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. 

Empty streets in downtown Austin during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Esperanza’s job isn't glamorous, and it's not going to make her rich. But cleaning condominiums and office parks is at least honest work that helps her support her teenage son and her partner, who has diabetes and was laid off from his electrician job. And at least right now, it’s considered essential.

Making Masks At Home — What You Need To Know About How To Reduce Transmission Of The Coronavirus

Apr 16, 2020
An Austinite makes a homemade mask for health care workers.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation to use cloth face coverings to help slow the spread of COVID-19 has generated numerous how-to articles and videos. As academics who focus on personal protective equipment (PPE) research and development, we are concerned about the lack of information about two critical features of home mask design: fit and fabric selection.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

As COVID-19 narrowed the capacity of groups that feed Austin's homeless, many were going hungry or simply afraid to get food at places that typically offer meals because it meant risking close contact with others.

Voters line up to cast ballots in the primaries, at Austin Community College's Highland Campus on March 3.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Click here to read this story in English
 

Un juez de la Corte de Distrito del Condado de Travis dijo este miércoles que habilitará a los votantes temerosos de contraer el COVID-19 para que puedan votar por correo durante las elecciones de julio y noviembre.

El Partido Demócrata de Texas demandó a los funcionarios electorales estatales y locales el mes pasado, en un esfuerzo por conseguir que un tribunal del distrito se expidiera sobre la ley estatal.

A construction site in Ausin.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Kara says she's been having regular panic attacks over the past couple weeks knowing her husband, a commercial plumber in Austin, is going to work.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Thursday, April 16. Read Friday's live updates here. If you'd like to go through a roundup of COVID-19 news from Wednesday, read it here. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Travis High School, along with other schools in Austin ISD, are closed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Austin Independent School District is asking all parents to update their contact information so teachers and principals can get in touch during the coronavirus pandemic. The district is trying to speak with every family to see if they need access to food, medical care or technology so their students can do assignments from home.

A health worker screens a driver at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in South Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

We Are Blood collected plasma Wednesday from a third person who has recovered after testing positive for COVID-19. The plasma – the part of blood without red blood cells – could contain antibodies to help current patients with the coronavirus disease.

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

Click here to read the English version of this story

La ciudad de Austin ha promulgado una orden de quedarse en casa para frenar la propagación de COVID-19. Sin embargo, el hogar no es un espacio seguro para todos. 

Gabriel C. Perez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Anyone can become infected with COVID-19. But as the disease spreads across the United States, it's affecting a disproportionate number of African Americans. In Texas, the full picture of that disparity is unclear because the state only has demographic data for about one quarter of all COVID-19 cases.

Voters line up to cast ballots in the primaries, at Austin Community College's Highland Campus on March 3.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A Travis County district court judge said Wednesday he will clarify that voters fearful of contracting COVID-19 will be allowed to use mail-in ballots during elections in July and November.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

As COVID-19 spread throughout Central Texas last month, Central Health, the local health care district, temporarily closed some of its smaller CommUnityCare clinics to consolidate services and conserve personal protective equipment during the pandemic.

Hundreds of cars line up to receive a box of free food from the Central Texas Food Bank, at LBJ High School on Wednesday.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Wednesday, April 15. 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.

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

The City of Austin has enacted a stay-at-home order to slow the spread of COVID-19 — but home isn’t a safe space for everyone.

The SAFE Alliance, which aids survivors of domestic violence or abuse, has seen a significant increase in calls to its help hotline amid the coronavirus pandemic, said SAFE’s co-CEO Kelly White in a conversation with Austin Mayor Steve Adler streamed on Facebook on Tuesday night. 

An oil rig outside Midland, Texas.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

In a move that would have been unimaginable just a couple months ago, Texas is considering limiting oil production in the state. Capping the amount of crude that can be pumped is a power the state has not used in nearly 50 years. But, at a meeting Tuesday, regulators heard it may be needed to stabilize an industry in freefall.

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

Click here to read this story in English

El Condado de Austin-Travis ha extendido las órdenes de quedarse en casa hasta el 8 de mayo, se anunció este lunes. 

Las nuevas órdenes entraron en vigencia al expirar las órdenes originales a las 11:59 p.m.

