Live Updates: Austin ISD Limits District-Sponsored Travel Due To Coronavirus

5 hours ago

We'll share live updates on how the coronavirus is affecting Austin and Central Texas throughout the day. Have a news tip? Email us at news@kut.org.

  • Texas confirmed cases: 32, including 11 cruise ship passengers in quarantine at Lackland Air Force Base. No cases are confirmed in Central Texas.
  • What should I do if I think I have the coronavirus? Call your health care provider. Austin Public Health says, to prevent the spread of the virus, it's important to call your provider before going to a health care facility. 
  • Got coronavirus questions? KUT is answering them in a special hour-long program starting at 9 a.m. Thursday.

12:16 p.m. — COVID-19 is now a pandemic

The World Health Organization is officially declaring the coronavirus to be a pandemic. 

Eight countries — including the U.S. — are now each reporting more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19, caused by the virus that has infected more than 120,000 people worldwide.

The organization is "deeply concerned," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, "both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction" by the world's leaders in response to the outbreak.

Read more about the new designation here.

11:21 a.m. — Austin's Urban Music Fest postponed 

Originally scheduled for March 27-28, Urban Music Fest announced in a Facebook post it will be postponed until a later date due to "unforeseen evetns transpiring in the City of Austin and around the globe."

The event organizer says the purchased tickets will be honored for the rescheduled days. 

8:14 a.m. — For many Texans without insurance, doing everything to avoid coronavirus is not an option

More than 5 million Texans don’t have health insurance. The state has the highest uninsured rate and number in the country – and it’s been getting worse recently.

Anne Dunkelberg, an associate director with the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin, said she's concerned about this population as the coronavirus spreads.

“They are not quite as vulnerable as seniors,” she said, “but they do face a special round of challenges.”

Most of these people are among the state’s working poor. Dunkelberg said these people work mostly in the service industry and – on average – make less than $32,000 a year.  

“Our folks who are out there in the retail and service trades – practically and economically – have a hard time trying to comply with the ideal behaviors that we are putting out there as what we want people to do during a disease outbreak,” Dunkelberg said.

Read the full story from KUT politics and health care reporter Ashley Lopez here.

7:23 a.m. — Rep. Doggett says Trump administration exacerbates the coronavirus situation

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, says the Trump administration is intensifying the threat of COVID-19 by attacking both the Affordable Care Act and immigrants. 

“With this pandemic, the health of our families is only as secure as that of our most vulnerable neighbor,” Doggett said in a statement. “The soaring number of Texans with no insurance may delay the testing and treatment that they need to avoid transmitting this disease to others.”

The congressman, who represents Texas’ 35th Congressional District, said the administration’s actions, like the public charge rule, discourages immigrants from getting tested and treated.

“Protecting our communities from an outbreak requires access to comprehensive health insurance that covers other preventative measures and any needed treatment,” Doggett said. 

7 a.m. — Austin ISD limits district-sponsored travel in the U.S.

Austin Independent School District is suspending district-sponsored travel to states that have “community-wide spread” of COVID-19, according to a March 10 statement. The states include California, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Washington and Utah.

Superintendent Paul Cruz said in the statement that the situation “can change quickly, and we will continue to assess the effects on domestic travel.”

Cruz encouraged families to avoid traveling to China, Iran, Italy and South Korea — as the CDC recommends — during spring break.

Families who do plan to visit these countries should let their campus’ administration know and plan to self-quarantine for two weeks after returning to the U.S., he said. Missing school to self-quarantine will be considered an excused absence.

Out of an abundance of caution, Eanes ISD said, it has canceled all school-sponsored out-of-state trips taking place before spring break. The school district is re-evaluating trips scheduled for after spring break.