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. 

Bars and restaurants on Sixth Street are closed and boarded up during the coronavirus pandemic.
Julia Reihs / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Thursday, March 26. 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.

Cherie Little and Steven Kresena stand outside their apartment in South Austin.
Michael Minasi / KUT

It’s a hell of a time to try and open a restaurant.

That’s what Steven Kresena was thinking last week as he watched Austin Mayor Steve Adler order all restaurants and bars to close to diners in an attempt to stall the spread of the coronavirus. Kresena had just inspected the tile in his new restaurant, Ovenbird, which was set to open on South Congress this month.

Updated at 11:47 p.m. ET

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved a $2 trillion relief package Wednesday night designed to alleviate some of the worst effects of the swift economic downturn currently underway as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ahead of the 96-0 vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told lawmakers, "Our nation obviously is going through a kind of crisis that is totally unprecedented in living memory."

Miguel Guitierrez Jr./KUT

Abortion providers in Texas are suing state officials for banning abortions as part of their effort to halt procedures that are “not immediately medically necessary” during the coronavirus outbreak.

Julia Reihs / KUT

If the new coronavirus has proved anything, it's that uncertainty is the only certainty, that action is better than inaction, and that it's important to have hope in light of a pandemic.

Just ask Tim Mercer.

Kinokuniya Austin is closed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Julia Reihs / KUT

The agency that handles Texas' unemployment benefits system says the situation unfolding because of the COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything it has ever dealt with before.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A medic with Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services has tested positive for the coronavirus — the department's first employee to get infected.

A nearly empty parking lot in North Austin during the coronavirus pandemic.
Julia Reihs / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Wednesday, March 25. 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.

Joni Watkins and Matt Umberger sew face masks to donate to health care workers, on the porch of their South Austin home.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Hospitals and health care facilities say they don’t have enough equipment to protect doctors and nurses treating patients with COVID-19. Masks, gloves, gowns and face shields are all on backorder.

To get more masks to people who need them, the medical community here is asking Austinites to make their own.

An ambulance parked outside St. David's South Austin Medical Center.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

State officials say they are trying to get protective gear to medical staff at hospitals across Texas as quickly as possible, as the coronavirus continues to spread.

The Trail Foundation is closing outdoor gym equipment around Lady Bird Lake.
Julia Reihs / KUT

The Trail Foundation recommends people exercise as close to home as possible and stay off the Butler Hike and Bike Trail around Lady Bird Lake to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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

Hospitals must submit daily reports on bed capacity and COVID-19 tests to the state health department, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday. The department will in turn submit reports to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Click here to read this story in English. 

La ciudad de Austin ha emitido una orden para los residentes de quedarse en casa para ayudar a detener la propagación del coronavirus. La orden entrará en efecto a las 11:59 pm de este martes. 

A delivery person carries Amazon packages to an apartment complex in South Austin. Mail and shipping services are considered essential under Austin's stay-at-home order.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The City of Austin has issued an order that requires everyone (with some exceptions) to stay at home and requires many businesses to close in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The City of Austin has issued an order for residents to stay at home to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday and will last until at least April 13.

Park-goers exercise at Vic Mathias Shores in South Austin on March 23. City leaders have encouraged Austinites to exercise and walk outside, as long as they stay six feet apart from other people.
Julia Reihs / KUT

This post has updates from Tuesday, March 24. 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.

A heart with "ATX" inside on the Fairmont Hotel
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Stay-at-home orders are expected to be issued in the City of Austin, Travis County and Williamson County on Tuesday in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said. The orders would require all nonessential businesses to have employees work from home and further restrict other gatherings.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

Texas health officials have banned abortions as part of what they say is an effort to crack down on medical procedures that are “not immediately medically necessary” during the spread of the coronavirus in the state.

Eddie Gaspar for KUT

From Texas Standard:

As of Monday morning, there is no statewide shelter-in-place order in Texas like the ones in New York and California. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order last week requiring bars and gyms to close and restaurants to limit service to takeout orders. But he said expanding that to shelter in place would be up to local officials.

Abbott is also looking to grow the state's supply of safety equipment for medical professionals, to protect them from COVID-19.

H-E-B set limits on how many cleaning products customers could purchase at a time after people were clearing out shelves during the coronavirus pandemic.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Cities across the country are expecting a surge in plumbing problems related to the use of disinfecting wipes to combat COVID-19. In Austin, water utility officials are urging people not to flush wipes and other products that can jam up private plumbing and the wastewater system.

A person crosses an empty San Jacinto Boulevard in downtown Austin on Friday.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A "shelter-in-place" order for Austin-Travis County will be announced Tuesday, Mayor Steve Adler confirmed to KUT.

It was unclear when the order would go into effect. 

Drive-thru screening takes place at the CommUnityCare Hancock Walk-In Clinic during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Click here to read this story in English. 

La vida diaria de los tejanos ha cambiado drásticamente en la última semana. Distritos escolares han cerrado al menos por lo que queda del mes. Varias ciudades -y después el gobernador- han ordenado el cierre de bares y los comedores de los restaurantes. Las aglomeraciones de gente están limitadas a no más de 10 individuos. Grandes eventos anuales han sido cancelados. 

Shoppers practice social distancing while waiting to go in the H-E-B in South Austin on Monday.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This page has updates from Monday, March 23. Read Tuesday's live updates here. If you'd like to go through a roundup of COVID-19 news from over the weekend, read it here. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

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

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Sunday he is issuing orders to increase health care and hospital capacity as COVID-19 spreads throughout the state. He said he was not, however, going to issue a "shelter-in-place" order for Texas, as many other governors have done.

 A line of shoppers waits to enter Costco in South Austin during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez C. Pérez / KUT

New rules went into effect in Austin on Saturday night to enforce social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Drive-thru screening takes place at the CommUnityCare Hancock Walk-In Clinic during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Daily life for Texans has changed drastically in the past week. School districts have closed for at least the rest of the month. Several cities – and then the governor – ordered bars and restaurant dining rooms to close. Mass gatherings have been limited to no more than 10 people. Big, annual events have been canceled. 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has a roundup of local coronavirus news from the weekend of March 22-23. If you'd like to go through Monday's live updates, read them here. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first rapid point-of-care COVID-19 test, that can deliver results in less than an hour.

Cepheid, a Silicon Valley diagnostics company, made the announcement on Saturday, saying it has received emergency authorization from the government to use the test.

Bars and businesses are closed and boarded up on Sixth Street on Thursday.
Julia Reihs / KUT

Austin small businesses and nonprofits hurt by the COVID-19 crisis can now apply for emergency loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The Austin City Council is also considering a gap-financing program that could provide loans to applicants as they await the federal loans.

Julia Reihs / KUT

The May 26 primary election runoffs will be delayed until July in response to the growing outbreak of the new coronavirus in Texas under an order signed Friday by Gov. Greg Abbott.

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