Bajo las órdenes extendidas, se requiere que las personas usen protectores faciales de tela cuando realicen trabajos o actividades esenciales.

A line of customers, spaced apart from one another in accordance with social distancing guidelines, wait to enter an HEB grocery store in South Austin during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Click here to read this story in English

Lo primero que debe saber sobre el rastreo de contactos es que se ha probado a través del tiempo. Y que se ha usado por mucho tiempo. Es una de las armas originales del arsenal de salud pública para combatir las enfermedades infecciosas. Se usaba antes de las vacunas. Antes que los antibióticos. Antes de que supiéramos la mayoría de las cosas que sabemos ahora sobre las enfermedades infecciosas.

Jorge Sanhueza Lyon / KUT

From Texas Standard:

Editor's note: Between the reporting and airing of this story, Austin Resource Recovery's director, Ken Snipes, told the Texas Standard that masks are now provided for employees.

Interstate 35 is a vital transportation artery cutting across Texas, south to north. It stretches from Mexico, through Dallas and eventually ends up in Canada. The highway is essential for keeping goods flowing between the three largest countries in North America – everything from produce to medical equipment is trucked along it. And it's especially important during the pandemic as people are more aware of the vulnerability of the supply chain.

Medication abortions are only available to women who are less than 10 weeks' pregnant.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Abortion providers can serve women very early on in their pregnancies and those on the cusp of not being able to get the procedure, under a ruling issued by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday.

Why Wear Face Masks In Public? Here's What The Research Shows

Apr 14, 2020
People wear face coverings at Mueller Lake Park on March 27.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

With the coronavirus pandemic quickly spreading, U.S. health officials have changed their advice on face masks and now recommend people wear cloth masks in public areas where social distancing can be difficult, such as grocery stores.

But can these masks be effective?

Dr. Zhao Chen, a graduate student at UT Austin, has been stuck in Dubai since February.
Courtesy of Zhao Chen

Zhao Chen arrived in Austin four years ago to do cancer research at UT. He gave up a lot for the experience, leaving his wife and newborn son in China. He also suspended his ophthalmology practice in hope of advancing a different area of medicine. 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin-Travis County will probably see a spike in COVID-19 cases two weeks after the Easter weekend, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said during a news conference Tuesday.

A line of customers, spaced apart from one another in accordance with social distancing guidelines, wait to enter an HEB grocery store in South Austin during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The first thing you should know about contact tracing is that it’s time-tested. It’s been around for a long time — one of the original weapons in the public health arsenal for fighting infectious diseases. It was used before vaccines. Before antibiotics. Before we knew most of what we know now about infectious disease.

Callie Richmond for The Texas Tribune

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will allow medication abortions, which involve a patient ingesting pills, to proceed in Texas during the coronavirus outbreak, the latest development in a weekslong legal dispute over state officials’ attempt to ban the procedure in nearly all circumstances as it combats the pandemic.

Downtown Austin parking garages sit mostly empty during the city's stay-at-home order to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Tuesday, April 14. Read Wednesday's live updates here. If you'd like to go through a roundup of COVID-19 news from Monday, read it here. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

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

Austin and Travis County are extending their stay-at-home orders until May 8, officials announced Monday. 

The new orders will go into effect when the original ones expire at 11:59 p.m.

A business on South Congress is closed during the coronavirus pandemic. Nonessential businesses have been told to close to slow the spread of the disease.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Click here to read this story in English. 

A diferencia de la última vez que hubo una recesión nacional, la gente que pierde su trabajo durante la pandemia del coronavirus - y el seguro médico que venía con su empleo - puede tener una opción.

The Salvation Army's downtown homeless shelter
Julia Reihs / KUT

Salvation Army Austin's downtown shelter was closed this weekend after 12 people there tested positive for COVID-19. All 187 people staying at the shelter have been moved to a city-leased hotel.

KUT has also confirmed the first case of COVID-19 at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless next door.

Julia Reihs / KUT

 

Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday that reopening the Texas economy will be a "slow process" guided by public health concerns as he continued to preview a forthcoming executive order that will detail his strategy to reignite business in the state.

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