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. 

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.

Banners in downtown Georgetown encourage unity during the coronavirus pandemic.
Michael Minasi / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Wednesday, Aug. 26. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Dr. Rebecca S. Etz, an associate professor of family medicine and population health at Virginia Commonwealth University and co-director of the Larry A. Green Center; and Christine Bechtel, a patient advocate and co-founder of X4 Health

Bartenders Miles Mayfield and Glen Kurth at Dive Bar & Lounge in May.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission passed rules Tuesday aimed at making it easier for bars to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

NOAA/NESDIS/STAR GOES-EAST

Galveston residents fleeing the path of Hurricane Laura are being bused to Austin’s Circuit of the Americas. From there, they’ll be placed in local hotels until it’s safe to go back to the Gulf Coast.

A sign in the lobby of UT Austin's Belo Center for New Media tells students and others not to rearrange chairs.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

The Austin area is loosening COVID-19 guidelines as new cases level off.

Dr. Mark Escott, the interim medical authority for Austin Public Health, told the Austin City Council on Tuesday that cases have plateaued in the last few weeks and that he's "confident" in suggesting a transition from stage 4 of the health authority's risk-based guidelines to stage 3.

A sign on the UT Austin campus directs people to wear face coverings.
Michael Minasi / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Tuesday, Aug. 25. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Home prices and sales in the Austin area are higher than usual.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

Blake Taylor wants to be rid of the house she hardly leaves.

Taylor lives with lupus, an autoimmune disease, and is terrified of what it would mean if she caught COVID-19. She’s been extra careful. When she heads to H-E-B to buy food, she goes as soon as it opens, hoping fewer people will be there. She wears gloves and a mask. When she gets home, she washes her unpackaged groceries.

People at Zilker Park in July.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Monday, Aug. 24. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

The hallway is empty at Galindo Elementary School in South Austin in July.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

Parents, teachers and advocates worry online-only lesson plans could widen the digital divide and exacerbate educational equity issues in Austin Independent School District. To try to prevent that, the district, which has roughly 81,000 students, is distributing Wi-Fi hotspots, laptops and tablets.

Volunteers load boxes of food into the drunk of a car.
Allie Goulding / The Texas Tribune

Unemployed Texans could begin receiving $300 in extra weekly jobless payments as soon as next week, a Texas Workforce Commission spokesperson said, after the state received federal approval Friday of funding that President Donald Trump announced in early August.

Health care workers give COVID-19 tests to people at a drive-thru clinic in South Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

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

person with laptop
PixFuel

From The Texas Tribune:

Texas State Health Services is spending over $6 million to partner with social media influencers and enhance awareness of COVID-19. 

Boarded up bars on Sixth Street in Austin.
Jordan Vonderharr for The Texas Tribune

On Thursday. Gov. Greg Abbott said Texas will apply for federal funding to provide an extra $300 every week for people who have lost their jobs. More than 10 states have already been federally approved for the additional jobless relief, providing an extra $300, and in some cases, $400 in unemployment checks.

Empty hallways in Bedichek Middle School in South Austin during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Thursday, Aug. 20. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Sam Houston State University
SHSU

The July memo was blunt. Students at Sam Houston State University had been promised “direct contact” with faculty, and even in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, the Huntsville school needed to deliver, Provost Richard Eglsaer told the faculty.

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

For many students, starting a new school year completely online is an adjustment. For students experiencing homelessness, that adjustment will likely be even greater. And now, some homeless advocates worry that more students will experience homelessness and challenges with their education because of economic hardship resulting from the pandemic.

An empty hallway at Galindo Elementary during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Wednesday, Aug. 19. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Sisters Danielle and Kimberly Medina pack a U-Haul to move to a new apartment on West Campus before the start of UT's fall semester.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The top doctor at Austin Public Health says Austin and Travis County are doing a good job preventing the spread of coronavirus. But, Dr. Mark Escott says, residents will need to do a better job to lower the number of daily new cases to single digits. 

At least two people in Travis County likely have been infected by West Nile Virus this summer.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

Austin has found 14 pools of mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus in Travis County and two probable cases of the disease among residents this summer, the city’s public health department said Tuesday.

People wear masks and sit far apart during a hearing on the City of Austin's budget last week.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

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

The City of Austin is opening applications for a rent assistance program on Wednesday.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

The City of Austin will begin accepting applications Wednesday for a second round of rent help for tenants affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Applications open here at 8 a.m.

A U.S. Postal Service worker delivers mail in Austin in March.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

Texans should prepare early if they want to vote by mail in the upcoming presidential election, voting groups say.

Texas officials were recently warned by the U.S. Postal Service about potential delays delivering mail-in ballots, so getting an early start is more important than ever.

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