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, restaurant and bar closures, quarantines and the cancellation 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. 

COVID-19 is spread mainly from person to person or through contaminated surfaces. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Illnesses have ranged from being mild to severe and in some cases have caused death. 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. 

The World Health Organization announced Jan. 30 that the outbreak constitutes a global health emergency. The first positive cases in Travis County were reported March 13.

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

Drivers line up to be tested for COVID-19 at the CommUnityCare clinic at the Hancock Center.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Retail businesses can reopen in Texas today – as long as they’re only doing curbside or delivery. On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to announce the next phase in the state’s loosening of restrictions put in place to contain the coronavirus.

But are we ready?

Travis High School is shuttered.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The transition to online learning has presented a new challenge for teachers: how to help students deal with the emotional turmoil of living through a pandemic. 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Abortion providers are no longer banned from performing the procedure in Texas, state officials said in a court filing Thursday morning,

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The City of Austin and Travis County are partnering to form a task force focused on reopening the local economy. The Opening Central Texas for Business Task Force will be spearheaded by the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Texas Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order that limits judges' ability to grant personal bonds to people with a history – or people who are accused of – violent crimes.

Education reporter Claire McInerny has been working out of her home office in her bedroom, while news anchor Nadia Hamdan rotates going into the studio.
Courtesy of Claire McInerny and Nadia Hamdan

KUT Managing Editor Ben Philpott told the news staff on March 12 almost all of us would be working remotely the next day to practice that routine "just in case."

The next day, the first positive cases of COVID-19 were reported in Austin, and that trial run became the new normal.

Firefighters from Austin Fire Department Station 22 wear face masks during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

We'll be updating this story throughout the day Thursday with the latest local news on the coronavirus pandemic. 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.

A Planned Parenthood office in Austin with a mural of a woman holding a globe on the side of it.
Julia Reihs / KUT

Clinics that provide abortions have resumed providing the procedure after a state ban on nonessential medical procedures expired.

Maria Hernandez, 91, died last week after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Courtesy of the Hernandez family

Maria Hernandez isn’t a household name. She’s not famous. She was never a mayor or a congresswoman. But, her family says, the 91-year-old was tough.

Michael Minasi / KUT

Staff working at multiple facilities is contributing to an outbreak of COVID-19 in the region’s nursing homes, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said Wednesday.

An H-E-B employee delivers groceries to a customer's car as part of the store's curbside pickup service.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Wednesday, April 22. Read Thursday's live updates here. If you'd like to go through a roundup of COVID-19 news from Tuesday, read it here. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Samantha White shows her journal
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Wake up. Eat breakfast. Don’t leave the house. Work from home. Think about what else is to come. Don’t leave the house. Hang out with friends over Zoom. Watch TV. Leave the house – but wear a mask. Worry. Feel grateful. Worry. Get sad. Don’t leave the house. Do it all again, with some slight variation, the next day.

Vodka Street Global Bistro and Bar in downtown San Marcos has temporarily closed its operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eddie Gaspar / The Texas Tribune

Many Democrats want the economy to remain closed. Some Republicans have insisted that it reopen immediately. But more than anyone else, the decision about when — and how — Texas will return to business as usual falls to Gov. Greg Abbott.

"Yoga with Adriene" has more than 7 million subscribers on YouTube.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin is home to a popular YouTube channel that’s become a lifeline for many people during the spread of the coronavirus. "Yoga with Adriene" has more than 7 million subscribers from all over the world – and its videos have been viewed more than half a billion times.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Gov. Greg Abbott said his team is working quickly on a program to get Texans back to work and that he’ll be making an announcement Monday about next steps to reopen the state's economy. 

“The good news is Texas is prepared to be taking very positive steps toward opening up our state and finally ensuring that we’re going to have more of our employees going back to work,” he said during a press conference Tuesday.

