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. 

A packed crowd listens to Abhi The Nomad at 2019's ACL Fest.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUTX

Austin City Limits Music Festival has been officially canceled this year, with the festival saying it's "the only responsible solution" given the current COVID-19 situation in Texas.

The organizers of the two-weekend event hope to return to Zilker Park to celebrate the festival's 20th anniversary Oct. 1-3 and Oct. 8-10, 2021. 

Demonstrators protested outside the Capitol and governor's mansion Tuesday calling for the reopening of bars.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Lee esta noticia en español. 

With Travis County on the cusp of exceeding 10,000 total cases of coronavirus, local public health officials are pleading with Austinites to stay home for the Fourth of July holiday and help slow the growth of a disease that has hospitals on track to exceed capacity by mid-July.

A woman wears a face mask and gloves during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Wednesday, July 1. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Workers board up bars on Sixth Street in Austin after Gov. Greg Abbott closed bars in Texas for the second time in three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic on June 26.
Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune

Several Texas bars and owners filed a $10 million federal lawsuit Tuesday afternoon against Gov. Greg Abbott, in an attempt to void his executive order shutting down bars for a second time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Reversing Course, Texas Will Delay Work-Search Requirement For Unemployment Benefits

Jun 30, 2020
The Texas Workforce Commission Building in Austin on March 30, 2020.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

The Texas Workforce Commission decided Tuesday to postpone reinstating a work-search requirement for out-of-work Texans receiving unemployment benefits.

Houston Independent School District

For 40 years, Robin Stauffer has taught high school English in seven different school districts in three different states. Most recently, Advanced Placement English in Katy, where she says working with kids has kept her young and lighthearted.

CommUnityCare conducts drive-thru COVID-19 testing in Hancock Center.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Read this story in English.

De cara al fin de semana del 4 de julio, funcionarios de salud dicen que Austin está al borde de un pico de casos de COVID-19 que podría llevar a otro cierre completo de negocios y de la actividad social.

Updated at 1:40 p.m. ET

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert, told members of Congress on Tuesday that although he can't predict the ultimate number of infections and deaths related to the coronavirus, "it's going to be very disturbing."

A sign at the entrance to Austin Public Health's drive-thru coronavirus testing site.
Michael Minasi / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Tuesday, June 30. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

All city parks, including Zilker Park (pictured), will be closed over the Fourth of July weekend.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

The City of Austin is closing all parks and recreational facilities over the Fourth of July weekend to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

More Than 30 Texas Bars Sue Over Gov. Greg Abbott's Recent Shutdown Order

Jun 29, 2020
An employee boards up a bar on Sixth Street in Austin after Gov. Greg Abbott closed bars in Texas for the second time in three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune

Hoping to block Gov. Greg Abbott’s Friday decision ordering Texas bars to close due to a rise in coronavirus cases, more than 30 bar owners filed a lawsuit Monday challenging Abbott’s emergency order.

A sign encouraging healthy habits to prevent the spread of disease is posted at UT's student union.
Julia Reihs / KUT

UT Austin students will have the choice of attending classes in person, taking them online or doing a combination when campus reopens in August, the university announced Monday. Residence halls, dining halls, student centers, the union and recreation centers will be open.  

CommUnityCare conducts drive-thru COVID-19 testing in Hancock Center.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

Ahead of the Fourth of July weekend, health officials say Austin is at the precipice of a spike in COVID-19 cases that could lead to another full shutdown of businesses and social activity.

Austin Public Health's drive-thru coronavirus testing site in North Austin.
Michael Minasi / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Monday, June 29. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Updated at 8:49 a.m.

The world is about to hit a devastating milestone: half a million people dead, killed by the coronavirus pandemic that has swept the planet.

Shane Reilly started the flag installation in front on his North Austin home when there were just 973 deaths related to COVID-19 in Texas. He says he updates it every few days.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Our Now What? discussion series, exploring what we need to know about COVID-19 moving forward, continues Wednesday, July 1, with Dr. Rama Thyagarajan, an assistant professor of internal medicine at UT's Dell Medical School. 

The sunset over Canyon Lake in the Texas Hill Country.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Dust that has traveled across the ocean from the Sahara desert arrived in Austin this week. It’s an annual phenomenon that makes for hazy skies and beautiful sunsets. But this year it could also increase the spread and the deadliness of COVID-19.

Updated at 3:30 p.m. ET

The White House Coronavirus Task Force renewed calls for vigilance on Friday, acknowledging rising cases across Southern states and in parts of California.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered all bars to close in Texas as the state sees a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

All businesses that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from the sale of alcohol are required to close, though they may continue delivery and takeout, the governor said Friday.

Shoppers at Barton Creek Square wear face coverings.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Friday, June 26. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

A crowd sits on the lawn during Rock the Park by Mueller Lake.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people are prohibited in Travis County starting Friday through July 10. 

County Judge Sam Biscoe issued an order Thursday that states violating the new restriction could result in a fine of up to $1,000.

An employee at the Domain wears a face mask.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Thursday, June 25. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Spencer Selvidge / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

Gov. Greg Abbott has suspended elective surgeries and procedures at hospitals in Travis, Bexar, Dallas and Harris counties as COVID-19 hospitalizations surge across Texas.

A car pulls up to a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in North Austin.
Julia Reihs / KUT

Seven weeks after Gov. Greg Abbott began allowing businesses to reopen, Texas exceeded another one of his key metrics Wednesday when the seven-day average positivity rate passed 10%, a level that Abbott previously called a “warning flag.”

A health care worker at Austin Regional Clinic in South Austin during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

Austin-area medical professionals and health authorities warned that local hospitals could be overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients in the next several weeks as the number of cases in Central Texas has surged.

A mural on Sixth Street by @noted.tx on May 21.
Michael Minasi / KUT

What's behind the recent surge in coronavirus cases across Texas and what can we do about it? Dr. Liz Douglass from Dell Medical School joined us Wednesday afternoon for a live conversation to answer those questions.

Flags mark the number of COVID-19-related deaths in Texas.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Wednesday, June 24. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Students gather in an auditorium before class
Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

Texas public schools will be required to provide in-person instruction for students this fall, but state education officials have delayed releasing final public health guidelines for keeping them safe on campuses during the pandemic.

People are tested for COVID-19 at a drive-thru testing site in South Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

Texas reported more than 5,000 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, as hospitals in some parts of the state begin to show signs of straining to keep up with the renewed spread of the virus.

An employee at Little Woodrow's on West Sixth Street wears a mask on May 22.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Tuesday, June 23. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

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