COVID-19

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 1 million. Illnesses have ranged from being mild to severe and in some cases have caused death. More than 65,000 people around the world have died from the disease, while more than 250,000 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

Houston VA Medical Center/Flickr

An employee at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston has tested presumptive positive for COVID-19, according to the center. 

In response, the Houston VA says it will conduct most of its non-urgent care virtually over the next several days, through telephone, email or its online VA Video Connect app. 

The hospital has also postponed all elective surgeries and procedures, though it remains open for care. 

To date, the hospital says no veterans have tested positive for COVID-19.

Dallas County Expands Coronavirus Response

Mar 18, 2020
KERA News

From Texas Standard:

On Wednesday morning, Dallas County reported 35 cases of COVID-19. Those infected range in age from teens to 70s. Three patients have been hospitalized.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says his county continues to face a shortage of coronavirus testing kits. That is likely causing a five-to-seven-day lag in the number of reported cases matching the number of actual cases, he says.

By now, you've heard the advice that to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S., we need to practice social distancing. But if you're confused as to what that looks like in practice, we've got some answers.

On Monday, the White House announced new guidelines for the next two weeks, urging Americans to avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people; to avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, or social visits; and not to go out to restaurants or bars.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference declaring a statewide emergency over the new coronavirus.
Eddie Gaspar / The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott says he will make an announcement Thursday about potential further statewide action to combat the new coronavirus, acknowledging that the spread of COVID-19 in Texas has increased dramatically over the past several days.

Sen. Ted Cruz, seen at an election night party in 2018, quarantined himself after being potentially exposed to COVID-19
Julia Reihs / KUT

U.S. Ted Cruz was back in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, after spending nearly a week in self-quarantine at his Houston home. Though he did not get sick, the Texas Republican’s voluntary isolation underscored the gravity of the coronavirus outbreak that Congress and the White House are now seeking expansive measures to address.

Austin's first drive-up testing center for COVID-19 at Baylor Scott & White clinic in North Austin on March 15, 2020.
Julia Reihs / KUT

Austin public health officials say they've received about 1,000 COVID-19 test kits, acknowledging that there is still a huge gulf between the number of tests available and the number of people who want to be tested. 

Updated at 4:18 p.m. ET

President Trump ordered the border with Canada partly closed on Wednesday and the Pentagon said it would join the coronavirus pandemic response with hospital ships, field treatment centers and medical supplies.

A man in protective gear takes down information from a driver at a drive-thru coronavirus testing site.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

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

Clockwise from top left, Ruby, Daniela, Kaisa, Hattie, Anderson, John, Eddie and Kate share what it's been like at home and out of school.
Courtesy photos

Schools in Central Texas are closed for at least three weeks to avoid spreading the coronavirus. With so many kids stuck at home (without the library, Thinkery or playdates to entertain them), we wanted to see how they are holding up.

A man carries groceries on the UT Austin campus during spring break on Tuesday.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

We'll keep this post updated on how people can help and get help in the Austin area during the coronavirus pandemic. Know of something missing from this list? Email Andy@KUT.org.

A sign posted at Via 313
Julia Reihs / KUT

The City of Austin’s Economic Development Department doesn't know how many residents will lose income because of the bar and restaurant closures and crowd-control rules announced to stop the spread of COVID-19. But, with more than 125,000 people working in the service and hospitality industry alone, the number is bound to be high.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Capital Metro will be running fewer buses and trains on many routes starting Wednesday and is developing financial contingency plans in response to COVID-19. To protect drivers, Cap Metro is also asking passengers to enter buses through the rear door, unless they’re paying with cash or need the ramp.

Major General Tracy Norris, with the National Guard, speaks to the media during a news conference on coronavirus last month.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that he is activating the Texas National Guard in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak in the state, which had at least 76 positive cases as of Tuesday. While there is no need to deploy troops yet, he said, Guard members will be standing ready.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET

President Trump has proposed sending money directly to Americans to help blunt the economic impact caused by the coronavirus pandemic, saying it's time to "go big" to boost the now-stalled economy.

Trump said he wants Congress to push through a major comprehensive package to help businesses and workers facing hardships — one of many abrupt shifts the administration has made this week as the scope of the pandemic has come into sharp focus.

Flower Child in downtown Austin during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Restaurants are limited to drive-thru, pick-up and delivery service; bars must close; and gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited in Austin effective noon Tuesday.

A lone person carries toilet paper and a bag of items.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

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

Windsor Park resident CC Rowe uses her regular runs now to perform drop-offs and pick-ups of items for her neighbors that are self-isolating to protect themselves from the coronavirus pandemic.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Hand sanitizer is now a thing worth whispering about.

“Shhhh, somebody had a little left over,” CC Rowe said, as she grabbed a small bottle of aloe-scented hand sanitizer ensconced in a Ziploc bag from a neighbor’s porch.

A sign telling people how to stay healthy.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

As Central Texas prepares for an inevitable spike in COVID-19 diagnoses, medical professionals are calling on local officials to address unmet needs and implement tighter restrictions on public gatherings.

Gabriel C. Perez / KUT

It’s fair to say that daily life in Austin, Central Texas and our nation has radically changed in the last 10 days. Concerns over the spread of the coronavirus have touched our schools, places of work and worship, entertainment venues, hospitals, public transportation and more. 

Social Distancing Comes With Social Side Effects. Here's How To Stay Connected.

Mar 16, 2020
The Travis County Tax Office has signs posted to encourage people to prevent the spread of disease.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

To fight the spread of coronavirus, government officials have asked Americans to swallow a hard pill: Stay away from each other.

Gov. Greg Abbott, seen here at a press conference last year, says there will be an exponential increase in the number of people who test positive for COVID-19.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Texans should prepare for an exponential increase in the number of people who test positive for COVID-19, Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday. 

The Austin Independent School District
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The Austin Independent School District announced Monday it will close schools through April 3 out of concern over COVID-19. Classes are expected to resume April 6.

Dawson Elementary School closes on Friday, March 13 following the first confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

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

Updated at 1:55 a.m. ET Monday

In an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now advising against gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks.

Updated at 8:00 p.m. ET

States hit hardest by the spread of coronavirus will see drive-through and walk-through testing sites set up this week, the White House said on Sunday, a shift that will provide more information about how widely the virus has spread across the country.

The sites each will be able to screen 2,000 to 4,000 people per day, with priority given to health care workers, first responders and people age 65 and older with respiratory symptoms and fevers above 99.6 degrees.

 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.

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