He did not say what types of businesses will be able to open.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

After facing intense criticism for suggesting on Fox News last month that he’d rather perish from the new coronavirus than see instability in the state’s economic system, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Monday night that he’s thankful Texas is beginning the process of reopening its economy because the restrictions are currently “crushing small businesses” and the economic market.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Austin Recovery, a nonprofit that's provided substance abuse treatment in Central Texas since 1967, says it's closing its doors because of the coronavirus.

A face mask hangs in the rearview mirror of a car.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

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

Gov. Greg Abbott announced a strike force in charge of laying steps to reopen the Texas economy at a press conference in the capitol on April 17.
Miguel Gutierrez/POOL via The Texas Tribune

Texans rallied outside the state Capitol over the weekend, pushing for Gov. Greg Abbott to quickly reopen the state. But, as Texas COVID-19 deaths continue to rise, Abbott’s planning a more gradual approach and outlined a phased reopening for the state’s economy on Friday.

An oil pump jack in Odessa.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

For the first time in history, a barrel of West Texas oil was so worthless Monday that oil companies would pay you to take it. Oil prices have been low for months, but the negative pricing of a valuable commodity can be hard to wrap your head around. How does it happen?

An ultrasound machine at a women's health clinic in Austin.
Tamir Kalifa for The Texas Tribune

Reversing course, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals said access to pill-induced abortions can be restricted while the state fights the coronavirus pandemic.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

From Texas Standard:

On Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced measures loosening restrictions on some parts of the Texas economy. State parks begin reopening on Monday, with partial lifting of restrictions on retail stores and surgery providers to follow. 

On Sunday, state data showed a 4% increase over the previous day's number of coronavirus cases. The total is approximately 19,000 in Texas. The statewide death toll totals just under 500 lives lost to COVID-19.

Updated at 4:53 p.m. ET

The dramatic collapse in worldwide demand for oil led to an extraordinary development on Monday: U.S. oil prices fell below zero for the first time ever, and kept falling.

The key U.S. oil benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, settled at negative $37.63.

Driven by a trading contract deadline, traders desperately looked for buyers for the barrels of oil they normally hold in their books. But buyers were hard to find — even when the oil was being given away for free.

CommUnity Care conducts drive-up COVID-19 screening at the Hancock Center on March 18.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Monday, April 20. Read Tuesday's live updates here. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

People wear face coverings in Austin to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

UT Austin's COVID-19 Modeling Consortium is analyzing data on a rolling basis to chronicle and predict the spread of the coronavirus. The news so far in the Austin-Round Rock area is pretty good. Adherence to social distancing and other guidelines has reduced transmission by over 90%.

But there is no guarantee that it will continue on this path.

The Austin skyline during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin Public Health says it’s investigating nine clusters of COVID-19 in the Austin-Travis County area. One was recognized last week at The Salvation Army's downtown Austin shelter, and the others are among eight senior living communities or long-term care facilities, the city said in a press release Sunday evening. 

Updated at 8:37 p.m. ET

At a briefing of his task force Sunday, President Trump said his administration would have a call with governors and the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Monday to discuss how to increase coronavirus testing capacity in states.

Trump's remarks come as the administration defends its testing response and guidelines for states to start resuming normal operations, even as several governors said they are far short of the testing capacity they'd need to lift restrictions.

They buried my dad this week.

Normally, I'd say "we" buried him. But this is nothing like normal.

I was 1,300 miles away, working remotely, at my dining room table.

My sister, her husband, their son? They stood in a church cemetery in Maryland, socially distanced from the pastor, and the grave itself.

Luis Diaz Argente plays tennis
Courtesy of Luis Diaz Argente

College junior Luis Diaz Argente was at home in Madrid last Wednesday when he got a message from his tennis coach.

“We need to have a meeting right now," Estevam Strecker texted. "And I mean it … right now.”

A message in chalk reminds people to wash their hands and be safe.
Gabriel C. Perez / KUT

The number of deaths related to COVID-19 have likely not peaked nationwide, UT Austin researchers reported Friday. Their findings are in contrast to those of a popular COVID-19 predictive model from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which suggested U.S. deaths peaked Monday.

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