COVID-19 Live Updates: AISD Sticking With Virtual Graduations, Lottery For Rent Help Closes Tonight

11 hours ago

We'll be updating this story throughout the day Wednesday with the latest local news on the coronavirus pandemic. If you'd like to go through a roundup of COVID-19 news from Tuesday, read it here. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Update at 3:55 p.m. — JetStream Festival highlights local music 

Normally, there are dozens of live music performances at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport each week. All of their seven stages are now silent, but the airport is bringing back the music online this evening with the JetStream Music Festival

More than 20 airports across North America are taking part. Austin’s own Gina Chavez will host the event. Organizers said it’s a chance to highlight and help local musicians across the country.

"Not only during the stream will you be able to tip the musicians, we're also having donation [links] for local organizations or charities that are important to that community that are helping out during this crisis,” said Michael Pennock, music coordinator for ABIA. 

He said it is still too early to determine when live music could return to the airport itself. 

“Obviously, number one is to ensure the safety of our travelers and our musicians,” he said. “We’re working really hard to figure out how that’s going to lay out and when it’s going to lay out.” 

— Samuel King

Update at 3:08 p.m. – City of Austin announces more nonprofits to receive coronavirus relief funds

Austin is doling out an additional $3.3 million from a $15 million relief fund for people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The money will be shared across eight nonprofits, in addition to the five organizations announced last month. This includes Goodwill Industries of Central Texas, which will get $1.6 million from the city, and Workers Defense Project, which is getting $400,000.

Those eligible for the money from these nonprofits must have lost wages during the pandemic and be ineligible to receive a federal stimulus check.

In a memo sent to the mayor and City Council members Tuesday, Austin Public Health said it still has 44 applications from organizations requesting a total of $25.4 million, but only $5.9 in relief funding left to allocate.

– Audrey McGlinchy

Update at 2:50 p.m. — Austin ISD still planning on digital graduation ceremony 

The Texas Education Agency released guidance Tuesday that says high schools can do in-person graduation ceremonies if they take certain precautions to maintain social distancing. For example, TEA said, schools could do drive-thru graduation ceremonies and, of course, digital ceremonies. 

The Austin Independent School District said it still plans to do a virtual ceremony in June for graduating seniors. 

“We are moving forward with previously announced plans for an in-person graduation in August," a district spokesperson said in a statement. "The in-person graduation will be in accordance with the City, State and our Health Department to ensure the safety of our guests.”

Update at 2 p.m. — University of Texas System to open campuses this fall

All 14 UT campuses are reopening for the upcoming school year amid the coronavirus pandemic. The UT Board of Regents said in a virtual meeting Wednesday morning it’s still discussing how institutions can return to campus safely. 

“While we’re hoping we can offer as much of a valuable in-person residential experience as possible, it seems safe to say that campus life will not be exactly like it was last fall,” Chancellor James B. Milliken said. “But it won’t be like this spring either.” 

In mid-March, UT announced it would close its schools and finish the rest of the semester remotely. Officials have also moved all summer classes online with the possibility of opening some campus facilities such as research labs.

Milliken said the institutions are now working with officials including UT’s Commissioner of Higher Education to plan for the fall semester. 

"Every campus is looking at similar things: elimination of the very large lecture classes; distancing in smaller classes; spreading out the schedules more so that there's less overlap; the ability to have testing available and isolation and contact tracing; how to deal with residence halls in terms of single room occupancy and that kind of thing," Milliken said.  

The regents expect the state to issue guidance on what universities need to do before allowing students, faculty and staff to come back to campuses. UT Austin plans to make an announcement by the end of June.

— Dani Matias

Update at 11:52 a.m. – Home Slice closes North Loop restaurant after employee tests positive

Home Slice posted on social media Tuesday that its North Loop location would be temporarily closed after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

The employee, who last worked at the restaurant Sunday, is in quarantine and receiving care, the post said. No other staff members had any symptoms, but Home Slice said they were all being tested.  

A professional sanitation crew was hired to clean and disinfect the location. Home Slice said it would reopen the restaurant afterward and continue no-contact curbside service.  

Update at 8:42 a.m. — It's the last day to apply for rental assistance in Austin

Austin tenants have until 11:59 p.m. Wednesday to apply for one-time emergency rental assistance from the City of Austin.

The $1.2 million fund — for residents affected by the coronavirus pandemic — will be distributed through a lottery system. 

Eligibility is limited to households that are at or below 80% of the median family income and who can document both a financial impact by COVID-19 and need of rent relief.

Applicants will not have to submit Social Security numbers to apply for aid, and immigration status will not disqualify someone for help. Residents in need of assistance can apply on the Housing Authority of the City of Austin's website.

Read more about the program here.

Update at 5:20 a.m. — Hays County to host two free testing sites Sunday

Two free COVID-19 testing locations will be in Hays County on Sunday. One will be in Wimberley and the other in Dripping Springs, according to a press release from the county.

The sites are through a partnership with the Texas Department of Health and Human Services and the Texas Army National Guard.

The testing will take place between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. To be tested, people will need to be screened in advance and receive an appointment. The county says it will post the website and phone number for registration on Saturday at 8 a.m on its website and Facebook and Twitter pages. 

“The health screening will check for symptoms, including fever/chills, cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, sore throat, headaches, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and nasal congestion,” Eric Schneider, epidemiologist for the Hays County Local Health Department, said in the release.

Wimberley and Dripping Springs were selected so people on the western side of the county have access to testing, according to the release.

“We have been able to coordinate testing sites up and down the I-35 corridor, in Buda, Kyle and San Marcos,” Hays County Commissioner Walt Smith said. “The one-day testing sites in Dripping Springs and Wimberley will fulfill a need that hasn’t previously been available.”

Catch up on what happened yesterday

Gov. Abbott says Texas salons and barbershops can reopen Friday

Hair salons, barbershops, nail salons and tanning salons can reopen starting Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced. Gyms, nonessential manufacturers and businesses that work out of office buildings will be allowed to reopen May 18, with certain restrictions. 

"Our ability to show we can coexist with COVID-19 depends on ongoing efforts and good hygiene to continue to slow the spread,” he said during a news conference Tuesday.

The order was the latest in the governor's phased approach to reopening the Texas economy during the coronavirus pandemic. His announcement came just four days after the first phase began.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler responded to Abbott’s new order in a statement Tuesday evening. He said the governor should have waited “the necessary 3-4 weeks to count increased infections and hospitalizations before layering on more risk.”

“Austinites: make wise personal choices,” Adler said. “It’s dangerous for many to consider going to a barber, a salon, or a gym.”

Other local coronavirus news from Tuesday:

  • The Salvation Army's downtown shelter for people experiencing homelessness has reopened after seeing multiple cases of COVID-19 last month. 
  • Despite a promise from the state last month to drastically expand coronavirus testing, health officials in Austin-Travis County say the area is well short of the tests it needs to get a clearer picture of the pandemic's impact.
  • The City of Austin will be receiving roughly $283 million from the federal government to help local businesses and residents weather the crisis.

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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