This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Wedensday, July 15. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.
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Coronavirus hospitalizations in Austin area near 500
Austin Public Health reported 572 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Wednesday, up from 553 on Tuesday. Four more deaths were reported.
There are currently 492 people hospitalized with the virus in the five-county region (Travis, Hays, Williamson, Caldwell and Bastrop). That’s a net increase of 23 people since Tuesday.
There were 78 new hospital admissions in the region on Wednesday, bringing the seven-day average of new hospital admissions to 71.1, up from 69.6. Local officials worry about the coronavirus overwhelming hospitals, so they’re keeping an eye on that number and adjusting restrictions based on it.
A number above 70 could push the region into stage 5 of APH’s risk-based guidelines, but that move also depends on other factors, like how quickly the average number of new admissions is rising, officials say.
State reports highest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths
Texas reported a record 10,791 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, up from 10,745 on Tuesday. There were 110 coronavirus-related deaths reported, the highest number of deaths reported in one day so far.
The state says there are now 10,471 people hospitalized with the virus, down from 10,569 on Tuesday. The positivity rate (the percentage of tests administered that come back positive) is now at 16.81%, down slightly from the record-high rate reported yesterday — 16.89%.
Abbott to provide federal funds to help some Central Texas cities with coronavirus response
Gov. Greg Abbott's Public Safety office will distribute $41 million in federal funds to help cities and counties respond to COVID-19, his office announced Wednesday.
"This funding is critical to helping local governments protect Texans and combat the spread of the virus in our communities," Abbott said in a press release.
Local governments can use the funds for overtime and hazard pay for first responders, equipment and supplies to support remote working, and personal protective gear. The money can also be used to cover medical needs of county jail inmates.
The City of Austin is receiving $1.2 million in the first round of awards. Pflugerville and Manor are receiving about $22,000 and $40,000 respectively. The funds will be distributed this week, according to the governor’s office.
Teachers protest at Texas Capitol, demanding the state let them teach online
Teachers from around Texas sat outside the Capitol on Wednesday to protest the Texas Education Agency’s requirement that school districts provide in-person instruction this fall.
Previously, TEA guidance said schools can offer virtual-only classes for the first three weeks, but then they'd need to offer in-person classes for parents who want them. TEA later changed course Wednesday afternoon and said local public health officials will be able to keep schools closed for in-person instruction this fall without risking state funding.
Teachers at the Capitol said they don't want to see schools reopen until the seven-day average of new hospital admissions from COVID-19 in their areas is fewer than five. In Austin, that would mean stage 2 of Austin Public Health's risk-based guidelines. Right now, Austin is in stage 4.
“Academics can be recovered, but our students' lives and their families' lives that they’re going to go home to – as well as teachers' and staffs' lives – once those are lost, we can’t get those back,” said Linda Harvey, a teacher from Cypress-Fairbanks ISD outside of Houston. “We can recover. It might take time and a lot of creativity, but we’re OK to do that if it means everyone is going to make it instead of being OK with losing some people along the way.”
Jennifer Peña, a teacher at Martin Middle School in Austin ISD, said schools shouldn’t open just so parents can go back to work and help the economy. She said she and other teachers have been delivering food and helping struggling families, and that the state and federal government should be doing the same.
“Teachers have always – out of our own pockets and our own hearts – provided for what our kids need and this is literally a stance right now to keep our kids safe,” she said. “That is all we’re here for.”
– Claire McInerny
Central Texas Food Bank to distribute food tomorrow
The Central Texas Food Bank will be distributing food Thursday from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Toney Burger Stadium, 3200 Jones Road.
Pre-packed food boxes will be loaded into the trunks of people’s vehicles. The nonprofit asks people to make room in their trunks before arriving.
Drivers should enter from the Highway 290 frontage road on the north side of the stadium.
Monetary donations to the food bank were being matched Wednesday. To donate, go here.
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