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, though Abbott said people won’t face repercussions if they don’t.  

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. 

Texas reported a record-breaking number of COVID-19 hospitalizations Monday as the governor plans to reopen more businesses and double capacity.

UT Austin's fall semester begins Aug. 26. People will be required to wear face coverings in campus buildings.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

UT Austin will require students, faculty, staff and visitors to wear face coverings in campus buildings this fall, interim President Jay Hartzell announced Monday.

In nationwide demonstrations against the police killing of George Floyd and other black Americans, protesters are frequently pepper-sprayed or enveloped in clouds of tear gas.

A woman in a mask and scrubs talks to someone at a drive-thru coronavirus testing site in South Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Texas health officials are launching a study to look into why COVID-19 could be having a greater impact on vulnerable populations in the state.

Demonstrators face off with law enforcement in downtown Austin in solidarity with nationwide demonstrations and protests in honor of George Floyd of Minneapolis and, locally, Mike Ramos.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

Austin Public Health officials say people who participated in recent large gatherings — like protests against police violence — should sign up to get tested for COVID-19, even if they don’t have symptoms.

The city is expanding eligibility for people without symptoms to get tested for free at drive-thru sites.

West Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center has the most COVID-19-related deaths in Austin, according to nursing home data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released data Thursday on the number of reported cases of COVID-19 in nursing homes across the country. The data includes specifics on which facilities have cases — information that both Texas and Austin officials had previously refused to release, citing privacy laws.

The UT baseball stadium is empty on a summer evening.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Pandemic or not, for better or worse, organized sports in the U.S. are bounding their way back to a field, court and television near you. For months, sports fans have substituted live sports for Michael Jordan documentaries, celebrity video gaming and competitive cornhole to fill the void. But soon things will be different.

Austin ISD Superintendent Paul Cruz announces his resignation in February.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

There’s a lot we don’t know about the future for Austin’s students: Will Austin ISD's school buildings be open in August? Will online learning still be happening? Will there be sporting events or gatherings of any kind?

The AISD community also doesn't know who will be leading the district when the next school year starts. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Texas' top state leader in the fight against the coronavirus receives no state salary and is allowed to keep his other 30-hour-per-week paying gig overseeing a nonprofit utility.

Voters wait in line to cast ballots at the ACC Highland campus on March 3.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is not letting Texas open its ballot-by-mail program during the coronavirus pandemic, while legal challenges move through the federal and state court system.

A sign on a business in Austin during the coronavirus pandemic urges people to wash their hands frequently.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Dozens of local businesses in San Marcos could receive up to $5,000 of federal funding in the latest round of efforts to relieve communities that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

People sit outside Lazarus Brewing Co. on May 22.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Businesses in Texas previously operating at 25% capacity, such as bars and gyms, can now operate at 50% capacity, and restaurants will be able to offer dine-in service at 75% capacity starting June 12.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

The Texas A&M University System will reopen for in-person classes in the fall. That includes classes at its flagship campus in College Station as well as 10 others across Texas. But the campus experience won't be the same as it was before the pandemic.

People, some wearing face coverings, visit reopened businesses on East Sixth Street on May 22.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

We'll be updating this story throughout the day Wednesday with the latest local news on the coronavirus pandemic. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Thousands of face masks arrive in Austin to be distributed to construction workers on May 18.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Lauren Ancel Meyers' lab at UT Austin analyzes data and models scenarios for how things could play out with COVID-19. So what can the data tell us about where the pandemic is headed next? 

Michael Minasi / KUT

There have been 500 new cases of coronavirus in the Austin area in the past eight days, Austin Public Health officials said Wednesday.

Janet Pichette, APH chief epidemiologist, said the source of that spike can be attributed to businesses reopening and capacity expansions, coupled with recent holidays.

A mobile coronavirus testing site off I-35 in North Austin.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Austin Public Health says it’s going to launch mobile COVID-19 testing sites in Austin and Travis County to target populations that are disproportionately impacted by the virus. 

Chairs are turned over on tables at the Brentwood Social House.
Eddie Gaspar / The Texas Tribune

Texas collected about $2.6 billion in state sales tax revenue in May, leading to the steepest year-over-year decline in over a decade, Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced Monday.

The amount is 13.2% less than the roughly $3 billion the state collected in the same month last year.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

We'll be updating this story throughout the day Monday with the latest local news on the coronavirus pandemic. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

People venture out on South Congress as the state relaxes rules on bars and restaurants.
Michael Minasi / KUT

What can data tell us about where the pandemic is headed next?

Join us for the next episode of our weekly livestreamed interview series, Now What?, at noon on June 3 when we’ll talk with Lauren Ancel Meyers, a mathematical epidemiologist at UT Austin.

Austin Price for KUT

From Texas Standard:

The pandemic has had an outsized affect on Texas prisons. Almost 4,000 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, and 43 people in the system have died – that includes prison staff and inmates.

But Dallas Morning News investigative reporter Lauren McGaughy recently reported that thousands of prisoners who have been approved for parole can't leave lockup, and they're concerned for their health.

People swim laps in a pool
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The City of Austin will begin reopening libraries, pools and other services that have been shuttered during stay-at-home orders due to the pandemic. Starting next week, the city said, it will try to strike a balance between offering services as the state reopens and lingering health concerns due to the coronavirus. 

In an effort to keep voters safe, states of all political complexions are finding ways to expand access to mail-in ballots as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Then there's Texas.

The state has some of the most restrictive laws limiting vote by mail in the country. Under Texas law, the program is open only to people who are 65 or older, people who will be out of the county during the election, people who are in jail and not convicted, and people who are disabled.

Cars line up to receive food boxes during a Central Texas Food Bank emergency food relief distribution at Toney Burger Stadium on April 30.
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.

Julia Reihs / KUT

 

The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that the absence of immunity to COVID-19 does not qualify a voter to use the disability category to request a mail-in ballot during the coronavirus pandemic. The court also says it will not make election officials investigate – or deny – applications to vote by mail.

Confused by the back and forth over mail-in ballots in Texas? OK, let's sort some of that out.

A list of rules outside a bar that has reopened.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin and Travis County officials are urging people to wear face coverings and to avoid large gatherings as the city and the state reopen for business.

If that refrain sounds familiar, it's because you've heard the song – and it bears repeating, officials say, lest Austin see a surge in hospitalizations for COVID-19 that could cripple the region's health care infrastructure.

Elizabeth Hernandez moved to the United States from Mexico almost 30 years ago and was days away from becoming an American citizen when her March 15 naturalization ceremony was canceled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

"It made me sad," said Hernandez, who lives in New Mexico. She hadn't thought much about becoming a citizen until this year because of the upcoming election. "I want to vote for a president who will improve the country."

A COVID-19 testing site off I-35.
Michael Minasi / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Thursday, May 28. 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.

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 has reached a somber milestone: As of Wednesday afternoon, the highly infectious viral disease has taken more than 100,000 lives nationwide.

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Summertime means more Texans are expected to be out and gathering in public places. But that's a problem during a pandemic when the only way to keep the coronavirus from spreading is by maintaining social distance.

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