A sign at St. David’s Medical Center tells visitors to alert staff if they've traveled to a region with cases of COVID-19 and have certain respiratory symptom.
Credit Julia Reihs / KUT

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus that was first detected at the end of 2019 in Wuhan, China. An outbreak of the disease, which can be deadly, has led to travel restrictions, restaurants and bars closing, quarantines and cancellations of major events like South by Southwest. 

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can infect both people and animals. They can cause the common cold, as well as more severe diseases like SARS and MERS. COVID-19 is caused by a virus known as “SARS-CoV-2,” which primarily affects animals. It’s rare, but animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread from individual to individual, as is the case with this new coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Since the initial outbreak in China, COVID-19 has been reported in more than 100 locations around the world, including the U.S. The World Health Organization announced Jan. 30 that the outbreak constitutes a global health emergency. The number of confirmed cases worldwide has surpased 520,000. Illnesses have ranged from being mild to severe and in some cases have led to death. Nearly 24,000 people around the world have died from the disease, while about 120,000 have recovered.

The first positive cases in Travis County were reported March 13.

COVID-19 is spread mainly from person to person or through contaminated surfaces. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The CDC says people can take preventative measures like washing hands frequently, staying home when sick and covering sneezes and coughs. A vaccine or drug is currently not available. 

Global cases of COVID-19 tracked by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University

 Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra speaks during a joint press conference at the Hays County Courthouse on Sunday declaring a state of disaster due to the coronavirus.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Hays County and San Marcos declared a local state of disaster amid coronavirus concerns during a press conference Sunday morning. 

Families sit on blankets during KUTX's Rock the Park at Mueller Lake Park last fall.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The City of Austin has banned events with more than 250 attendees in an effort to stave off the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Oil prices bounced back a bit after President Trump said the Department of Energy would buy crude for the nation's strategic petroleum reserve.

"We're going to fill it right to the top," Trump said Friday in a wide-ranging news conference at the White House. He said it will save taxpayers "billions and billions of dollars" while helping an industry that's been reeling.

While oil prices increased nearly 5% after Friday's announcement, that was just a fraction of the amount they lost earlier in the week.

Empire Control Room and Garage
Julia Reihs / KUT

UpdateOfficials announced a ban on events with more than 250 people in attendance. Read more here.

Original story: Health officials are urging venues to cancel or reschedule events with more than 250 attendees in light of COVID-19 concerns.

Austin Public Health has capped large-scale events at 2,500, but issued a statement late Friday asking organizers to reconsider these smaller events, citing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

We'll share live updates on how the coronavirus is affecting Austin and Central Texas throughout the weekend. Have a news tip? Email us at

A sign at H-E-B tells customers they are limited to two items of bath tissue per shopping visit.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Texans don’t need to rush out and stock up on groceries or household items: There’s no shortage if everyone takes only what they need.

That’s the message from Texas officials and industry representatives, who say preparing for a health disaster like the state's COVID-19 outbreaks is different from a natural disaster.

How long can the new coronavirus live on a surface, like say, a door handle, after someone infected touches it with dirty fingers? A study out this week finds that the virus can survive on hard surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours.

A sign on Guadalupe tells drivers to stay home if they are feeling sick.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

We'll share live updates on how the coronavirus is affecting Austin and Central Texas throughout the day. Have a news tip? Email us at

Travis County Deputy Theresa Stewart serves an eviction suit to a tenant in Southwest Austin in 2018.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Eviction hearings in the Austin area will be put on pause until at least April 1, after Travis County justices of the peace issued an order Friday.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

As the coronavirus spreads in Texas, older people and people with underlying health issues are being asked to isolate themselves, which could make voting in upcoming elections tricky.

Updated at 9:30 p.m. ET

President Trump on Friday declared that the coronavirus pandemic is a national emergency, a designation that frees up as much as $50 billion in federal assistance to state and local governments overwhelmed by the spread of the virus, and makes it easier to surge medical resources to areas that need them most.

