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. 

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have risen sharply in El Paso in recent weeks.

KTEP News Director Angela Kocherga told Texas Standard that hospitals there reached capacity over the weekend. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has grown by 300% over the last few weeks, and there's been "a scramble" to find enough hospital beds.

Updated at 7:45 a.m. ET Monday

With eight days until Election Day, the White House again faces the coronavirus in its ranks and controversy over its national strategy for the pandemic, after President Trump's chief of staff said the administration would not control the spread of the disease.

Two top advisers to Vice President Pence have tested positive for the virus in recent days, as Pence — who tested negative on Saturday and Sunday — crisscrosses the country for rallies in swing states.

Drivers line up for COVID-19 testing at the CommUnityCare parking lot in Hancock Center.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin Public Health is gearing up for when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.

Sick Of COVID-19? Here's Why You Might Have Pandemic Fatigue.

Oct 23, 2020
People wear face coverings while on the UT Austin campus.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

As the pandemic drags on, following COVID-19 prevention guidelines can feel like more and more of a challenge.

Harris County residents wait in line at Houston's Bayland Community Center during the first day of early voting.
Annie Mulligan for The Texas Tribune

Thousands of Texans spent hours waiting in long lines to vote early over the past 10 days. Many wore masks. Some didn’t.

Kasey Evans opted to home-school her children, Hunger Vandeberghe, 7; Bella Evans, 3; and Michael Evans, 3, when their school district's remote learning option went away.
Mark Felix for The Texas Tribune

The most Jessica Elbel’s kids have ventured out of the house since the pandemic began is to play in the yard or sit in the back seat of the car while their mom or dad picked up a curbside grocery order. 

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Lubbock saw the same summer spike in COVID-19 cases as much of Texas. And, like much of the state, those cases decreased for a while after. But they jumped back up again in recent weeks, says Covenant Health Regional Chief Medical Officer Dr. Craig Rhyne.

Travis County residents wear masks while waiting in line to vote on Oct. 13.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

Austin’s top doctor said Wednesday there’s a 96% chance the COVID-19 epidemic is growing in the area, up from about 90% the day before.

Two new peer-reviewed studies are showing a sharp drop in mortality among hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The drop is seen in all groups, including older patients and those with underlying conditions, suggesting that physicians are getting better at helping patients survive their illness.

New COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise, but experts say Texas is better prepared to handle another surge.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

Cases of COVID-19 in parts of Texas surged to near catastrophic levels this summer as some hospitals were forced to put beds in hallways, intensive care units exceeded capacity and health officials struggled to stem the tide of the virus.

The Austin skyline on a hazy day in October.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

As COVID-19 spread across the globe in the spring, people noticed a strange side-effect of the pandemic: The air was getting cleaner. Stay-at-home orders, along with the economic crash caused by the outbreak, meant less industrial and transportation-related pollution.  

But not necessarily in Austin.

A COVID-19 testing site in Houston on June 27. Under the state's vaccine distribution plan, vulnerable people would likely be the first to get the vaccine in the early months that it's available.
Annie Mulligan for The Texas Tribune

If a COVID-19 vaccine is ready next month, Texas health officials predict it won’t be widely available to Texans until at least July.

Austin Public Health operates a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site off I-35 in North Austin.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

Austin Public Health will be administering about 800 free flu shots at two events in the coming weeks.

People are getting the results of coronavirus tests in the U.S. faster than they were in the spring, but testing still takes far too long to help with effective disease control measures such as contact tracing and quarantining, according to the results of a large national survey.

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

From Texas Standard:

The recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has hit women harder than men, according to a new report published by the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and the YWCA USA, titled "America's Recovery From the 2020 "Shecession": Building a Female Future of Childcare and Work."

Victoria DeFrancesco Soto is lead author of the report. She told Texas Standard the goal was to look at who has been most affected by the 2020 recession. Unlike in 2008, when men were more affected by layoffs, this recession has hit women hardest, both through unemployment and a lack of childcare. Some are calling it the "shesession."

Jarymar Arana places a sign on the doorknob of a North Austin apartment, letting the tenants know their rights and protections against evictions.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

Jarymar Arana grips a backpack outside an apartment complex in Pflugerville just after 8 a.m. on a recent Sunday. Arana doesn’t live here, but hundreds of people do, and nearly two dozen of them have had evictions filed against them during the pandemic.

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Shaundell Newsome, co-chair of Small Business for America’s Future and visionary and founder of Sumnu Marketing.

At the time of this production, officials in all 50 states had given businesses the green light to reopen under certain restrictions, yet the road to recovery for small businesses was steep. 

A voter wearing a face covering on the first day of early voting at the South Austin Recreation Center.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin Public Health officials are giving their weekly update on the local impact of COVID-19. Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott, APH Director Stephanie Hayden and APH Chief Epidemiologist Janet Pichette will be answering questions from members of the media.

Pedestrians cross the street near bars on East Sixth Street in May.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe said he’s not going to allow bars to reopen at 50% capacity Wednesday, citing a memo from the county's top doctor saying COVID-19 "continues to be a threat."

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

If a vaccine against the coronavirus became available at a low cost, 42% of Texas registered voters said they would try to get it, and 36% said they wouldn’t, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

That’s a significant drop from the 59% who said in a UT/Texas Politics Project poll in June that they would get vaccinated against the disease.

Pflugerville Independent School District's administrative building
Michael Minasi / KUT

Forty percent of students in the Pflugerville Independent School District are returning to campuses Tuesday, as the district opens up to all students who opt for in-person instruction.

The district started the school year with buildings at 25% capacity, but under Texas Education Agency guidelines, all students who choose in-person learning can now return. Families made decisions at the end of September about whether to send students back.

People wearing face coverings on the UT Austin campus on Oct. 1
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Monday, Oct. 12. If you have a news tip or question, email us at

Updated at 10:05 p.m. ET

President Trump is no longer contagious and is safe to discontinue isolating, his doctor said Saturday evening, nine days after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Students at Boone Elementary sit spaced apart behind dividers.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

The Austin Independent School District is finishing its first full week with students back in the classroom. Schools were allowed to bring back up to 25% of a building’s capacity and are phasing in more students over the next month.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Friday, Oct. 9. If you have a news tip or question, email us at

A student wearing a face mask walks past the UT tower.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

It's what she's not seeing that scares Darlene Bhavnani most – what's lurking under the surface.

"I'm scared, because what I'm seeing is what I'm seeing," the epidemiologist at UT's Dell Medical School says. "But ... you're just seeing the tip of the iceberg."

A bar on Sixth Street in Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A group representing bar and nightclub owners is angry over Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to allow bars to reopen because Abbott left the decision to county judges in each of the state’s 254 counties.  

How The Leading Coronavirus Vaccines Work

Oct 8, 2020
The oldest method for developing flu vaccines involves growing viruses in eggs, which takes time.
US FDA/Wikimedia

There are now quite a few COVID-19 vaccines in the pipeline, but two seem to be making promising progress: the one designed by the US biotechnology company Moderna, and the one developed by the University of Oxford in collaboration with AstraZeneca.

People wear face coverings on the UT Austin campus.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Thursday, Oct. 8. If you have a news tip or question, email us at

A crowd of people at the Blind Pig on Sixth Street in May.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Texas bars can reopen at 50% capacity starting next Wednesday if the county judge where they are located approves, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday.