This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Tuesday, Sept. 22. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.
- Do you think you have the coronavirus? Here's how to get tested.
- How to get help (and help) in Austin
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- Track the spread in Texas
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Travis County sees 47 new cases and no new deaths
Austin Public Health reported 47 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Tuesday, down from 155 reported Monday. The seven-day average of daily new cases is 97. No new deaths were reported, so the county’s death total remains at 415.
There are now 93 people reported to be hospitalized with the virus in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell), two more than yesterday. APH reported a total of 17 new COVID-19 hospital admissions in the region Tuesday. The seven-day average of new admissions is 15, up from 14.
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.
Williamson County updates COVID-19 dashboard
The Williamson County and Cities Health District has made updates to its COVID-19 dashboard to help residents understand the level of risk in their area and to present recommendations to mitigate that risk.
The health district created a color-coded system, which shows the county is in the yellow phase, or moderate risk. The color indicates that while case counts are high, they are beginning to level out. The WCCHD recommends people continue to wear masks and socially distance.
The dashboard also breaks down cases by ethnicity and gender, and the health district has started to show reported deaths from the coronavirus by city. As of Sept. 21, the total number of deaths in the county is 141, with the majority occurring in Round Rock. In the county overall, people age 70 and older make up the majority of deaths.
St. David’s CareNow encourages people to get flu shot early amid COVID-19
St. David's urgent care clinics are offering $20 flu shots at all of their locations and urging people to get a flu vaccine early, as Central Texas prepares for flu season while in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID-19 and the flu season are going to overlap this winter,” Dr. David Wasserman, market medical director at St. David’s CareNow, said in a press release. “It’s really important to get ahead of this before the flu season starts. Having both illnesses together could mean you have more severe symptoms.”
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness that has symptoms like fever, cough, runny nose, body aches and fatigue. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, but St. David’s CareNow says it’s best to get one early.
“The best way to avoid getting the flu is to get the vaccine every year,” Wasserman said. “The sooner you can receive a flu shot, the better. It’s the best prevention method.”
CareNow also recommends people continue practicing hygiene measures that protect against both the flu and COVID-19: wearing a mask in public, washing hands consistently and staying at least 6 feet from others.
Round Rock ISD launches COVID-19 dashboard
Round Rock Independent School District has joined other Williamson County school districts, like Georgetown and Leander, in launching a COVID-19 dashboard. Families can use the dashboard to view positive cases and the number of people who have been in close contact with someone who tested positive.
The dashboard information was released days after all students were welcomed back for in-person learning. The cases are broken down by campuses and distinguish whether a student or staff member has tested positive.
As of Friday, the district has reported a total of four positive cases and 30 close contacts, most of which have occurred at high schools.
The district uses the Williamson County and Cities Health District’s definition of close contact, which is “being directly exposed to infectious secretions,” like from a cough, or “being within 6 feet for a largely uninterrupted or sustained extended contact period throughout the course of a day of approximately 15 minutes, irrespective of mask status.”
The site clarifies that the data is preliminary and subject to change upon case investigations. The dashboard will be updated every Friday.
League of Women Voters hosts drive-thru voter registration
The League of Women Voters Austin Area is holding a series of drive-thru voter registration events this month amid the COVID-19 pandemic. People can register to vote curbside, pick up a mail-in ballot application or receive other election and census information.
The events take place Tuesday at Alamo Drafthouse on Slaughter Lane from noon to 7 p.m., and they'll continue at the same time and place next Monday and Tuesday.
Oct. 5 is the deadline to register to vote in the November elections in Texas.
Adler wants governor to hold off on reopening more businesses
Austin Mayor Steve Adler says he wants Gov. Greg Abbott to hold off reopening more businesses so public health officials can identify why there's been an uptick in cases in Austin-Travis County.
This week, Abbott allowed some businesses to expand capacity to 75%, including retail stores, gyms, restaurants, museums and libraries. Bars must stay closed.
In a Facebook Live last night, Adler said the number of local COVID-19 cases has increased which could be caused by factors like Labor Day weekend, Hurricane Laura evacuees or schools reopening. But it's still unclear where the uptick is coming from, so Adler says people should continue to be on high alert.
"You see something like this, your first thought needs to be everybody needs to be wearing masking ... you just can't pretend like this virus is not there or it's not as infectious as it used to be," the mayor said. "Let's be the city that stays disciplined." Adler also reminded people to continue practicing good hygiene and maintaining social distancing.
Scooter program addresses limited public transit options during the pandemic
The City of San Marcos and Texas State University are launching a new electric scooter pilot program to address limited public transit options due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the city and the university have partnered with the e-scooter company Spin, which will deploy scooters in two phases, starting with 150 scooters becoming available on campus Wednesday.
The second phase will have 50 more Spin e-scooters placed in the city on Sept. 30. The scooters cost a dollar to unlock and 29 cents per minute of use. People can ride them from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Riders are asked to wear masks and practice social distancing.
The city says the new program also meets a need for additional transportation options following the exit of Veo-Ride bikes from San Marcos in August. Find more information on the program at the city's website.
Health officials are distributing masks and hand sanitizer in Northeast Austin today
Austin Public Health, Central Health and CommUnityCare have been giving out free personal protective equipment in neighborhoods with high COVID-19 positivity rates.
People are provided with face masks, hand sanitizer and educational materials. The next PPE distribution event is Tuesday at the Gustavo "Gus" L. Garcia Recreation Center at 1201 E. Rundberg Lane from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
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