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. 

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

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Wednesday, Aug. 12. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

From Texas Standard:

The college football season is supposed to begin in less than three weeks. But many universities still haven't decided how or if they'll move forward because of the pandemic. Not having a season could protect the health of players and fans, but it could also mean loss of revenue that's vital to college athletic departments.

Gov. Greg Abbott
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday expressed optimism about the declining number of hospitalizations related to the coronavirus, but stressed that Texans still need to be vigilant about wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.

At least 97,000 children tested positive for the coronavirus during the last two weeks of July, according to a new review of state-level data by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Children's Hospital Association. The increase represents a 40% surge in the nation's cumulative total of child cases.

The Travis County Courthouse
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Tuesday, Aug. 11. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

An electronic sign in Austin tells drivers to "Stay and be counted" in the 2020 census.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español.

Texas’ growing Latino population is poised to be significantly undercounted in this year’s census, following a slew of recent Trump administration moves.

Katy Berry serves the Richardson family at Lava Cantina, a restaurant and bar in The Colony. Lava Cantina reopened July 24 after being shut down during the statewide order.
Shelby Tauber for The Texas Tribune

Hundreds of Texas bars and restaurants are scrambling to change how they operate, maneuvering through loopholes that will allow them to reopen after being closed by Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest shutdown targeting bars.

With few signs the coronavirus is fading, election officials face an increasingly urgent question: how to accommodate voters who become infected in the days leading up to the election.

In Texas — a state that fought expanding mail-in ballot access all the way up to the Supreme Court — COVID-19 positive voters can be put in the position of choosing between their right to vote and the public's health.

For Marjorie Roberts, it started on March 26.

The healthy, 59-year-old life coach in Atlanta says it started as a normal day. She went out to get the mail. As she walked back to her apartment, she lost her balance. Odd for her, but she didn't think much of it.

By evening, "everything came down on me like a ton of bricks," she says. Extreme fatigue was the first symptom among several. Her long ordeal was just beginning. "I had no idea what I was in for."

Stasia Erickson busks on South Congress Avenue on May 22.
Michael Minasi / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Monday, Aug. 10. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

A portrait of Lois Villasenor sits on a table next to her casket during her funeral.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Lee esta historia en español.

For the first time since it opened 60 years ago, Mission Funeral Home in East Austin is keeping its doors locked during business hours. You need an appointment to come in.

The intention is not to keep the grief out; that employees will face up close. It’s to protect against any potential spread of the coronavirus.

Updated at 10 a.m. ET Sunday

At his Bedminster, N.J., golf resort on Saturday, President Trump signed four executive actions to provide economic relief amid the coronavirus pandemic. The actions amount to a stopgap measure, after failing to secure an agreement with Congress.

The three memorandums and one executive order call for extending some enhanced unemployment benefits, taking steps to stop evictions, continuing the suspension of student loan repayments and deferring payroll taxes.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Read this story in English.

El principal médico de Salud Pública de Austin (APH, en inglés) dice que le preocupa que pueda haber un aumento en los casos de coronavirus y en las hospitalizaciones.

While most children who catch the coronavirus have either no symptoms or mild ones, they are still at risk of developing "severe" symptoms requiring admission to an intensive care unit, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new report released Friday.

Hispanic and Black children in particular were much more likely to require hospitalization for COVID-19, with Hispanic children about eight times as likely as white children to be hospitalized, while Black children were five times as likely.

The facade of the original Threadgill's on North Lamar, which closed in April.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin’s musical, cultural and some culinary history can be had Saturday in what is being billed as the last auction from the personal collection of former Threadgill’s and Armadillo World Headquarters owner Eddie Wilson. 

Medical supplies is stored at Austin Public Health's Alternative Care Site, which is a field hospital set up at the Austin Convention Center to treat COVID-19 patients if needed.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Friday, Aug. 7. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

A mannequin at Austin Country Flea Market wears a face covering. The market's owners are considering closing at the end of August.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin Country Flea Market is a place where you can find everything you need — and maybe a few things you didn’t know you needed.

Walking down the aisles of the market, or la pulga, you see colorful selections of embroidered Mexican clothing. Pivot to your right and come face-to-face with a collection of children’s backpacks and toys, or walk a little farther and find an assortment of household tools. All the while, the smell of roasted corn and turkey legs lingers in the air. 

Caution tape hangs from the door of Crockett High School in South Austin last month.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

The Austin Independent School District’s Board of Trustees voted to delay the start of classes for the school year until Sept. 8. Virtual classes were supposed to begin Aug. 18, but the board wanted to give teachers more time to prepare for online learning. 

As the school year starts in many districts across the country, a new national poll of teachers from NPR/Ipsos finds overwhelming trepidation about returning to the physical classroom.

A sign at Galindo Elementary School in South Austin reminds people that face coverings are required.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Thursday, Aug. 6. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

Addressing a city that has ground to a halt amid a pandemic, save for frontline workers who can’t stay home and protestors in the streets demanding cuts to the police budget, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said this time of turmoil is a chance to rebuild a more equitable city.

Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a press conference regarding COVID-19 in February.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Five of the Texas Legislature’s most conservative members are suing Gov. Greg Abbott and state health officials, claiming Texas leaders overstepped their bounds when they awarded a major contract for tracking Texas’ coronavirus outbreak to a little-known technology firm.

Most Americans support Trump administration efforts to stop immigrants from coming to the United States as long as it's done in the name of slowing the spread of the coronavirus, according to a new NPR/Ipsos poll.

But Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric during the pandemic has done little to budge public opinion on other immigration policies, the poll found. Most of Trump's policies, including his border wall, remain unpopular except among Republicans.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

The top doctor at Austin Public Health says he’s concerned there could be a rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

During a media briefing Wednesday, Dr. Mark Escott stressed the importance of wearing masks and social distancing in all situations, not just public outings. He and APH Director Stephanie Hayden said they’ve seen an increase in cases among gatherings of family and friends. 

Austin Public Health has set up an alternate care Site at the Austin Convention Center to take in COVID-19 patients, if needed.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Wednedsay, Aug. 5. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Texas Asians Seeing More Verbal Harassment

Aug 4, 2020
Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Since the new coronavirus first surfaced in China late last year, the number of reports of racist verbal threats and harassment targeting Asians in the United States has been on the rise, and both public health officials and police are starting to track it.

Cars line up for CommUnityCare's drive-thru COVID-19 testing at Hancock Center.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Tuesday, Aug. 4. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

A sign outside Crockett High School says the property is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

The Austin Independent School District Board has scheduled a vote Thursday night to delay the start of the school year from Aug. 18 to Sept. 8, because of COVID-19. The district says the delay would give employees time to adjust to new health and safety requirements for in-person instruction.

Medical supplies are stored at the Austin Convention Center, which has been turned into a field hospital if area hospitals get overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Monday, Aug. 3. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

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This story is part of an NPR nationwide analysis of states' revenue and budgets during the pandemic.

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