COVID-19 May 11 Updates: Texas To Test All Nursing Homes; Hospitals See Fewer Heart-Attack Patients

May 11, 2020

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Monday, May 11. Read Tuesday's live updates here. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Update at 5:30 p.m. — Fewer patients are going to the hospital for a heart attack

There’s been a dramatic decrease in the number of people going to the hospital with a heart attack, as patients have been avoiding hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Peter Monteleone, a cardiologist at Ascension Seton, said 45% fewer people went to Ascension hospitals in Central Texas for a heart attack last month than in April 2019. 

Monteleone said this isn’t happening because fewer people are having heart attacks in the area. He said people are avoiding hospitals out fear they will come into contact with the coronavirus.

“We are dealing with the virus pandemic now, and in the weeks and months to come, we are going to be dealing with the second crisis of patients who weren’t seeking the care they should have been seeking,” Monteleone said, “who then will start developing the chronic problems and issues that come down the line from not seeking that care at the right time.”

Besides the immediate effects of a heart attack, Monteleone said prolonging care can cause heart muscle to die, which can cause permanent damage or put someone at risk for dangerous complications down the road.

He said hospitals are doing a better job of preventing the spread of the virus and people should seek care when they need it.

— Ashley Lopez

Update at 5:10 p.m. — Abbott directs state agencies to test all Texas nursing home residents and staff

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday he’s directing the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas Division of Emergency Management, and the Texas Department of State Health Services to test all residents and staff in Texas nursing homes.

Abbott has instructed these entities to “develop and implement a plan based on the guidance of Vice President Mike Pence and Doctor Deborah Birx,” according to a press release.

“The State of Texas is working to rapidly expand our testing capacity—especially among vulnerable populations in Texas nursing homes,” he said in the release. “This important collaboration among HHSC, TDEM, and DSHS will ensure that any potential clusters of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes are quickly detected and contained.”

Update at 4:50 p.m. – Cap Metro to add more commuter service

Ridership on Capital Metro’s MetroExpress routes plunged by 90% in the days after stay-at-home orders were issued, so most routes were suspended. But as more people are heading back to work, more service is set to resume. 

Under a new executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott, offices can open at 25% capacity with social distancing protocols in place starting next Monday. Route 935 Tech Ridge Express and Route 985 Leander/Lakeline Direct will start up again then in a limited fashion. 

Update at 4:26 p.m. – Activists ask Dallas DA to investigate Ken Paxton for election fraud

Two voting rights activists have asked the district attorney in Dallas to investigate Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for election fraud after he sent letters to local election officials telling them not to administer mail-in ballots to people who do not feel safe voting in-person due to the coronavirus.

One of the activists, Kendall Scudder, said Texas election code allows for two citizens who feel there’s been election misconduct to ask their local district attorney to look into the matter.

Scudder said he thinks Paxton lied to local election officials by directly contradicting a recent decision from a judge in Austin who ruled it would be OK for all eligible Texas voters to apply for a mail-in ballot during the pandemic.

“And we know he knew about that ruling because it was a letter in response to that ruling,” Scudder said. "So, he intentionally misled election officials in the state in order to deny ballot access to millions of Texans."

In statements to the press, Paxton’s office dismissed the complaint as politically motivated.

– Ashley Lopez

Update at 4:05 p.m. – Bike shops see business booming

While a lot of businesses are seeing few, if any, customers right now, bike shops are an exception. Many are reporting that they’re backed up for days or even weeks on repairs, as more people turn to cycling during the pandemic. 

Hill Abel, CEO of Bicycle Sport Shop, told KUT's Samuel King that the emptier streets have become more inviting for would-be cyclists.

“It’s really changed the dynamic for cycling, that and the fact that people have time on their hands, they need stress relief, they need the mental release,” Abel said. “So it’s just been really good for the activity of cycling.” 

Abel said in a busy week his shops usually do 150 repairs. Now, that can happen in one day.

He said he's hiring more staff to help meet the demand. He advises that people be patient with repair shops as the shop adjusts.

