COVID-19

A sign at St. David’s Medical Center tells visitors to alert staff if they've traveled to a region with cases of COVID-19 and have certain respiratory symptom.
Credit Julia Reihs / KUT

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus that was first detected at the end of 2019 in Wuhan, China. An outbreak of the disease, which can be deadly, has led to travel restrictions, restaurants and bars closing, quarantines and cancellations of major events like South by Southwest. 

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can infect both people and animals. They can cause the common cold, as well as more severe diseases like SARS and MERS. COVID-19 is caused by a virus known as “SARS-CoV-2,” which primarily affects animals. It’s rare, but animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread from individual to individual, as is the case with this new coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Since the initial outbreak in China, COVID-19 has been reported in more than 100 locations around the world, including the U.S. The World Health Organization announced Jan. 30 that the outbreak constitutes a global health emergency. The number of confirmed cases worldwide has surpased 1 million. Illnesses have ranged from being mild to severe and in some cases have caused death. More than 65,000 people around the world have died from the disease, while more than 250,000 have recovered.

The first positive cases in Travis County were reported March 13.

COVID-19 is spread mainly from person to person or through contaminated surfaces. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The CDC says people can take preventative measures like washing hands frequently, staying home when sick and covering sneezes and coughs. A vaccine or drug is currently not available. 

Global cases of COVID-19 tracked by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University

Anabel with her dog Howie at her home in Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A lot of us are counting time: Days we’ve been sheltering in place. Days we’ve been working from home. Days since we went to school or since we lost a job. 

People in recovery are used to counting time as a way to measure their sobriety. 

A sign outside a Quaker meeting house in Austin encourages people to worship at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
Julia Reihs / KUT

When Gov. Greg Abbott issued his executive order Tuesday restricting nonessential activities, he made sure to note religious services are considered essential.

But in a time when people aren’t supposed to gather, what can and can’t houses of worship do? The governor’s office and the Office of the Attorney General released some guidance Wednesday.

Inmates chat inside a cell block at the Harris County Jail.
Caleb Bryant Miller for The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott’s order restricting the release of some Texas jail inmates during the coronavirus pandemic is being challenged in federal court. Civil rights attorneys filed a court motion Wednesday arguing the order unconstitutionally discriminates against poor defendants and also takes away judges' power to make individual release decisions.

Rep. John Bucy loads a car with donated food to be delivered to households in need in House District 136.
Courtesy of Bucy's office

Many residents in Texas House District 136 got a robocall last week – but it wasn’t a campaign message. 

In an effort to help the community’s most vulnerable residents during the coronavirus pandemic, some local leaders are turning to the political tool, which is typically reserved for campaign season.

The downtown Austin skyline during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Wednesday, April 1. Read Thursday's live updates here. If you'd like to go through a roundup of COVID-19 news from Tuesday, read it here. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Julie Walder, a licensed professional counselor, offers therapy sessions through video conferencing, while Austin follows social distancing rules to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Mental health care providers in Austin say they're finding it hard to provide telemedicine services to a big chunk of their patients – particularly those with large employer health plans from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas.

Planned Parenthood office
Martin do Nascimento / KUT

Click here to read in English.  

El Tribunal de Apelaciones del Quinto Circuito ha suspendido temporalmente el fallo de una corte inferior que bloqueaba la prohibición de abortos en Texas durante la epidemia de coronavirus. 

Updated at 7:40 p.m. ET

America must brace for 100,000 or more people to die in the coming months in the coronavirus pandemic, the White House's response team warned Tuesday.

"As sobering a number as that is, we should be prepared for it," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top immunologist helping to steer White House policy on the disaster. "No one is denying the fact that we are going through a very, very difficult time right now."

The Texas Capitol Building in downtown Austin during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order Tuesday requiring Texans to limit personal interactions that could lead to the spread of COVID-19. The order states schools will remain closed until at least May 4.

Planned Parenthood office
Martin do Nascimento / KUT

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has temporarily halted a lower court ruling that stopped Texas officials from banning abortions during the coronavirus outbreak.

Austin Public Health says, along with UT Health and University Health Services, it's investigating 70 people who chartered a plane to Mexico for spring break. Twenty-eight have tested positive for COVID-19.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Seventy young adults are being investigated for COVID-19 exposure after taking a chartered plane to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for spring break roughly 10 days ago, Austin Public Health says.

Of those 70, 28 have tested positive for COVID-19, and dozens are under investigation by the public health authority; four had no symptoms.

Many businesses have been shut down during the pandemic, forcing layoffs and furloughs of thousands of workers.
Julia Reihs / KUT

When Brian Biehl found out Wednesday that he’d been furloughed from his job at a company that makes software for restaurants in Austin, the first thing he did was take his dog for a walk.

“You know, [to] kind of assess the situation,” he said.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Click here to read in English. 

