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. 

Jeff Levine places a face mask over the statue of Steve Ray Vaughn at Auditorium Shores during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

On our next edition of Now What?, KUT's weekly livestreamed discussion series in partnership with UT Austin and the Dell Medical School, we'll talk with Darlene Bhavnani, an epidemiologist at Dell Med.

Patrons sit outside at a brewery last month after Texas eased restrictions.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A record 29 people were admitted to the hospital in the Austin area for COVID-19 on Friday, bumping up the seven-day average for new hospital admissions to 17.

Barracuda's Closing A Harbinger Of Things To Come

Jun 12, 2020
Barracuda music venue in the Red River Cultural District
Julia Reihs / KUT

This week, the Barracuda, in business on 611 East Seventh Street for nearly five years, announced it was closing its doors for good.

Barracuda joins a growing list of Austin businesses that have fallen during the pandemic, including some, like Threadgills and the Townsend, that also featured live music. Every small business is suffering during the shutdown, but it’s especially true for music venues. Their math only works with big crowds, and even then it can be a struggle.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The H-E-B Austin Symphony July 4th concert and fireworks event at Auditorium Shores has been canceled this year over COVID-19 concerns, the Austin Symphony Orchestra announced Friday.

Customers dine on Perla's outdoor patio on South Congress Avenue on May 22.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Here's the latest news on COVID-19 in the Austin area for Friday, June 12. Click here for updates from Thursday. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

People sit outside a brewery on East Sixth Street on May 22.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Here's the latest news on COVID-19 in Central Texas for Thursday, June 11. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Pete P. Gallego Campaign Facebook page

From Texas Standard:

Pete Gallego was recently confirmed as the new president of his alma mater, Sul Ross State University in Alpine. Gallego is an Alpine native, and has had a long political career that included over 20 years in the Texas House of Representatives and two terms in the U.S. House.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

After three straight days of triple-digit spikes in the number of new coronavirus cases, officials in Austin say the growing number of hospitalizations is the more concerning upward trend.

Central Texas neuropsychotherapist Junice Rockman says establishing new routines and having honest conversations will help children through this challenging and uncertain summer, but tough days will still occur along with good days.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

We're embarking on a summer unlike any in decades: A pandemicProtests and demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism. A looming presidential election involving one of the most divisive presidents in history.  

A mural by Jomau on a boarded-up Sixth Street business on May 21.
Michael Minasi / KUT

KUT's Jennifer Stayton hosted a live conversation Wednesday about contact tracing with Dr. Parker Hudson, who leads the contact tracing team at UT Health Austin. Contact tracing is the work of identifying and isolating possible cases of a disease like COVID-19.

Michael Minasi / KUT

The recent spike in new confirmed COVID-19 cases is not related to the string of protests against police brutality across the city in the last two weeks, Austin Public Health's top doctor said.

Rania Lewis helps distribute donations for individuals experiencing homelessness under I-35.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Peaceful protests outside Austin police headquarters two weekends ago were marred by destruction as people set fire to a car and the belongings of Austinites living under I-35.

Students pack up to leave campus because of the coronavirus.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

College students in Austin are at risk of being severely undercounted in the 2020 census, which could put federal funding and political power for young people at risk for the next decade.

This week on Now What?, KUT's weekly livestreamed discussion series in partnership with UT Austin and the Dell Medical School, we'll talk with Dr. Parker Hudson, who leads the contact tracing team at UT Health Austin.

Contact tracing is the work of idenifying and isolating possible cases of a disease like COVID-19. Austin has hundreds of people working to find out who people with confirmed cases have come into contact with and warning those folks to stay isolated and get tested. 

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.

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