COVID-19 Latest: STAAR Test Won't Determine If Fifth- And Eighth-Graders Advance Next School Year

Jul 27, 2020

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Monday, July 27. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Travis County has 11 more COVID-19 deaths

Austin Public Health reported 240 new COVID-19 cases in Travis County on Monday evening, up from 79 on Sunday. Eleven more deaths were reported, bringing the death total to 252.

APH reported there are now 390 people hospitalized with the virus in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell), six fewer people than yesterday.

There were 34 new COVID-19 hospital admissions reported on Monday, bringing the seven-day average of new hospital admissions down to 47. This is the ninth day in a row this number has decreased.

Local officials worry about the coronavirus overwhelming local hospitals, so they’re keeping an eye on that average and adjusting restrictions based on it and other factors. Currently, the area is in stage 4 of APH’s risk-based guidelines. If the seven-day average of new admissions rises above 70, officials could opt to move the area into stage 5, the highest level. If it falls below 40, the region would move down to stage 3.

Students in fifth and eighth grades won't need to pass STAAR to advance to next grade

Gov. Greg Abbott is waiving a requirement for the upcoming school year that students in the fifth and eighth grades pass the STAAR test in order to move on to the next grade.

'By waiving these promotion requirements, we are providing greater flexibility for students and teachers, while at the same time ensuring that Texas students continue to receive a great education — which we will continue to measure with high quality assessments," he said in a statement.

Students will still get an A-F grade, so parents and teachers know how well a student is doing, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said. But, he said, "there is no benefit to our children by requiring them to repeat a year based on a single test score given the disruptions of COVID."

State begins reporting nursing home COVID-19 data for individual facilities

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is starting to post COVID-19 case counts and deaths by facility name for state-licensed nursing and assisted living facilities, state hospitals and state supported living centers.

Starting today, the agency will update the data on its website on weekdays by 3 p.m. The data for state-operated SSLCs and state hospitals will reflect cases from the previous business day, according to the agency.

Data from nursing homes and assisted living facilities will be reflective of counts two weeks prior to the posting date. The agency says that’s because these facilities self-report their data, which HHSC then needs time to review to correct errors.

The federal government released COVID-19 data on nursing homes across the country in June. Previously, the state had been refusing to release this information, citing privacy laws.

“HHSC has a legal and ethical obligation to protect the private health information of everyone we serve, both in the private facilities we regulate and those we operate,” HHS Executive Commissioner Phil Wilson said in a statement. “We appreciate the guidance from the Attorney General of Texas, which allows us to release this additional data while maintaining important personal privacy protections.” 

In Austin, West Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center off Slaughter Lane has reported 22 patient deaths as a result of COVID-19. Right now, they have one active case. 

Riverside Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Austin has seen 15 deaths, as well. It has no active cases according to numbers out Monday. 

For context, as of Monday afternoon, 241 people had died from COVID-19 in Travis County. The deaths at those two facilities alone account for roughly 15% of that.

Two facilities in Round Rock have self-reported more than 100 active cases combined. Fifteen patients at Trinity Care Center in Round Rock have died because of COVID-19, and the facility has 54 active cases among patients. San Gabriel Rehabilitation and Care Center has 48 active COVID-19 cases.

Travis County sees 303 new cases over the weekend

Austin Public Health reported 303 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County over the weekend — 224 on Saturday and 79 on Sunday. No new deaths were reported. Numbers reported over the weekend tend to be lower than those reported during the week.

As of Sunday evening, there were 396 people hospitalized with the virus in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell counties). On Saturday, there were 409.

There were 80 new COVID-19 hospital admissions reported in the region over the weekend — 48 on Saturday and 32 on Sunday. The seven-day average of new hospital admissions is now at 48.7, the lowest it’s been since June 24. 

Local officials worry about the coronavirus overwhelming hospitals, so they’re keeping an eye on that number and adjusting restrictions based on it. An average of 70 or higher could put the region in stage 5, the highest stage of APH’s risk-based guidelines. An average below 40 could drop the area into stage 3. 

Some City of Austin employees will not return to work today as originally planned

Correction: An earlier version of this story said some City of Austin employees were returning to work today. City Manager Spencer Cronk said in an email Thursday he was postponing the return date to Sept. 28.

The first phase of the City of Austin's plan to bring employees back to their workplaces was delayed Thursday to Sept. 28. The first group of employees were originally scheduled to return to work Monday.

Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk said the city is reviewing its workplace reintigration plans every 28 days.

"Employee safety remains our primary concern, and we will continue to assess data and work environments as the situation continues to develop and keep you informed as we determine next steps for introducing additional employees back into the workplace," Cronk said in an email. 

The city manager said department directors have his support to establish flexible work schedules for employees and allow employees to telework when possible.

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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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