Un juez federal ha bloqueado temporalmente la prohibición de abortos en Texas durante la pandemia del coronavirus en el estado. 

El juez de la Corte de Distrito Lee Yeakel en Austin dictaminó el lunes que empleados del estado no pueden impedir que proveedores de aborto le ofrezcan el servicio a sus pacientes. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

City and county officials have set aside hotel rooms and the Austin Sobering Center to quarantine or isolate homeless Austinites who have or present symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The Fairmont hotel displayed a heart on its facade during the coronavirus pandemic on March 23.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Tuesday, March 31. Read Wednesday's live updates here.

A for-rent sign in Austin
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

More than half of Austin residents are renters. And come tomorrow, April 1, rent will be due for tenants with cut hours, cut wages or no wages at all as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced workplaces to close.

A construction worker at a building site at Trinity and Cesar Chavez in downtown Austin on March 23, 2020.
Julia Reihs / KUT

Click here to read this story in English. 

Cuando la ciudad de Austin emitió la orden de quedarse en casa la semana pasada, no estaba claro cuáles eran las implicaciones para el sector de la construcción. Algunas personas estaban confundidas, y muchos trabajadores continuaron iendo a sus trabajos. Pero, ¿pueden los constructores seguir construyendo? 

No - con algunas excepciones. 

An examination table at a clinic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A federal judge has temporarily blocked Texas’ ban on abortions during the coronavirus pandemic in the state.

U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel in Austin ruled Monday that state officials can't restrict abortion providers from offering the procedure to their patients.

A construction worker at a building site at Trinity and Cesar Chavez in downtown Austin on March 23, 2020.
Julia Reihs / KUT

When Austin issued its stay-at-home order last week, it was kind of vague about construction. Some people were confused, and plenty of builders stayed on the job. So, can builders keep building?

No – with some exceptions.

An Austin Public Health sign explains ways to prevent the spread of disease.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin Public Health announced Monday that its new nursing home task force is setting up sites to house nursing home residents who test positive for COVID-19. The city says these isolation facilities will give COVID-19 patients who don’t need hospitalization a safe place to recover while staying away from other nursing home residents and staff.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Click here to read this story in English. 

Cada día oímos cifras actualizadas sobre el COVID-19: el número de casos confirmados. El número de personas hospitalizadas. El número de personas que han muerto. Sabemos que las cifras están aumentando y esperamos que lo sigan haciendo. Pero aparte de eso, puede ser difícil entender lo que estos datos nos pueden enseñar acerca de la propagación de la enfermedad y si estamos progresando en la lucha contra ella. 

Dr. Jaime Jones is an emergency medicine physician at a major Austin hospital.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Austin-Travis County has confirmed 200 cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday night. One person in the area, a woman in her 70s, has died from the illness. The city is far from the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S.; places like New York City and New Orleans are reporting hospitals being overwhelmed.

But public health experts are warning that Austin could face similar problems unless residents limit their contact with others.

Caution tape is placed over tables at Mueller Lake Park. The city has closed park amenities in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Monday, March 30. Read Tuesday's live updates here. If you'd like to go through a roundup of COVID-19 news from the weekend, read it here. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Every day, we hear updated COVID-19 numbers: The number of confirmed cases. The number of people hospitalized. The number of people who have died. We know the numbers are going up, and we expect them to continue to rise. But beyond that, it can be difficult to understand what they teach us about the spread of the disease and whether we’re making progress against it.

Updated 8:13 p.m. ET

President Trump said on Sunday that federal guidelines urging Americans to social distance to slow the spread of the coronavirus will remain in place for another month and could last until June.

Under the recommendations, the Trump administration is imploring people to avoid restaurants, bars and other situations involving more than 10 people and restrict traveling to trips deemed essential.

Gov. Greg Abbott speaks to the media at a press conference about COVID-19  on Feb. 27.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday ratcheted up travel restrictions into Texas during the new coronavirus pandemic, while announcing the state's first pop-up hospital to deal with the crisis. He also said he was moving to "stop the release of dangerous felons" amid the outbreak.

A Capital Metro bus displays a public health message during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Sunday, March 29. Read Monday's live updates here. If you'd like to go through a roundup of COVID-19 news from Friday, read it here. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Why It Takes So Long To Get Most COVID-19 Test Results

Mar 29, 2020

After a slow start, testing for COVID-19 has begun to ramp up in recent weeks. Giant commercial labs have jumped into the effort, drive-up testing sites have been established in some places, and new types of tests have been approved under emergency rules set by the Food and Drug Administration.

The Salvation Army shelter in downtown Austin.
Julia Reihs / KUT

A person staying at its downtown homeless shelter tested positive for COVID-19, Austin Salvation Army said Friday.

The person was sharing a living space with 19 other people, but has been transferred from the shelter to a local hotel.

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