Rosa Montalvo, a cafeteria employee, delivers food to parents parked outside Dawson Elementary school.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin Independent School District is preparing meals to hand out to students while school is closed amid COVID-19 concerns. 

UT Austin President Greg Fenves
Martin do Nascimento / KUT

UT Austin President Greg Fenves' wife, Carmel, has tested positive for COVID-19, he said in a letter sent to the UT community Friday.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott formally declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

"I am at this moment declaring a state disaster for all counties in the state of Texas," he said at a news conference Friday. 

Laborerers work on the helipad of an offshore oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Coronavirus hit the global markets this week, sending stocks reeling and pushing economies toward possible recession. In Texas, the view could be even bleaker thanks to plummeting oil prices. Analysts say the state can expect layoffs, bankruptcies and state revenue shortfalls in the months ahead if prices remain low.

City and health officials gather at City Hall on March 6 to announce South by Southwest's closure.
Julia Reihs / KUT

The city is sharing additional details on the first confirmed coronavirus cases in Central Texas, Friday morning. 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Three presumptive positive cases of the coronavirus disease COVID-19 were confirmed in Austin Friday, city health officials said. The cases are the first confirmed in Central Texas.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Austin Independent School District is canceling large gatherings and other events through April 3 in response to COVID-19, Superintendent Paul Cruz announced Thursday.

A panelist of experts answer questions about COVID-19 during a special hour of Morning Edition.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

This post was updated on Friday, March 13, at 4: 18 p.m. 

KUT hosted a special hour of Morning Edition on Thursday to answer questions about the coronavirus. We asked listeners and readers to submit questions and assembled a panel of experts to answer them.

An eviction notice on a door
Gabriel C. Pérez

Local elected officials say they are looking into ways to help residents unable to pay rent or utility bills because of the potential spread of COVID-19.

UT announced Thursday that it is suspending all events at the Erwin Center for the immediate future.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Rodeo Austin and Willie Nelson's Luck Reunion will not be held this spring.   

Organizers received word from Travis County officials Thursday that the public health risk was too great.

There will also be no fans at Austin sporting events for the near term amid concerns over the coronavirus. As of Thursday evening, there were no confirmed cases in Travis County, but officials are playing it safe and planning as if there were.

The checkout lines at Costco 20 minutes after opening.
Sangita Menon / KUT

People concerned about fallout from the coronavirus have been wiping out grocery store shelves across Austin and the U.S. as other countries restrict movement to contain the spread of COVID-19. 

President Trump on Thursday defended new restrictions on travelers from most parts of Europe, a decision that angered allies and trading partners, was questioned by some public health experts and sent stock markets reeling.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

KUT hosted a special hour of Morning Edition to answer your questions about the coronavirus. For the past week, we've been taking listener and reader questions and have assembled a panel of experts to answer some of those questions.

Martin Do Nascimento / KUT

UT Austin is extending its spring break by one week in response to the coronavirus, UT President Greg Fenves announced Wednesday. Classes were originally scheduled to resume March 23, but will now resume March 30.

Updated at 12:34 a.m. ET Thursday

President Trump announced a 30-day ban on travel from European countries to the United States, beginning on Friday at midnight, in a bid "to keep new cases" of coronavirus "from entering our shores."

The restrictions, he said late Wednesday, do not apply to travelers from the United Kingdom.

Cindy Lo, owner of Red Velvet Events
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Cindy Lo spent the weekend after South by Southwest was canceled reassessing things. The owner of Red Velvet Events and her 27 employees have a reputation for transforming spaces into experiences for clients like Mercedes Benz and Tito’s Vodka. The loss of the festival could have been worse for her.

Dr. Mark Escott, interim medical director of Austin Public Health
Julia Reihs / KUT

Austin Public Health is mandating that nursing homes, assisted living and long-term care facilities in Austin-Travis County secure building access and screen all individuals – including employees, volunteers and visitors – for fevers before allowing them to enter.

Julia Reihs / KUT

With South by Southwest canceled, a collective of downtown clubs led by the Red River Cultural District announced a series of shows Wednesday that they're calling "We Can Do Magic."