We'll be updating this story throughout the day Tuesday with the latest local news on the coronavirus pandemic. If you'd like to go through a roundup of COVID-19 news from Monday, 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 3:05 p.m. — Slowing spread of COVID-19 key to preserving hospital capacity, researcher says
New modeling from UT Austin shows hospitals could be at capacity in Austin by the end of the summer, if COVID-19 infections increase too much.
UT Austin Professor Lauren Ancel Meyers shared with the Travis County Commissioners Court on Tuesday a scenario in which COVID-19 transmissions increase by 50% from where they were during the region’s initial stay-at-home orders. If that happens, hospital capacity could be exceeded for several weeks, requiring a new round of stay-at-home orders.
“We are monitoring the situation on the ground on a daily basis and using it to estimate how quickly the disease is spreading and using that to project how quickly hospitalizations might increase in Austin in the coming weeks and the coming months,” Meyers said. “And we’re also using that to inform planning so that we ensure Austin takes measures before it is too late.”
That includes monitoring any changes in the rate of cases once camps and schools reopen.
Meyers said it is important for Austinites to continue social distancing measures and wearing face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19.
— Samuel King
Update at 8:08 a.m. — Free, fresh produce distributed starting Tuesday morning
The YMCA of Austin, Brighter Bites and DiMare Fresh will host free distributions of fresh produce starting Tuesday. People in need can get 20-pound boxes of fruits and vegetables through a drive-through or walk-up on a first-come, first-served basis.
The weekly program will run every Tuesday through August. Distribution at the North Austin YMCA at 1000 W. Rundberg Ln. will start at 9 a.m. Distribution at the East Communities YMCA at 5315 Ed Bluestein Blvd. will begin at 10 a.m.
You can read more about the program on the YMCA's website.
Update at 7:53 a.m. — 22 Travis County inmates are in quarantine
The Travis County Sheriff's Office says, as of Monday, 22 jail inmates are in quarantine because some are experiencing symptoms related to the coronavirus.
To try and slow the spread of COVID-19, all 212 newly booked, healthy inmates are isolated in single-occupancy cells until cleared by a medical professional.
Eighty-two inmates have been tested. 73 have come back negative. Nine test results are still pending. TCSO says six employees have tested positive for COVID-19 so far.
Update at 7:48 a.m. — Austin Police officers increase patrols on high-traffic roads
The Austin Police Department is increasing its presence and enforcement on high-speed and high-traffic roads. APD says the move is in response to the number of deaths and serious injuries caused by crashes — even though traffic is down as many stay home during the coronavirus pandemic.
The department says it's also seeing drivers speeding, including two caught going over 100 mph on MoPac Expressway Monday morning.
APD's goal is to reduce speeding and red light violations and cut down on the number of crashes. The citywide initiative will last through May 31.
Update at 6:10 a.m. — Austin ISD to provide meals to caregivers starting Tuesday
Caregivers picking up meals for children from Austin Independent School District’s meal distribution sites will be able to receive meals themselves beginning Tuesday.
The Austin City Council passed a resolution earlier this month allocating up to $2.2 million in funding the city received from the federal coronavirus relief bill to pay for caregiver meals delivered through Austin ISD and Del Valle ISD.
Adults accompanying children to meal sites or who have documentation of the children they are picking up meals for will be able to receive meals, according to an Austin ISD press release. The meals are prepared by local restaurants. Easy Tiger is providing caregiver meals at Austin ISD sites during the first two weeks of the program.
“Partnering with the City of Austin to serve caregiver meals prepared by local restaurants helps to provide additional food security for our families during these challenging times,” said Anneliese Tanner, AISD’s executive director of food service and warehouse operations, in the release.
Austin ISD has been providing students meals throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Distribution sites and times can be found here.
Update at 6:10 a.m. — In planning for next budget cycle, Central Health focuses on ongoing COVID-19 response, increased access to care
Central Health expects the economic impact of COVID-19 to stretch beyond the current fiscal year. The local health care district held a virtual community meeting Monday evening to kick off the public engagement process for planning its fiscal year 2021 budget.
“We haven’t made as much progress on the current fiscal year 2020 budget resolution priorities as we would like,” Monica Crowley, Central Health’s chief strategy and planning officer, said during the meeting. “And we are all aware that the COVID-19 impact is going to continue not just throughout the end of this fiscal year, but it will continue into the next fiscal year.”
The current fiscal year ends in September. Crowley said the coronavirus crisis is resulting in a narrowed process for developing the next budget (usually planning begins earlier in the year), and the list of proposed priorities is slimmer than normal.
Proposed priorities include ongoing COVID-19 responses like additional testing capacity, continued support for contact tracing and continued educational outreach regarding how to stay safe during the pandemic. Improving access to care in Eastern Travis County is another priority.
Federal funding has been infused into local health care facilities, including $3.7 million for Central Health’s CommUnityCare Clinics, to help offset the effects of the pandemic. Central Health has submitted an application to FEMA for public assistance as well, Deputy Chief Financial Officer Lisa Owens said.
While planning for the next fiscal year, the district will be taking into account the uncertainty that lies ahead, including the possibility of a second COVID-19 wave, Owens said.
“Looking into the future, we are very focused on trying to make sure that we plan conservatively, taking into account the knowns but also the unknowns as we look at fiscal year 2021,” Owens said.
The public engagement process of developing the budget, including an online survey, will take place through May and June, and a proposed budget will be presented to Central Health’s board in August with public hearings and adoption in September.
Catch up on what happened yesterday
Gov. Abbott says child care services can open now; bars can begin to reopen Friday
As more businesses begin to reopen, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said child care is essential and announced that providers would be allowed to reopen immediately.
The governor also said at a news conference Monday that bars would be allowed to reopen at 25% capacity starting Friday. Restaurants will be allowed to expand to 50% then, too, he said. These limits will not apply to outdoor patios where customers can maintain safe distances.
The reopenings come with a number of restrictions. For instance, customers at bars will have to be seated and won’t be able to order from or sit at the bar itself. Tables will be restricted to six people and dancing will be discouraged.
Abbott said camps and sports activities, including professional sports (without fans), will be able to resume May 31. Schools can reopen for summer classes as soon as June 1, he said.
Other local coronavirus news from Monday:
- Travis County voters won’t be able to cast ballots in grocery stores during July’s runoff election because it's too risky, County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said.
- Austin ISD says buses with free Wi-Fi are available to students from 8 a.m. until 4:15 p.m. through May 22 to accommodate Advanced Placement testing.
- Gyms, office buildings and nonessential manufacturers were allowed to open in Texas on Monday, as the next phase of Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to reopen the Texas economy kicked in.
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