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. 

Portable bathrooms and hand washing stations installed near an encampment at the Terrazas Library just across I-35 in downtown.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

City leaders on Thursday approved a plan to expand the use of hotels for people who can't safely quarantine because of COVID-19.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

We'll be updating this story throughout the day Thursday with the latest local news on the coronavirus pandemic. 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.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

No matter what you do (or did) for a living before the COVID-19 pandemic, it's probably safe to say your work life has changed dramatically since its arrival. If you haven’t lost your job, you may be working from home. Or you may find yourself working out in the world, in sectors deemed “essential” by stay-at-home orders.

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Many Americans are working and recreating at home during the coronavirus pandemic. But not everyone can easily shelter in place because of work or family obligations. Others choose to ignore stay-at-home orders altogether. That poses a challenge for law enforcement officers who are responsible for enforcing the state and local public health provisions.

SPIbelt Founder Kim Overton wears one of the fabric face masks her company has started making since the coronavirus outbreak.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak hit Kim Overton’s company like it did many others.

“We had to let go four people and a lot of our retail partners have had to shut their doors,” she said.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

City officials say they are preparing to increase the number of hospital beds in the area in case there is a surge of COVID-19 patients overwhelming existing hospitals.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The ACLU has sued Gov. Greg Abbott, alleging his move to block people accused of violent crimes from receiving personal bonds is unconstitutional.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Gov. Greg Abbott is touting examples of Texans helping Texans during the coronavirus pandemic.

At a news briefing Wednesday, he said Texas companies have stepped forward to increase production of personal protective equipment. He cited Prestige Ameritech in North Richland Hills, which is working with the Texas National Guard to create 2 million face masks per week. Another company, Reyes Automotive in San Antonio, is expected to start making 5,000 face shields a day for health care workers in Texas.

Austin ISD schools, like Travis High School in South Austin, are closed indefinitely, the school district has said.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Wednesday, April 8. 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.

Julia Reihs / KUT

Austin’s streets are far less congested these days as people stay home to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Law enforcement is worried some drivers are taking empty streets as an invitation to speed, though – with dangerous results.

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

The City of Austin is expecting Great Depression-era job losses as the coronavirus continues to shut down the economy. Current forecasts predict a quarter of a million people in Austin could be without jobs in the next couple months, an unemployment rate of about 25%. 

A Planned Parenthood office in Austin with a mural of a woman holding a globe on the side of it.
Julia Reihs / KUT

Texas can continue to ban abortions as COVID-19 continues to infect more people in the state, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

Charlie Pearce for The Texas Tribune

With primary election runoffs scheduled for July and the November general election on the horizon, the Texas Democratic Party has expanded its ongoing fight for more widespread mail-in balloting to federal court, fearful that a Monday U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Wisconsin presidential primary signals a need to get federal litigation in the pipeline quickly.

Businesses across Texas have closed and laid off or furloughed their employees as the coronavirus pandemic spreads.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Phone lines and the website to apply for unemployment benefits in Texas have been jammed for more than two weeks now. The Texas Workforce Commission says it has already processed more jobless claims since March 14 than it did in all of 2019. 

Workers handle paperwork at a drive-thru coronavirus screening site at CommUNITYCare Clinic at the Hancock Center in Austin last month.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

As Austin tries to track down those who’ve come in contact with the 502 people who have tested positive for the coronavirus, the interim health authority and public health medical director said it’s hard to draw a clear line between many of the cases.

A young person reads a school closure sign at Travis High School in South Austin on March 18.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Los estudiantes del Distrito Escolar Independiente (ISD, en inglés) de Austin recibirán calificaciones de aprobada o incompleta para sus clases este semestre pero no calificaciones A-F, según decidió la junta escolar el lunes por la noche. 

La junta de directores aprobó una resolución que aborda cómo tratar las calificaciones a medida que las clases se dictan a través de Internet debido a la pandemia del coronavirus.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Click here to read this story in English

La autoridad sanitaria provisional del condado de Austin-Travis dice que espera que la recomendación para que los austineses utilicen protectores faciales de tela cuando salgan de casa se convierta en un requisito.

The Butler Hike and Bike Trail is included on the list of trail and park closures over the Easter weekend.
Julia Reihs / KUT

Starting at sunset on Thursday, all City of Austin parks and trails will close for the Easter weekend to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

A young person reads a school closure sign at Travis High School in South Austin on March 18.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Students at Austin Independent School District will receive pass or incomplete grades for their classes this semester, not A-F grades, the school board decided Monday night. 

Stuffed animal bears are placed in a window of a home in the Rosedale neighborhood as part of a "bear hunt" game families are playing during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The coronavirus and the stay-at-home orders enacted to help slow its spread have changed almost every aspect of daily life. One that you might not notice, unless you’re looking, is the appearance of stuffed animals in window frames around town.

A roadside advisory in South Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Tuesday, April 7. 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.

Julia Reihs/KUT

From Texas Standard:

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, food banks across the country are tasked with serving those in need from all walks of life. And many people are using food bank services for the first time.

In Texas, food banks are doing what they can to help those facing food insecurity, but they face many challenges.

A Capital Metro bus displays a public health message to wash hands.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Capital Metro's ridership has plunged by more than 60% since stay-at-home orders were put in place in response to COVID-19. But that means several thousand passengers are still riding the bus each day.

Those riders face a different experience than what existed just a few weeks ago. Routes have been cut to account for the drop in ridership, leaving some buses with more passengers and others with fewer.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The interim health authority for Austin-Travis County says he expects a recommendation for Austinites to wear fabric face coverings when they're outside the home to become a requirement.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday he feels more confident now than ever in regard to Texas' ability to acquire personal protective equipment.

Julia Reihs / KUT

A food service worker with the Austin Independent School District died Thursday after testing positive for COVID-19.

Patricia Hernandez, who worked at Casis Elementary for 10 years, had not been involved in any AISD food distribution since schools closed March 13, the district said.

A man fishes and a man runs near Mueller Lake Park during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

We’ve all heard about the orders to stay home, practice social distancing and frequently wash our hands to help slow the spread of COVID-19. We’ve also probably seen or heard about people who just won't do that.

When the stakes are so high, why don't people follow instructions to help others and themselves?

The public radio stations that make up The Texas Newsroom are tracking cases and deaths based on counts from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

A sign on a business on South Congress noting the business is closed.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Monday, April 6. 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.

There's a COVID-19 outbreak at the Southeast Nursing & Rehabilitation Center.
Dominic Anthony / Texas Public Radio

Update: A third resident's death was reported on Sunday at the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The man was in his 60s with underlying health conditions.

A San Antonio nursing home has seen nearly 70 of its residents test positive for COVID-19. The outbreak at Southeast Nursing & Rehabilitation Center has sent shockwaves of alarm throughout local and county government and attracted national attention.

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