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. 

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Summertime means more Texans are expected to be out and gathering in public places. But that's a problem during a pandemic when the only way to keep the coronavirus from spreading is by maintaining social distance.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The novel coronavirus pandemic has prompted lots of questions and uncertainty this year. How is the virus transmitted? Am I at risk? What is safe to do? But in addition to those immediate concerns, the pandemic is changing our lives forever in ways that are only now we're starting to grasp.

A sign in front of the reopened Revelry Kitchen + Bar says, "No shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service."
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin Public Health said it can administer 1,750 COVID-19 tests per day at its drive-thru testing site, but only 200 to 350 people are being tested each day.

In Large Texas Cities, Access To Coronavirus Testing May Depend On Where You Live

May 27, 2020

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the country, state and local health officials rush to try to detect and contain outbreaks before they get out of control. A key to that is testing, and despite a slow start, testing has increased around the country.

But it's still not always easy to get a test. While many things can affect access to testing, location is an important starting point.

East Austin bars and restaurants began to reopen May 22, including Lazarus Brewing Co.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Wednesday, May 27. 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.

A voter walks into a polling location
Julia Reihs / KUT

Many long-time election workers across Texas have indicated they don’t plan to be poll workers during the pandemic, voting groups say.

Barton Creek Mall in Austin reopened May 1 after being forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Greg Abbott said mall food courts can reopen today.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Water parks, recreational sports programs for adults, driver education programs and food-court dining areas in malls can reopen this month with certain occupancy restrictions and health protocols, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday.

A busy South Congress Street on Friday, the first day bars were allowed to reopen in Texas.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Latinos account for three-fourths of all COVID-19-related hospitalizations in the area – a "substantial" increase in the last week, according to health officials.

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is facing bipartisan criticism for hastily awarding a nearly $300 million contract to a little-known North Texas company to lead the state's contact-tracing program in the fight against the coronavirus.

A COVID-19 testing site off I-35.
Michael Minasi / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Tuesday, May 26. Read Wednesday's live updates here. 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.

The World Health Organization says it is temporarily halting its clinical trials that use hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients over published concerns that the drug may do more harm than good.

The move comes after the medical journal The Lancet reported on Friday that patients getting hydroxychloroquine were dying at higher rates than other coronavirus patients.

A sign outside Chupacabra Cantina tells customers the rules of reopening.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

From Texas Standard:

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, and many Texans have been enjoying the holiday weekend at parks and beaches. But the COVID-19 pandemic presses on, with cases still rising in Texas, and public gatherings only increase the likelihood that that trend will continue.

A sign at La Holly on East Sixth Street encourages patrons to wear face coverings.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

As restaurants and bars reopen to the public, it’s important to realize that eating out will increase your risk of exposure to the new coronavirus.

A Willie Nelson statue outside the Moody Theater in downtown Austin.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

An agreement to buy the Block 21 development in downtown Austin – home to ACL Live at the Moody Theater and the W Hotel – is off due to the economic impact caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Nashville-based Ryman Hospitality Properties Inc. made the deal in December to buy Block 21 from Stratus Properties Inc. for $275 million.

Flowers are placed near a headstone at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen, Texas on Feb. 27, 2019.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Monday, May 25. Read Tuesday's live updates here. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Updated July 4, 2020 at 3:00 p.m. ET

It has been months of quarantine for many of us. The urge to get out and enjoy the summer is real. But given that coronavirus cases continue to surge in many places, what's safe? We asked a panel of infectious disease and public health experts to rate the risk of summer activities, from backyard gatherings to a day at the pool to sharing a vacation house with another household.

A sign says "testing entrance."
Michael Minasi / KUT

Texas is changing the way it publishes its accounting of coronavirus tests after the practice of conflating two types of tests was disclosed last week.

Kent Kanouse /Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Potter County, where Amarillo is located, has seen an outsized proportion of COVID-19 cases. Though the latest numbers show counties with most cases are also the most populous, Potter County ranks just below them at sixth even though it's the 38th most populous county.

Ashlene Etkie, a senior at the Texas School for the Deaf, throws her graduation cap up in the air.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

High school senior Rey Garza knows a lot about adapting to “new normals.” He was 9 when he lost vision in his right eye, and when he entered his freshman year, he started losing it in his left eye, too. 

KUT Projects Editor Matt Largey spent the first few months of the pandemic working from his garage outfitted with a desk, mixing board, lamp and coffee maker (plus a washing machine and assorted tools).
Matt Largey / KUT

"I think anybody out there with a second-grader probably feels my pain, but feels her pain, too," KUT Projects Editor Matt Largey says from his home "office."

Dive Bar and Lounge
Michael Minasi / KUT

Texas bars can reopen at 25% capacity today – just in time for Memorial Day weekend. Even with the limited number of customers, it’s a good opportunity to make back some of the money these businesses have lost after months of closures. 

But while many bars are eager to reopen, some aren't quite ready yet.

People walk and ride bikes near Auditorium Shores and the Long Center on April 13.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

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

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Physician practices in Texas are facing serious financial pressures as fewer patients come in to seek care during the coronavirus pandemic.

A traffic signs tells drivers to call 211 with coronavirus questions.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

What do you want to know about the search for a COVID-19 vaccine?

Join KUT’s Jennifer Stayton for a discussion with Jason McLellan, an associate professor of molecular bioscience at UT Austin, about how vaccines are developed and learn more about the search for one for the new coronavirus.

CommUnityCare conducts drive-thru COVID-19 testing at the Hancock Center.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Latinx communities in Austin have been hard-hit by the coronavirus. Latinx patients account for nearly two-thirds of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the Austin area, and at some sites they are nearly four times more likely to test positive for the coronavirus. 

Officials said Wednesday they're forming a task force to address that disparity, which was news to the Latinx advocates who called for one in the first place.

Austin ISD serves curbside meals to students during the coronavirus pandemic.
Michael Minasi / KUT

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Thursday, May 21. Read Friday's live updates here.. 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.

Cots in the Smithville Recreational Center during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
Martin do Nascimento / KUT

The coronavirus arrived in Central Texas with the spring. That meant no South by Southwest and an early end to the school year. It also meant people stuck at home, at least, enjoyed some pretty good weather.

That’s likely about to change.

Rocio and Leo Nunez in their scrubs at a hospital in Detroit.
Courtesy of the Nunezes

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit every doorstep of every home in every part of the world. But the reality is some cities are being hit harder than others. New York. Chicago. Los Angeles. Detroit. There, the crisis is overwhelming hospitals and leaving health care workers depleted. 

Voters line up outside of The University Co-op across the street from UT Austin on Nov. 8, 2016.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

An expansion of Texas’ vote-by-mail program during the pandemic is on hold, again.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday temporarily blocked a lower court ruling from a day earlier that opened up mail-in voting to people under 65.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner speaks during a news conference last month.
Mayor's office via Twitter

The courts are no longer blocking landlords from evicting Texans struggling to pay rent amid the economic instability of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, eviction proceedings are moving forward in Houston-area courts, weeks ahead of many other cities.

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