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 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.

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

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Sunday, April 5. 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.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A new interactive map on the City of Austin's website is aimed at helping people experiencing homelessness identify locations to get aid during the coronavirus pandemic.

The empty hallway at Dawson Elementary
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

School buildings will remain closed for an "indefinite period of time," Austin Independent School District Superintendent Paul Cruz announced Friday.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

With courts largely shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, attorney Steve Brand wasn't working at his usual breakneck clip.

Then on Sunday, that peace was disturbed.

It was the governor who disturbed it. Specifically, a statewide order on Gov. Greg Abbott's letterhead.

Independence Brewings sells beers to-go during the coronavirus pandemic.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The stay-at-home order that’s kept Austinites spending most of their time at home for the last couple weeks has also increased demand on the “essential” businesses left to supply them with goods. That includes grocery stores and restaurants, but also breweries.

Election signs at the corner of Manor and Airport.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Texas Secretary of State’s office sent local election officials an advisory Thursday that was meant to give them guidance on how to handle elections during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Texas Unemployment Claims Swamp State Agency

Apr 3, 2020
Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

If you've been unable to get through – either by phone or computer – to file an unemployment claim in Texas, you're not alone.

The state's unemployment agency -- the Texas Workforce Commission -- has been slammed with calls and online users since because of job losses caused by the coronavirus-related business shutdowns. Last week more than a million people called the agency during several 24-hour periods. Before COVID-19 appeared in the United States two months ago, the largest number of calls the agency would handle was 60,000, according to Cisco Gamez, the agency's spokesman.

Construction workers work on a building in Austin last week.
Julia Reihs / KUT

When Austin Mayor Steve Adler issued a stay-at-home order last week, he laid out the “essential” businesses and activities that could still be done — as long as people maintained proper physical distance from each other. But there was confusion about whether construction projects could continue.

Austin ISD employee Rosa Montalvo hands lunch to parents parked outside Dawson Elementary School. The district has been offering meals while schools are closed.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

We'll be updating this story throughout the day Friday with the latest local news on the coronavirus pandemic. If you'd like to go through a roundup of COVID-19 news from Thursday, read it here. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

UT freshman Andrew Dareing moves his belongings out of the Jester-West dorm after campus shut down to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Andrew Dareing is from Mertzon, Texas – a town with 743 people, where the only stoplight is a four-way blinking yellow light.

A "closed" sign on a business on South Congress
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Unlike the last time there was a nationwide recession, folks who lose their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic – and the health insurance that comes with them – may have a backup.

Courtesy of Paula Requeijo and Aaron Rochlen

From Texas Standard:

For Dr. Paula Requeijo, the coronavirus pandemic is both a personal and a professional concern of hers. She is chief medical officer for Elite Patient Care, a company that provides long-term health care, mostly for elderly patients. Also, her sister lives in Lake Como, Italy, one of the areas hardest hit by COVID-19.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT

From Texas Standard:

In  the second installment of Texas Standard's Ask a Doctor, UT Health San Antonio's Dr. Fred Campbell answers listeners' most pressing questions about the coronavirus and COVID-19.

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

Muchos de nosotros estamos contando el tiempo: los días que llevamos en casa. Los días que hemos estado trabajando desde casa. Los días desde que fuimos a la escuela o desde que perdimos un trabajo. 

Las personas en recuperación están acostumbradas a contar el tiempo como una forma de medir su sobriedad. 

Han pasado 1,308 días desde que Anabel (quien pidió a KUT no revelar su apellido) ha usado drogas o alcohol. Trece años desde que Chris Marshall dejó de beber. Dieciséis meses desde que Kevin Dick ha usado drogas.

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

Click here to read in English. 

Cuando el Gobernador Greg Abbott emitió el martes su orden ejecutiva restringiendo las actividades no esenciales, se aseguró de señalar que los servicios religiosos se considerasen esenciales.

Julia Reihs / KUT

UT Austin says a total of 44 students have tested positive for COVID-19 after chartering a flight to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico over spring break.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Thursday, April 2. Read live updates from Friday 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.

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.

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