This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Thursday, July 23. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.
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Travis County sees 243 new COVID-19 cases and 7 more deaths
Austin Public Health reported 243 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Thursday, down from 302 reported the day before. Seven more deaths were reported.
Travis County’s seven-day average of new cases now stands at about 279 per day.
There are now reportedly 438 people hospitalized with the virus in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell), 15 fewer people than on Wednesday. APH reported there were 56 new COVID-19 hospital admissions in the region on Thursday. There were 58 on Wednesday.
The seven-day average of new admissions is now 59.7, down from 60.6. That average is below 60 per day for the first time since June 28. Local officials worry about the coronavirus overwhelming local hospitals, so they’re keeping an eye on that number and adjusting restrictions based on it and other factors.
The area is currently in stage 4 of APH’s risk-based guidelines. If the average of new hospital admissions reaches 70 or higher, local officials could opt to move the area into stage 5, the highest level.
Citing Gov. Abbott’s order, TABC reverses rule allowing outdoor seating at breweries
Texas craft brewers are pushing back against new guidelines from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission that effectively ban many breweries from allowing customers on patios or outdoor areas.
Less than a week ago, the state agency put in place a rule that seemingly allowed breweries to open up patio space to customers, as long as they only offered to-go orders and didn't allow indoor service. Wednesday night, TABC reversed that rule, only allowing the additional space for TABC license-holders who serve more food than alcohol, like restaurants.
Adam DeBower, co-founder of Austin Beerworks, says it felt like TABC was extending an olive branch to the industry that had just had to endure a second shutdown as a result of COVID-19.
"Here we are five days later, with a new ruling, that says, 'Actually, psych, just kidding. You can't do it,’” DeBower said. “It's just insult to injury. You know, they offered an olive branch only to beat us with it a few days later."
TABC says the rule was misinterpreted, and that only licensees that are classified as restaurants are allowed to apply to open up additional outdoor space. Those establishments are currently allowed to serve customers at 50% capacity under the emergency order from Gov. Greg Abbott.
DeBower says he understands how bars could contribute to a spread of COVID-19, but he argues that line of logic should apply to indoor service at restaurants, adding that breweries were allowing customers to gather outdoors, which is safer than being confined inside.
"If you're really, truly talking about [safety], then we shouldn't see places like Chili's or Applebee's being able to have 50% capacity indoors," he said. "The reality is that most of the craft brewers across the state were really just operating their patios outside of their premise. Most of the evidence that I've seen has indicated that there's very little chance for transference outdoors."
A survey from the Texas Craft Brewers Guild out this week found two-thirds of craft breweries in Texas fear they won't be able to stay open through this year.
— Andrew Weber
New claims for unemployment benefits rose nationwide last week
New numbers this morning show 86,821 Texans applied for unemployment benefits last week. That's about 18,700 fewer claims than the week before.
Since mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic started hitting the Texas economy hard, just about 3,191,000 Texans have applied for first-time unemployment benefits.
Nationwide, new claims for unemployment benefits rose to 1.4 million last week — the first increase since March, NPR reports.
Austin hosts free virtual workshop on federal COVID-19 relief
The City of Austin is hosting a free virtual workshop today on the federal relief resources available for businesses, nonprofits and entrepreneurs affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Participants will learn about topics including recent changes to the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, as well as program eligibility.
The online event runs from 3-4 p.m. You can register for the workshop here.
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