This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Wednesday, July 8. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.
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Travis County sees highest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases
Austin Public Health reported 753 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Wednesday evening, the highest number of daily new cases reported so far. On Tuesday, 482 new cases were reported. Eight more people have died.
There are currently 458 people hospitalized with the virus in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Caldwell and Bastrop). That’s 11 fewer than yesterday. Though the net total decreased, APH reported 67 new COVID-19 hospital admissions in the region Wednesday, bringing the seven-day average of new admissions to 75.1, up slightly from 74.9.
Local officials are worried about the coronavirus overwhelming local hospitals, so they’ve been keeping an eye on that average and adjusting restrictions based on it. APH officials adjusted how they’ve been calculating this number on Tuesday to include people who tested positive for the disease after they were admitted to the hospital. The adjustment caused the average to jump above 70.
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.
Health officials will meet with leaders from hospitals and a disease-modeling team from UT to determine if moving into the highest level is necessary.
Nearly 100 coronavirus-related deaths reported in Texas on Wednesday
Texas reported 9,979 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, slightly fewer than the record-high number reported Tuesday (10,028).
The state reported 98 more coronavirus-related deaths, the highest reported in one day so far. Sixty deaths were reported Tuesday.
COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to increase. There are now 9,610 people hospitalized with the virus in Texas, 324 more than on Tuesday.
The positivity rate (the percentage of tests conducted that come back positive) also shot up to its highest point yet. It’s now at 15.03%, up from 13.51%.
Health officials seek input on draft plan to address racial disparities
Austin Public Health is seeking community feedback on a plan to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the Hispanic community.
According to APH, data from Tuesday shows that 52% of confirmed cases and 41% of deaths in Travis County are of people who self-identified as Latino or Hispanic. This community also comprised nearly 60% of hospitalizations in the metro area.
Working with the city's Equity Office, Dell Medical School and CommUnityCare, the agency has drafted a plan that includes strategies focused on outreach, prevention, testing and economic support.
Community members are asked to review the plan and give feedback by July 15.
Survey predicts 90% of Austin music venues will close by fall
As many as 90% of Austin’s music venues could close by the fall, according to a survey conducted by the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs.
The survey, which was commissioned by the Austin Chamber of Commerce, looked at the effects of the pandemic on the entire business community.
"What I've found pretty strikingly was that music venues in Austin are on the precipice of closure just because many of them have fallen behind on their rent," Chad Swiatecki, who wrote about the survey for the Austin Monitor, told KUT. "They've cut off payments to vendors, frankly, just because they haven't had any revenue since March. And many of them are probably facing closure within the next handful of months, certainly by Halloween."
So far three music venues in the Red River Cultural District – Barracuda, Plush and Scratchouse – have joined Shady Grove and the original Threadgill’s in announcing their closures since the onset of the pandemic.
St. Edward's will send test kits to students and staff
St. Edward’s University in Austin will send all students, faculty and staff COVID-19 testing kits ahead of the upcoming school year.
The university announced it’s partnering with local health care testing company EverlyWell to provide at-home screenings about one week before the community returns to campus.
Students and staff will register their test kits, collect nasal swabs at home and then drop their kits in a UPS drop box. They can expect to get results within 48 hours.
If someone in the community tests positive, they will need to self-isolate and get the OK from a health care provider before returning to campus.
School is set to start Aug. 24. Along with the testing, St. Edward's will implement a daily symptom screening for all employees, students, volunteers and campus visitors. The university says a short survey on a secure app will give members of the community either an "Approved to Be On-Campus" badge or a "Stay Home" badge.
People will need to show their badge before entering some indoor areas on campus, the university said. Professors may request to see badges before a student enter an instructional space.
Online fundraiser hopes to close a gap in free meals for AISD students
A handful of nonprofits, restaurants and advocacy organizations have come together to raise money to provide free school lunches for Austin ISD students this week during the district's closure.
Led by the nonprofit Good Work Austin, the effort so far has raised more than $80,000 online so far, which organizers estimate is enough to pay for 12,000 meals for roughly 860 students.
The district provides 44,000 free breakfasts and lunches to students who qualify in a given week. While the Central Texas Food Bank and other food pantries have stepped in to help, Good Work Austin estimates there's still a gap of 20,000 meals.
Learn more about the fundraiser at its GivePulse page.
– Andrew Weber
Georgetown ISD to offer both in-person and online classes next semester
Georgetown Independent School District plans to offer both in-person and online classes in the fall, Superintendent Fred Brent announced Tuesday.
The decision was made after reviewing 8,000 responses received from a survey of district families. Brent said families wanted both options.
He said the district is still working on navigating face coverings for in-person classes and making sure students who opt for online classes have the necessary technology, like Wi-Fi and laptops
Brent said there will be weekly updates as additional plans are made for the upcoming school year.
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