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.
- Do you think you have the coronavirus? Here's how to get tested.
- How to get help (and help) in Austin
- Find mental health support
- Track the spread in Texas
- Sign up for coronavirus email alerts
Update at 8:04 a.m. — Since start of pandemic, more than 2.2 million Texans have filed for unemployment
New numbers out this morning show just over 134,300 Texans applied for unemployment benefits last week. That's about 7,100 fewer claims than the week before.
Since mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic starting to hit the Texas economy hard, just over 2,277,000 Texans have applied for first-time unemployment benefits.
Nationwide, 2.4 million people filed claims for unemployment last week. That's down 249,000 — or 9% — from the previous week, but still painfully high by historical standards, NPR reports. In the last nine weeks, jobless claims have totaled 38.6 million.
Update at 8 a.m. — Drive-thru testing opening Friday at six Austin-area CVS Pharmacies
CVS will begin offering COVID-19 testing at 44 CVS Pharmacy drive-thru locations in Texas on Friday — including at five Austin locations and one Round Rock location.
The sites will offer self-swab tests to individuals that meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria, the company says. Patients will have to register in advance to schedule an appointment. Once they arrive, they’ll be directed to the pharmacy drive-thru window where they’ll be given a test kit and instructions. Tests will be sent to a lab, and results will be available in about three days.
The Austin-area locations starting testing Friday are:
- CVS Pharmacy, 5526 S. Congress Ave., Austin
- CVS Pharmacy, 2610 Lake Austin Blvd., Austin
- CVS Pharmacy, 11300 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin
- CVS Pharmacy, 11725 N. FM 620, Austin
- CVS Pharmacy, 3500 W. Slaughter Ln., Austin
- CVS Pharmacy, 1855 Gattis School Rd., Round Rock
The company says patients should not have any out-of-pocket costs, but you should check with your health plan to confirm scheduling a test. If you do not have insurance, CVS says to bring your Social Security number (card not needed), driver's license or state ID.
CVS says it plans to have up to 1,000 locations in the U.S. offering this service by the end of the month and aims to process up to 1.5 million tests per month. Once the testing is fully up and running, the company says more than half of the sites will serve “communities with the greatest need for support, as measured by the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index.”
The City of Austin is providing free COVID-19 screening and testing through its website, AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.
Update at 7:57 a.m. — Food distribution event planned for Thursday afternoon at Del Valle High School
The Central Texas Food Bank is giving out food today to people impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Families will receive a box of grocery items including produce, 2% milk and frozen chicken or pork protein. The food bank asks each household to send one person to the drive-thru event.
Drivers are reminded to make space in their trunks before arriving. No walk-ups are allowed. Meals will be distributed at Del Valle High School (5201 Ross Rd., Del Valle) from 1-4 p.m.
If you're not able to go, you can find other places where food is being distributed on the food bank's online map.
The next drive-thru distribution event is scheduled for Thursday, May 28 at Toney Burger Stadium (3200 Jones Rd.) in South Austin from 9 a.m. to noon.
Update at 7:44 a.m. — Walk-ins and cyclists will be limited at three Austin parks
Starting Thursday, Austin Parks and Recreation will monitor walk-in and cyclist capacity at three parks: Emma Long, Commons Ford Ranch and Walter E. Long.
No more walk-ins or cyclists will be let in once they fill up. A vehicle day pass is already required to go to those parks. Austin Parks has been monitoring capacity there for a few weeks to try and ensure safe spacing while the coronavirus pandemic continues.
Update at 7:37 a.m. — The first Dell Medical School class graduates Thursday — on Zoom
The first class of medical students from the University of Texas at Austin's Dell Medical School graduates today – virtually on Zoom. Former Austin-area state Sen. Kirk Watson – who was integral in the formation of the school – will give the commencement speech.
Ava Karimi is one of the 50 students graduating today. She says she's disappointed she can't share this moment with family and friends – but graduating into a pandemic has put a lot in perspective.
"Thinking about this milestone to celebrate, with the completion of these years of learning, and, really, thinking about embarking on that new chapter as a physician," Karimi said. "Now, it's a new reality. It's completely different from what I ever imagined." The ceremony starts at 6:30 p.m.
Read more about the school's first graduating class from Nadia Hamdan.
Update at 6:00 a.m. — Austin ISD meal sites will be closed for Memorial Day
Austin Independent School District’s meal distribution sites will be closed on Monday in observance of Memorial Day. The district says it will still be providing food for the long weekend: students and caregivers will get two breakfast and lunch meals on Thursday and Friday.
AISD recommends families bring a bag to transport the meals home safely.
The district has been providing meals for students while schools are closed during the coronavirus pandemic. AISD began on Tuesday also providing meals to caregivers. The food distribution sites and times can be found here.
Catch up on what happened yesterday
Planning to attend football games or large concerts in Austin this fall? Don't count on it.
Barring an unforeseen breakthrough in COVID-19 testing or treatment, Austin public health officials said, it's unlikely large-scale events like ACL Fest or UT Longhorn football games will happen for the rest of the year.
At a briefing Wednesday morning, Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority for Austin Public Health, said the risks of exposure and the lack of social distancing would facilitate the spread of the virus.
"The large events were the first thing that we turned off and are going to be the last thing we turn back on, because of that risk of exposing lots of people to one another – particularly individuals outside of a household," he said.
Other local coronavirus news from Wednesday:
- The Texas governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker are directing state agencies and institutions of higher learning to find ways to reduce expenses. State leaders sent a letter calling them to identify ways they can operate with 5% less funding from the state.
- UT Austin officials announced the semester will begin on Aug. 26, though it’s not entirely clear yet how classes will work or how dorms will function. Once students leave for Thanksgiving break, they will not return until after the new year.
- Williamson County temporarily took down an online portal that determines if residents can receive COVID-19 testing. The county says it has seen an overwhelming interest in testing and will put the portal back up once the backlog of requests has been scheduled.
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