COVID-19

CommUnityCare conducts drive-thru COVID-19 testing at Hancock Center.
Credit Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus that was detected at the end of 2019 in Wuhan, China. The virus was first reported in the United States on Jan. 20, and by June had infected nearly 2 million people and led to more than 110,000 deaths in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The World Health Organization announced COVID-19 could be characterized as a pandemic, meaning the disease had spread among multiple countries and continents, on March 11. Many cities, including Austin, took measures to slow the spread of the virus in March, such as cancelling major events like South by Southwest, closing nonessential businesses, issuing stay-at-home orders and urging people to wear face coverings in public.

With many businesses closed, the unemployment rate skyrocketed as millions of Americans lost their jobs. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott took a phased approach to reopening businesses. In May, he began allowing some nonessential businesses to reopen at a fraction of their normal capacity. Business owners have been told to implement social distancing practices, like keeping people 6 feet apart. Health officials also say people should wear face coverings in public.  

COVID-19 isn’t the only disease caused by a coronavirus. Coronaviruses have been known to cause the common cold, as well as more severe diseases like SARS and MERS. The virus that causes COVID-19 is called “SARS-CoV-2.” It’s rare, but animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread from individual to individual, as was the case with this new coronavirus, though the exact source of the virus is still unknown, according to the CDC. 

COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing or talking. Studies have shown that even people who are asymptomatic, meaning they don’t show symptoms, can spread the disease. Illnesses have ranged from being mild to severe. Symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, body aches and fatigue.

The CDC says people can take preventative measures like washing hands frequently, staying at least 6 feet apart from people outside your home, covering your mouth and nose in public and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. A vaccine or drug is not yet available. 

An early voting location in Houston on Feb. 21, 2018.
Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is facing a lawsuit over his extension of early voting for the November election from prominent members of his own party — including state party Chairman Allen West, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and members of the Texas Legislature.

A sign requiring face coverings at Mission Funeral Home in Austin.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Hospitals in the Austin area are in “a very good situation,” the city’s top doctor said Wednesday, adding that now is the time for residents to take care of elective surgeries and immunizations, like getting flu shots.

A pedestrian walks along South Congress Avenue wearing a face covering.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Wednesday, Sept. 23. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

A bed in a field hospital set up at the convention center
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

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Coronavirus cases in Austin and Travis County have been inching up since Sept. 1, though hospitalizations have dropped by 20%, Austin's top doctor said Tuesday.

Signs for SXSW 2020 in downtown Austin. The festival was canceled in March because of COVID-19 concerns.
Julia Reihs / KUT

South by Southwest will host an online event next year, but plans for a physical one are still in the works, the organization announced Tuesday.

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 200,000 on Tuesday — reaching what was once the upper limit of some estimates for the pandemic's impact on Americans. Some experts now warn that the toll could nearly double again by the end of 2020.

"I hoped we would be in a better place by now," said Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. "It's an enormous and tragic loss of life."

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Tuesday, Sept. 22. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Texas Elder Care Visitation Rules Relaxed

Sep 21, 2020
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From Texas Standard:

Gov. Greg Abbott relaxed state visitation to nursing homes, assisted living and other long-term facilities. The new visitation rules start on Thursday.

Since March, many families have been unable to visit their loved ones who live in group care facilities, to keep the coronavirus from spreading. In August, the rules were relaxed to allow visitors to facilities that did not have anyone who had tested positive for COVID-19.

A sign at drive-thru testing facility at the CommUnityCare clinic at the Hanock Center in July.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Monday, Sept. 21. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Students draw self-portraits in a kindergarten class on the first day of in-person classes at Highland Village Elementary.
Shelby Tauber for The Texas Tribune

More than 2,300 of Texas public school students who have returned to school in person since the beginning of this academic year — about 0.21% — have reported testing positive for COVID-19, according to a dashboard the state released Thursday in a first effort to publicly track the way the pandemic is impacting public schools.

UT Austin students wait in line to be tested for COVID-19 at DKR Stadium before the Sept. 12 football game against UT-El Paso.
Michael Minasi / KUT

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Austin Public Health’s interim health authority says he would’ve rather waited a few more weeks before easing capacity restrictions for businesses in the area.

