s risk-based guidelines. But health officials later clarified that a move to stage 5 also depends on other factors, like how sharply the average number of new admissions is increasing.
APH’s Dr. Mark Escott told Austin City Council on Thursday that the city should not go to stage 5 yet, but to somewhere in between stages 4 and 5. He said city and county leaders need to continue discussions with state leadership and urge Gov. Greg Abbott to go back to the first stage of his reopening plan, which would reduce restaurant and retail capacity to 25%.
"None of us want to shut down, but none of us are absolutely clear that what we're doing so far is slowing things enough to avoid exceeding capacity," he said. "So I think it's time to tap the brakes again."
Health officials worry about staffing, resources as cases rise at nursing homes and assisted living facilities
While young people have accounted for much of the recent surge in coronavirus cases, health officials are concerned about growing spread to nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Cases in Travis County rose by 48 over the past week, compared to 30 the previous week and 10 the week before that.
COVID-19 has been far more deadly for the elderly in Travis County than for other groups. Health officials have received requests to send new strike teams with medical personnel to long-term care facilities in the county.
But Dr. Mark Escott, interim authority for Austin Public Health, told Austin City Council members Thursday that staffing has become a challenge across the board.
“There has been a draw of health care personnel to other parts of the state and other parts of the United States due to surge in other areas,” Escott said. “So the same resources we depended upon before, the same contractors are already deployed at other places.”
Austin Public Health is working with contractors and the state to find more resources. There’s also been discussion with Williamson and Hays counties to help find facilities to hold nursing home patients who have tested positive.
– Samuel King
Close to 3 million Texans have filed for unemployment since the pandemic started
New numbers this morning show 117,244 Texans applied for unemployment benefits last week — about 20,650 more new claims than the week before.
Since mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic started hitting the Texas economy hard, just over 2,998,540 Texans have applied for first-time unemployment benefits.
Some people filing claims have had trouble getting through and are waiting for approval. The Texas Workforce Commission says the best time to call is early morning or weekends.
Nationwide, more than 1.3 million Americans applied for first-time unemployment last week. The total number of people who are receiving jobless benefits dropped 700,000 to 18 million, the Associated Press reports.
Central Texas Food Bank holds distribution event this morning in Austin
The Central Texas Food Bank is holding its first food distribution event of July today.
Families can receive emergency food boxes with grocery items including milk, produce and chicken or pork. Due to COVID-19, no walk-ups are allowed.
Drivers should make space in their vehicles before arriving. The event will be at Nelson Field on Berkman Drive off of 290 East from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
If you can't make today's event, the food bank has a map of places where you can find food now.
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