We'll be updating this story throughout the day Thursday with the latest local news on the coronavirus pandemic. If you'd like to go through a roundup of COVID-19 news from Wednesday, read it here. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.
- Confirmed cases in Austin-Travis County: 119
- Do you think you have the coronavirus? Here's how to get tested.
- Q&A: Your coronavirus questions answered by a panel of experts
- How to get help (and help) in Austin
- Sign up for daily coronavirus email alerts
Update at 3:00 p.m. — Texas Governor Orders Air Travelers From NYC Metro, New Orleans To Self-Quarantine
Gov. Greg Abbott is ordering all people traveling to Texas by air from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, as well as New Orleans to self-quarantine for 14 days. They will have to report their self-quarantine location to the Texas Department of Public Safety. Abbott issued the order at the request of public health officials, including Dr. Deborah Birx with the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
The New York metropolitan area has been an epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. Health officials are also concerned about the growing number of cases in Louisiana. Abbott said California and Washington State could also be added to the order at a later date, but public health officials have not made that request yet.
Update at 12:46 p.m. — Williamson County now has 27 confirmed cases
Williamson County now has 27 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, the Williamson County Cities & Health District announced today. Seventeen — or 63% — of the cases are females.
The majority of the documented cases are with people ages 60 and under. The county released age ranges for each of the confirmed cases:
- 0 to 17: 1 (4%)
- 18 to 40: 9 (33%)
- 41 to 60: 10 (37%)
- Over 60: 7 (26%)
Five of the 27 have been hospitalized, the county said, and four have recovered.
Update at 8:53 a.m. — U.S. sees record number of unemployment claims
At least 155,657 Texans filed unemployment claims last week, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor. That’s up from around 16,000 claims the week before. On a national level, almost 3.3 million people filed for unemployment — shattering the all-time record set in 1982.
But the numbers likely don’t reflect the full picture of the toll the coronavirus pandemic is taking on people’s livelihoods. The crisis deepened this week, which isn’t reflected in today’s numbers. It also doesn’t account for folks like gig workers or undocumented people who may also be out of work.
With a simultaneous drop in oil prices, Texas’ energy sector — in particular — could also see more layoffs in the near future.
— Matt Largey
Update at 8:34 a.m. — Round Rock ISD, Pflugerville ISD among Central Texas school districts extending closures
Some Central Texas schools will stay closed in response to growing concerns over the coronavirus. Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott closed all schools in the state through April 3. But, on Tuesday, the City of Austin, Travis County and Williamson County issued a stay-at-home order through at least April 13.
In response, the Lockhart Independent School District announced all schools will close until further notice. The district says it will notify families one week in advance when it's safe for students and staff to return to school. The Del Valle Independent School District extended its school closures through May 1. This includes the cancellation of all extracurricular activities, athletics and after-school programs.
Manor ISD officials say they still plan to reopen on April 6. This decision comes after a Manor ISD staff member tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday. This person had visited the Manor High School campus the day before, unaware of their diagnosis. The district says all areas the employee came in contact with have been disinfeced by members of the janitorial staff. Those staff members are now self-isolating at home for two weeks.
— Nadia Hamdan
Update at 5:50 a.m. — Austin City Council to vote on economic injury loans and stalling evictions
Austin City Council will vote on the creation of a temporary Economic Injury Bridge Loan Program during a meeting Thursday.
Through the program, small and nonprofit businesses hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic could apply for loans that would provide gap financing while they’re waiting on emergency loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Council members will also vote Thursday on a measure to essentially stall eviction filings against tenants for two months. The proposed ordinance requires landlords give tenants up to 60 days to pay owed rent before posting a “notice to vacate” sign on a tenant’s door.
As of now, landlords can still file evictions during the pandemic, but Travis County judges are not hearing these cases. Judges suspended eviction hearings until at least May 9 in effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The proposed city ordinance is an attempt to further slow the eviction process for renters who have lost wages because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Austin City Council’s meeting, which starts at 10 a.m., will have social distancing modifications. Public comment will be taken over telephone, but in-person input is not allowed.
Update at 5:35 a.m. — Austin Community College keeps campuses closed
Austin Community College will keep campuses closed until April 13. Its classes will continue online March 30.
The change allows the college to comply with stay-at-home orders issued Tuesday by Austin, Travis County and Williamson County.
“We understand many students did not choose online as their delivery of instruction,” ACC President/CEO Dr. Richard Rhodes said in a press release. “However, the health, safety, and well-being of our community is our first concern.”
Only essential personnel and faculty and staff working to facilitate remote learning will be allowed on campuses, ACC says.
Catch up on what happened yesterday
Austin ISD extends school closures; Hays County issues stay-at-home order
Austin Independent School District Superintendent Paul Cruz announced he will extend school closures through at least April 13 in response to the City of Austin and Travis County’s shelter-in-place orders issued Tuesday. Cruz also said families and staff should be ready for the possibility that schools will be closed beyond April 13.
“I know you are concerned, and so am I,” Cruz said in an email. “Austin ISD is committed to providing ongoing communication regarding district measures taken to assist public health officials in their prevention of COVID-19.”
The district will keep providing learning opportunities for its students, including a website with class lessons students can practice at home. AISD is also distributing meals Monday through Friday while schools are closed.
Hays County joined Travis and Williamson Counties in issuing a stay-at-home order. It goes into effect Thursday at 11 p.m. and lasts until April 10.
The order tells residents to stay in their homes unless they need to leave for essential activities, like getting food or going to the doctor. Essential businesses, like grocery stores and transportation services, can continue operating, but other businesses must close or work from home.
Other local coronavirus news from Wednesday:
- An Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services medic tested positive for the coronavirus.
- The City of Austin is waiving extra-trash fees until further notice.
- The City of Georgetown is closing amenities and playgrounds at its parks.