A team of volunteers with P A R K S P A C E create an installation of seating spaces that are 6-feet apart at the Ann and Roy butler Hike-And-Bike Trail on Wednesday.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Friday, Sept. 18. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Julia Reihs / KUT

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Austin's music venues were among the first businesses to close because of COVID-19, and because their business model relies on mass gatherings, they'll likely be the last to reopen.

Customers line up to enter Jeni's Ice Creams on South Congress.
Michael Minasi / KUT

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Retail stores, restaurants, gyms, office buildings, museums and libraries in regions where COVID-19 hospitalizations are under control can open at 75% capacity starting Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott said at a news conference Thursday. Hospitals in these areas can resume elective surgeries immediately, he said.

A sign at Mission Funeral Home reminds visitors that masks are mandatory.
Michael Minasi / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Thursday, Sept. 17. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Andrew Noble and other music industry workers rally outside of City Hall on Wednesday in support of a measure to provide financial relief to venues suffering during the pandemic.
Julia Reihs / KUT

Austin's music community rallied at City Hall on Wednesday to support a measure to bolster the ecosystem around live music in light of the pandemic.

A Texas State student walks on campus at the start of the fall semester.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Active COVID-19 cases in Hays County are on a steady decline, but there’s one age group still seeing small spikes in cases.

Central Texas Food Bank volunteers distribute boxes of food during the coronavirus pandemic.
Julia Reihs / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Wednesday, Sept. 16. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

The vast majority of children dying from COVID-19 are Hispanic, Black or Native American, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers analyzed the number of coronavirus cases and deaths among people under the age of 21 that were reported to the CDC between Feb. 12 and July 31 of this year. They found more than 390,000 cases and 121 deaths.

The empty hallway at Bedicheck Middle School in South Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

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Schools in Travis County likely will be polling sites during the presidential election Nov. 3.

Local election officials had been unsure whether schools would be safe places to vote during the pandemic. At a school board meeting Monday, however, Austin Independent School District officials indicated they want to make Election Day a student holiday. Students would have the day off, while teachers could catch up on training.

A women's health clinic in Texas.
Stephen Spillman for The Texas Tribune

State health officials walked back a plan to cut $15 million in funding from health and safety net programs, including services that offer low-income Texans access to birth control and cancer screenings, and support families of young children with disabilities or developmental delays.

A floor marker at UT Austin's Student Union reminds students to stay 6 feet apart.
Michael Minasi / KUT

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High school and college-aged students are testing positive for COVID-19 at a much higher rate than the area's overall population, Austin's top public health expert says.

Introducing the latest podcast from KUT and KUTX Studios: Pause/Play, a podcast about live music, a global pandemic and what comes next.

Pedestrians walk past closed music venues in the Red River Cultural District in September.
Julia Reihs / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Tuesday, Sept. 15. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Crockett High School in South Austin during the coronavirus pandemic. Austin ISD is planning to bring some students back to school buildings in October.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

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When the Austin Independent School District begins phasing students back into school buildings Oct. 5, it will prioritize special education and lower grade levels within each school as the first to return.

Before a new federal eviction ban went into effect recently, Alice and Jeremy Bumpus were on the verge of getting evicted. They live in a house outside Houston with their three kids, and they both lost their jobs after the pandemic hit. Alice worked at an airport fast food restaurant; Jeremy worked at a warehouse.

"We explained to the judge that due to everything that was going on, we just fell behind on just our one month's rent," Alice says.

A sign outside Cheer Up Charlies explains the city's mask rules.
Julia Reihs / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Monday, Sept. 14. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

UT Austin's DKR Memorial Stadium.
Michael Minasi / KUT

When the Longhorns play their football season opener Saturday, UT Austin will be tested on the field by UT-El Paso — and off the field by whether or not its COVID-19 protocols are enough to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Ashley Thompson of ACT Running leads an exercise class at Highland Park Elementary School in July.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Friday, Sept. 11. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Michael Minasi / KUT

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Alex Bell knew senior year at Southwestern University was going to look like no other, but the anthropology major wanted to be back on campus.

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