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. 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

The Austin Convention Center will be ready next week to take in COVID-19 patients, if needed, local health officials say, but ideally, they hope that never happens.

As the coronavirus continues to spread rapidly throughout the U.S. and beyond, many are wondering: How on earth will this end? In an interview televised this week, President Trump reiterated his belief that sooner or later the virus will burn itself out. "I will be right eventually," the president told Fox News host Chris Wallace. "It's going to disappear, and I'll be right."

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

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

Some people wear face coverings while exercising along the Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail in Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Nearly a month after face masks were mandated and bars closed, Austin’s COVID-19 situation appears to be plateauing. New cases are down over the past week or so. Hospital admissions have leveled off.

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, July 23. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

It's hard to maintain morale in a Texas summer, let alone this summer in the face of an unprecedented pandemic.

It's harder when, on top of all that, you're working outside in 110-degree heat indices, wearing two protective gowns, three facial coverings, carrying heavy gear and transporting patients to a hospital packed with COVID-19 patients.

Updated at 6:50 p.m. ET

President Trump on Wednesday placed much of the blame for the swell in coronavirus cases on recent demonstrations against racism and police brutality, ignoring in large part his administration's push to reopen the national economy before the virus had been fully contained.

A face covering is placed over a statue at Taco Xpress in South Austin during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Wednesday, July 22. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

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

Austin Public Health officials said Wednesday they believe the number of new coronavirus cases in the area is going down. This comes three weeks after Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order requiring people to wear face coverings in public to help slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Charlton Schrieber cools off on a July afternoon.
Mose Buchele / KUT

Ask people camped on Cesar Chavez Street by the Terrazas Branch Library how it’s going, and you won’t be surprised by the answer.

“It’s hot, very hot,” says a man named George, who didn’t want to give his last name.

UT Austin plans to allow 50% seating capacity at football games at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium this fall during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Texas Longhorns football plans to return to the Forty Acres this fall.

UT Austin has announced it will move forward with a 50% seating capacity for football games at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Medication abortions are administered through pills.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

During a ban on abortion services in Texas earlier this year, more women sought out a telemedicine abortion service called Aid Access.

President Trump took to the White House briefing room on Tuesday to praise his administration's response to the virus that has killed more than 140,000 Americans so far. In a reversal of his recent statements and tone, he acknowledged the severity of the pandemic and urged Americans to comply with preventative measures.

"It will likely unfortunately get worse before it gets better," Trump said in uncharacteristically somber remarks, encouraging Americans to social distance, practice good hygiene and wear masks.

Austin está preparando otro programa de asistencia de alquiler para ayudar a las personas afectadas por la pandemia del COVID-19.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español.

The City of Austin is preparing a second round of rental assistance for people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, this time from a pot of roughly $13 million in federal and local funds, which it expects to give out over at least five months.

Coronavirus Numbers Confusing You? Here's How To Make Sense Of Them.

Jul 21, 2020
Cars line up for drive-thru COVID-19 testing in Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Turn on the TV news, or look at a news website, and you’ll see charts, graphics, and dashboards that supposedly indicate the latest with COVID-19 – statistics revealing the number of tests, cases, hospitalizations and deaths, along with where they happened and whether they are rising or falling.

The University Interscholastic League released a modified athletics schedule for Texas high schools on Tuesday.
Michael Minasi / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Tuesday, July 21. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

The U.S. Navy on Sunday deployed five medical teams to support health workers in South Texas, an area particularly hard hit by COVID-19. The state has had 10,000 new cases a day on average over the last week, up 55% since the beginning of July. And just over 4,000 people in Texas have died since the start of the pandemic.

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From Texas Standard:

In the search for answers during the COVID-19 pandemic, San Antonio’s University Hospital has become the largest study site for phase two of Remdesivir clinical trials. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved emergency use of the antiviral drug.

For Lorena Schneehagen, the additional $600 unemployment payment each week during the coronavirus pandemic has held her family's expenses together.

She's an out-of-work preschool teacher in Ann Arbor, Mich., whose son is about to start college.

"I need that to help pay his tuition," Schneehagen said. "And for food and just to pay the general bills."

People wear face coverings while walking along South Congress Avenue on July 15.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Monday, July 20. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

People wearing masks walk along South Congress Avenue.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Several weeks ago, James says he was out on a job as an electrician, being escorted around a building by a customer who was not wearing a mask.

Earlier this month, the University of Texas at Austin laid out a comprehensive set of benchmarks answering the question of what it would take to close down campus again.
Allie Goulding / The Texas Tribune

Texas universities planning for students returning to class this fall in the midst of a global pandemic are already preparing for the possibility that they could have to abruptly shut down campus again if conditions worsen.

Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

A Houston federal judge ruled Friday that the Republican Party of Texas may proceed with its in-person convention, a striking last-minute development as party officials have struggled to get a virtual gathering underway. But soon after the ruling, party Chair James Dickey said the party will continue with its plans for a virtual convention, saying it would provide the best opportunity for delegates to participate.

Dicklyon /Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

From Texas Standard:

Note: This interview was recorded before the Texas Education Agency released updated guidelines for school districts to follow when reopening for the fall. The updated guidelines were released Friday morning. 

As COVID-19 cases in Texas continue to rise, parents and students are urgently seeking an answer to the question: What happens in the fall?

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

Facing growing backlash from teachers, parents and health officials, Texas education officials Friday relaxed a previous order that would have given public schools just three weeks from the start of the fall semester to reopen their classrooms for in-person instruction.

Michael Minasi / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Friday, July 17. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

As the number of new coronavirus cases in Texas continues to rise and hospitals grow more crowded, Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday there is no statewide shutdown looming.

Mandy Collins lives in Little Mountain, S.C., with her husband and three kids. The 38-year-old never owned a gun before. Her husband doesn't have one either. But after the pandemic hit, she spent $450 on a powerful handgun.

"With all the toilet paper gone and everything, people just started acting crazy," she says. "I guess the fear of the unknown and letting prisoners out of prison, and I just ... decided I wanted to go ahead and just purchase one."

Wendy Rigby/Texas Public Radio

From Texas Standard:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs credits early preventive measures at its 170 medical facilities for keeping more beds available for civilian COVID-19 patients in Texas and nationwide.

“We were the first ones to take dramatic steps,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told Texas Standard in an interview that aired on Thursday. “We stopped elective surgeries. We stopped visitors and family from coming into the hospitals.”

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 Thursday, July 16. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

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