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. 

A sign at St. Elmo Elementary encourages people to be safe during the coronavirus pandemic. School started remotely in Austin ISD on Tuesday.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Tuesday, Sept. 8. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Physicians Premier ER in Austin
Amna Ijaz / The Texas Tribune

When Dr. Zachary Sussman went to Physicians Premier ER in Austin for a COVID-19 antibody test, he assumed he would get a freebie because he was a doctor for the chain. Instead, the free-standing emergency room charged his insurance company an astonishing $10,984 for the visit — and got paid every penny, with no pushback.

Social distancing signage outside the Palmer Events Center during the City of Austin's budget hearing on Aug. 12.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Monday, Sept. 7. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

A sign in Central Austin says "Stop Evictions Now."
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published an order last week that could protect renters who’ve lost wages or work hours from eviction until Jan. 1.

A semi-full slate of college football games is scheduled for this weekend as a season unfolds....anxiously.

Already, two of the five major Division 1 conference have decided not to play this fall because of the coronavirus.

COVID-19 safety guidelines posted on the UT Austin campus on Aug. 21.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Local health officials are urging people to avoid gathering with others from outside their households during the holiday weekend. As case numbers trend downward, they say they're concerned people may think the threat of COVID-19 is diminished.

A sign tells construction workers to maintain social distance at a site in downtown Austin.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Friday, Sept. 4. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Nearly 2,000 books line the shelves of a makeshift library in East Travis County.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

When she’s not logging online to teach her class of third-graders reading and writing, Jennifer Martin has been doubling as a local librarian, offering some 2,000 books to neighborhood kids and teens — all from the garage of her East Travis County home.

Abby Strite, who is participating in a vaccine trial for COVID-19.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

As phase 3 trials for a potential COVID-19 vaccine get underway this month, some are sounding the alarm that the process could be rushed.  

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Read this story in English.

Decenas de miles de mascarillas y botellas de hand sanitizer o desinfectante de manos se distribuirán gratis en zonas calientes afectadas por el coronavirus en el área de Austin, anunciaron este miércoles funcionarios de salud pública.

UT professors Ayelet Haimson Lushkov and her husband, Pramit Chaudhuri, have not felt comfortable bringing their young children back to day care during the pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

Part four of a four-part series.

There's a lot of caregiving in Ayelet Haimson Lushkov's life. She's the mother of a 3-  and 1-year-old,  and she also teaches undergraduate and graduate classes at UT. 

A sign requiring face masks is posted at Cappy's Cafe on the UT Austin campus on Aug. 21.
Michael Minasi / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Thursday, Sept. 3. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

The pandemic is taking a big toll on the government's bottom line.

The federal government's accumulated debt burden is projected to be larger than the overall economy next year for the first time since 1946. Debt is expected to reach an all-time high of 107% of gross domestic product in 2023.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office expects the deficit to reach $3.3 trillion in the fiscal year ending this month. That's about 16% of GDP — a level not seen since the end of World War II in 1945.

Antonio Cueto for Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

Students in Mexico are starting a new school year, and just like many of their American counterparts, they're doing so remotely.

Some 30 million Mexican public school students are now learning from home. And that posed a challenge for the Mexican government, which had to figure out how to keep kids learning when only 53% of households have internet access. So, it developed a distance-learning program through television and radio.

Eligia Rivera with her sons Jair, 9, and Elias, 1, outside their Montopolis home.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

Part three of a four-part series.

Back in May, Eligia Rivera was in a parking lot at Webb Middle School, guiding families through a line to pick up groceries. The nonprofit she works for, Austin Voices for Education and Youth, distributes food weekly at schools in Austin. 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

Tens of thousands of face masks and bottles of hand sanitizer will be distributed for free in coronavirus hot spots in the Austin area, public health officials announced Wednesday.

The empty hallways of Crockett High School on July 22.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Wednesday, Sept. 2. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Signs remind students to social distance in the LBJ Center at Texas State University in San Marcos. Universities have already reported COVID-19 cases as students return to campus.
Jordan Vonderharr for The Texas Tribune

After a midsummer surge of COVID-19 cases pushed some Texas hospitals to the brink, the state’s coronavirus numbers improved in August, with statewide hospitalizations falling to their lowest point in two months.

Cheasty Anderson walks her dog with her husband, Hansen, and daughters Caroline (center) and Mary Dale.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

Part two of a four-part series.

The first month of sheltering in place wasn’t too stressful for Cheasty Anderson. The pandemic was scary, but she was told the best thing to do was to stay home, so she did. 

Michael Minasi / KUT

As he has done time and again over the past six months, Austin Public Health interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said Tuesday that residents need to stay vigilant about wearing masks and social distancing. Otherwise, in weeks’ time, he says we could return to where we were at the end of June, when public health officials feared coronavirus cases could overwhelm our hospitals.

Huston-Tillotson University in East Austin
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Tuesday, Sept. 1. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Mainspring School, a nonprofit child care center that serves children up to age 5, has been closed since March. Most of the families it serves are low-income.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

Part one in a four-part series.

On March 13, Cheasty Anderson sat in the conference room at her office. She and her colleagues at the Children's Defense Fund were grappling with the sudden mandate to work from home.

Daily life was about to become unrecognizable in many ways, and one of Anderson's biggest challenges began that day.

As the fall semester gets underway, college students are reuniting with their friends, getting (re)acquainted with campus and doing what college students often do: partying. But in the time of the coronavirus, as more parties surface university administrators have been quick to condemn — and even berate — the behavior of students.

"Be better. Be adults. Think of someone other than yourself," pleaded a letter to students at Syracuse University following a large gathering on campus.

Hand sanitizing stations and signs encouraging people to wear masks are placed around the UT Austin campus.
Michael Minasi / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Monday, Aug. 31. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

A sign tells Spanish speakers to dial 211 for information about the coronavirus.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

A report from Austin Public Health out Friday examines the city and county response to COVID-19 among Latinos – a population that's been, by far, the hardest hit by the pandemic.

The latest numbers from Austin Public Health bear that out: Latinos represent 52% of hospitalizations linked to the coronavirus.

Jesse Files talks to people about the 2020 Census during a food distribution at Navarro Early College High School on Monday.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Friday, Aug. 28. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Hundreds of cars line up for a food distrubtion at LBJ High School in April.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Thursday, Aug. 27. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

A masked UT employee indicates where a driver should go.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Four students sat at the corners of a picnic table on the UT Austin campus Wednesday, looking down at their open laptops, masks on their faces and backpacks open at their feet.

A member of the media has his temperature checked before entering the Alternate Care Site at the Austin Convention Center on July 24.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin Public Health officials want people to continue social distancing, wearing masks and practicing good hygiene even though the health authority has loosened guidelines due to a recent plateau in COVID-19 cases.  

Many new rules are in place on campus as UT Austin tries to operate safely during the coronavirus pandemic. The school's "Protect Texas Together" plan outlines campus health and safety efforts such as social distancing.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Protect Texas Together” is UT Austin’s comprehensive plan to operate safely while the coronavirus pandemic continues. But after seeing other universities open for the fall and then shut down because of coronavirus cases, some students say they don't feel very protected.

Pages