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

Hospitalizations for the coronavirus in Austin-Travis County are plateauing, local public health officials said Wednesday.

At a news briefing, Dr. Jason Pickett, the city’s alternate health authority, described the leveling off as a “glimmer of hope,” but said it’s too early to tell if that trend will continue.

The empty hallway at Dawson Elementary
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

The Austin Independent School District will not offer in-person classes when school starts Aug. 18, the district announced Tuesday. All classes will be held virtually for the first three weeks of the school year. 

Macie Kelly/Houston Public Media

From Texas Standard:

Houston is going the way of New York when it comes to rising coronavirus cases and hospitalizations – that's according to New York Times correspondent Dr. Sheri Fink.

UT Austin students pass by the main building on campus on their way to and from classes.
Tamir Kalifa for The Texas Tribune

On Tuesday, the Trump administration walked back recent guidance that would have deported international college and university students if they were enrolled exclusively in online classes this fall. The repeal follows outspoken criticism from universities, legal experts and higher education advocates, who deemed the rules unfairly punitive for foreign students.

Cars line up at CommUnityCare's drive-thru testing site in Hancock Center earlier this month.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Tuesday, July 14. 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

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Monday, July 13. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Dawson Elementary School, along with other schools in Austin ISD, closed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

The first day of classes for Central Texas school districts is about a month away, but many parents and teachers still don’t know what it will look like. 

As the pandemic continues, children are still mostly at home. Summer activities are canceled or up in the air, and many children are suffering confusion and stress. Parents may be stressed themselves, but there are ways to help kids feel better.

During the first few weeks of staying at home, Maryam Jernigan-Noesi's 4-year-old son Carter was excited. His working parents were around him most of the day, and it seemed like a big extended weekend. But after a few weeks, she says, things changed.

I'm hearing a lot of talk about the coronavirus spreading through aerosols — is wearing a mask in a grocery store enough protection? What else should I do to stay safe?

Quick answer first: Going to the grocery store where you and everyone else is wearing a mask and keeping a distance from each other is still considered a low-risk activity. Go get your summer strawberries!

Recardo B. Brazziell / Austin American-Statesman (pool)

With Texas continuing to break records for new coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations this week, Gov. Greg Abbott reiterated Friday afternoon that things will continue to get worse. And if people keep flouting his new statewide mask mandate, he said, the next step could be another economic lockdown.

The American Academy of Pediatrics once again plunged into the growing debate over school reopening with a strong new statement Friday, making clear that while in-person school provides crucial benefits to children, "Public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics." The statement also said that "science and community circumstances must guide decision-making."

More Houston-Area Residents Dying At Home

Jul 10, 2020
Brad.K/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

An increase in the number of Houston-area residents dying at home suggests more people may be affected by the coronavirus than previously known, a new report by NBC News and ProPublica reveals. 

The two news organizations analyzed Houston Fire Department data and found that in June, the number of times paramedics responded to a home where someone died of a heart attack had jumped about 50%.

Jason Rubio and Diana Anzaldua started AYUDA, an errand service geared toward Latinos in Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Read this story in English.

Mientras el COVID-19 desgarra a la comunidad latina de Austin, una pareja local trabaja para encontrar formas de mantener a los latinos en casa tanto como sea posible.

Diana Anzaldua y Jason Rubio dicen que la pandemia nunca se sintió tan grave como ahora.

"No nos pareció tan personal porque nadie que conocíamos tenía [a la enfermedad] realmente", dijo Rubio. "Así que fue una especie de cosa extraña".

A person with a face mask on South Congress.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

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

Jason Rubio and Diana Anzaldua started AYUDA, an errand service geared toward Latinos in Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

As COVID-19 tears through Austin’s Latino community, a local couple is working to find ways to keep Latinos at home as much as possible.

Drivers wait in line to get tested for COVID-19 at CommUnityCare Hancock Clinic on July 2.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Read this story in English.

La ciudad de Austin hará cumplir a partir de ahora las leyes que exigen que la gente use protectores faciales en público y multará a los negocios que no sigan las medidas que tienen como objetivo reducir la propagación del COVID-19.

Las personas que violen las normas de uso de mascarillas o cubrebocas podrían enfrentar una multa de hasta $2,000 y podrían ser llevadas a la corte civil por la ciudad.

Texas Republican Convention in Fort Worth in 2014.
Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

The Republican Party of Texas is suing Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and others involved with the canceling of the party's in-person convention, which was scheduled to happen next week.

Nearly Half Of Texans Haven’t Returned Their 2020 Census Form

Jul 9, 2020
Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Texas ranks low when it comes to participation rates in the 2020 census – 40th in the nation. So far, only 57% of Texans have returned their census forms.

Demographer Lila Valencia from the Texas Demographic Center told Texas Standard on Thursday that could lead to an undercount of the population, which could mean a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding over the next 10 years.

A young person reads a sign posted on the door at Travis High School, after the building closed in March because of the pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

If school buildings in Austin open on Aug. 18 as planned, there will be infections the first day of class, UT mathematical epidemiologist Lauren Ancel Meyers said.

Drivers wait in line to get tested for COVID-19 at CommUnityCare Hancock Clinic on July 2.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

Austin will now enforce laws that require people to wear facial coverings in public and penalize businesses for not following measures that aim to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

People who violate the mask rules could face a fine of up to $2,000 and could be taken to civil court by the city.

An employee at Slapbox Pizzicheria in Round Rock posts a sign saying face coverings are required.
Michael Minasi / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Thursday, July 9. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Pedestrians on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail in Austin on June 24.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday signaled his encouragement to Austin city leaders to move forward on "additional enforcement mechanisms" related to a recent order Abbott issued requiring Texans to wear masks in most public spaces.

Dawson Elementary School closes on Friday, March 13, following the first confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

The union for Austin Independent School District employees is asking the district and the state not to send employees back to school buildings in August. Union members say it is unsafe for employees and children to be in classes together.

Michael Minasi/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Less than three weeks ago, Texas was set to unveil its public-school reopening plan for the fall. That announcement was stalled after coronavirus cases and hospitalizations started to soar in the state.

But on Tuesday, the Texas Education Agency finally released its back-to-school guidelines, which included recommendations for preventing the spread of the coronavirus on campuses.

Cars in line for drive-thru testing at the CommUnityCare Hancock Clinic on July 2.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

What questions do you have about health care disparities during the coronavirus pandemic? Dr. Jewel Mullen joined us for a live conversation Wednesday afternoon to answer those questions.

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 Wednesday, July 8. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

People cross the Lady Bird Lake pedestrian bridge under MoPac Expressway on July 1.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

With average daily hospitalizations in the Austin metro area ticking above a key threshold of 70 per day Tuesday, public health officials are weighing whether to recommend the region move to stage 5 of their “risk-based guidelines.” The guidelines at that stage call for closing all but essential workplaces and having even low-risk individuals avoid gatherings outside the household.

Texas reported more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, smashing its previous record for single-day increases and becoming latest state to reach this grim milestone.

Florida did so earlier in this month and New York in April.

People line up for drive-thru COVID-19 testing in Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin surpassed a crucial threshold for COVID-19 hospitalizations Tuesday, which could signal possible restrictions on businesses and nonessential travel.

Pages