Update at 1:12 p.m. — Capital Metro provides Wi-Fi hot spots to help Austin students

Capital Metro is partnering with the Austin Independent School District to provide Wi-Fi to neighborhoods in need. The program aims to help students complete schoolwork assigned during remote learning. AISD is already using 110 school buses to provide Wi-Fi from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cap Metro is using MetroAccess vehicles to provide help from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

“We heard from AISD that they just didn't have enough vehicles to go out to all the sites that were requesting this service,” Melissa Ortiz, community engagement team coordinator for Cap Metro, said. "So, we thought, well, we have hot spots, we have vehicles, we have bus operators who can drive out there, so let’s see how we can help.” 

Ortiz said using MetroAccess vehicles rather than buses provides more flexibility and the Wi-Fi still works while the vehicles are turned off.

This week, the hot spots will be at Springdale Gardens Apartments and East Austin College Prep. 

The service will also be offered to other school districts in the area, including Del Valle ISD.

– Samuel King

Update at 9:45 a.m. — Watch our conversation with Mayor Adler 

KUT Morning Edition host Jennifer Stayton talked with Austin Mayor Steve Adler about how the city is implementing Gov. Greg Abbott’s reopening orders and answered some of your questions about the city’s response to the pandemic.

Watch the conversation here.

Update at 9:20 a.m. — With a record number of graduates, Austin Community College holds virtual spring commencement ceremony 

Austin Community College says it has hit a record number of graduates in 2020 with more than 2,900 students expected to graduate this spring. When including fall semester graduates, the yearly total comes out to more than 6,100 — the school's largest group thus far.

ACC says the number of spring graduates has increased 123% over the last five years, while fall and summer graduates have increased 109%.

But due to the coronavirus pandemic, the spring commencement ceremony will be held virtually June 6. The online event will include speeches and videos, as well as a personalized slide for each graduate. 

"This class has been especially ambitious," Richard Rhodes, ACC president and CEO, said. "They have persevered through the unexpected and stayed on track. I’m proud of their work." 

ACC officials said they expect to hold an in-person ceremony in the fall once stay-at-home orders are lifted.

Update at 8:48 a.m. — Thunderbirds flyover of Austin postponed to Wednesday

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds say they will honor frontline COVID-19 responders and essential workers with flights over San Antonio and Austin on Wednesday, starting at 2:40 p.m. in Austin and lasting 25 minutes. The event was originally scheduled for Tuesday but was posptoned due to expected bad weather.

The Air Force said residents should not travel to landmarks or gather in large groups to see the flyover. A detailed flightplan will be released the day before the event.

Update at 7:33 a.m. — Feedback due Wednesday on how to spend $7 million in relief money

The City of Austin will receive just over $7 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help respond to the coronavirus – and is looking for public feedback on how best to spend it. The money was authorized through the federal coronavirus relief bill.

Right now, city staff is recommending $2.6 million go to emergency rental assistance, $2.3 million go to homeless assistance and $1 million go to the child care workforce.

There is also money set aside for artist educational programming and small-to-medium-size business loans. No money has been spent yet because the federal government must first approve all recommendations.

The city says public input on how to spend the money is required to receive the funding. People can give feedback by going to SpeakUpAustin.org. The deadline for feedback is Wednesday.

Correction: An earlier headline said feedback was due on $12 million in relief funding. It is actually $7 million.

Catch up on what happened over the weekend

Total number of cases increases to 2,127 locally and to 38,869 statewide

No deaths related to COVID-19 were reported in Travis County over the weekend. Fifty-six new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the county — 24 on Saturday and 32 on Sunday. There have now been 2,127 known cases in the county and 60 deaths. 

There were 2,260 new cases in Texas reported over the weekend — 1,251 new cases were reported Saturday and 1,009 on Sunday. Saturday’s increase was the third highest single-day increase since the state began reporting cases. The increase in cases comes as testing ramps up in Texas. There have now been 38,869 known cases in the state, and 1,008 known deaths related to the disease, an increase of 84 since Friday, according to the Department of State Health Services

This was the first weekend of Gov. Greg Abbott’s new order that allows hair salons, barbershops, nail salons and tanning shops to reopen with safety restrictions. Some began opening in Austin on Friday in order to stay afloat, but they’re facing challenges, like being able to afford protective equipment.

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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