Health

Fitness, well-being, disease, medical research and issues related to Seton and St. David's Healthcare, Austin Regional Clinic and other health care providers in Austin and Central Texas

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

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.

People venture out on South Congress as the state relaxes rules on bars and restaurants.
Michael Minasi / KUT

What can data tell us about where the pandemic is headed next?

Join us for the next episode of our weekly livestreamed interview series, Now What?, at noon on June 3 when we’ll talk with Lauren Ancel Meyers, a mathematical epidemiologist at UT Austin.

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 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.

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.

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. 

An empty bar in the Domain.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

It’s been a while since anyone’s been into a bar in Texas, so things are bound to feel weird when they’re allowed to reopen this Friday. Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday they'd be allowed to open as long as they follow a set of minimum safety guidelines aimed at preventing further spread of the coronavirus.

So, if you’re going to go – and we're not encouraging you to – you should be aware of how things will work.

A man in protective gear takes down information from a driver at a drive-thru coronavirus testing site.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Texas has seen a noticeable increase in the number of coronavirus tests being reported by the Department of State Health Services over the past week. The state saw its largest one-day total for reported tests to date Wednesday – at more than 49,000 tests, about four times as many tests reported the day before.

Courtesy of Felicia Dodson Hill

Maurice Dotson died April 17, weeks after contracting COVID-19. The 51-year old worked as a nurse’s aide at West Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in South Austin, and that’s where his family believes he contracted the coronavirus.

Patrons sit outside the Lavaca Street Bar in the Domain on May 1, as the Texas economy is slowly opens.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

For anyone with a weak immune system, the stakes of the COVID-19 pandemic haven’t changed.

As state leaders relax stay-at-home orders, a vaccine is likely still more than a year away. That means it’s still too dangerous for people with compromised immune systems to come into contact with others.

Garrison Pool in South Austin
Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

Pools are among the facilities allowed to reopen Friday under Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s order loosening restrictions imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

For its part, the City of Austin is still considering when it will reopen city pools.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

At least 335 positive COVID-19 cases and 30 deaths have been reported among staff and residents of Austin-area nursing homes and long-term care facilities. But testing levels remain low, and health officials say they don't have a good estimate of how many tests would be needed for that entire population.

A mural that says "Hope" painted on a boarded-up business on Sixth Street.
Michael Minasi / KUT

As the coronavirus pandemic persists, many people are experiencing fear, grief and loneliness as they struggle with layoffs, self-isolation and adapting to a new normal.

911 calls indicate West Oaks Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Southwest Austin has had a cluster of COVID-19 cases.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

"I have a resident. Her temperature is going up and her oxygen is dropping quite low, so the doctor wants to send her out," the caller from Riverside Nursing and Rehabilitation Center says in a 911 call April 21. "She’s COVID-positive. ... She’s running a temp of 102. Her oxygen level’s dropping."

After 16 days in the hospital, 10 of which were spent on a ventilator, Tracey Sengele says she is feeling much better. But she says the experience of having COVID-19 taught her not to take anything for granted.
Courtesy of Tracey Sengele

Tracey Sengele, 44, has asthma, so she didn't think it was all that unusual when she started feeling bad and having breathing problems during the second week of March.

She didn't realize at the time that she was one of Hays County's first cases of COVID-19.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that some Texas businesses like restaurants can reopen with limited capacity Friday. Austin Public Health had been thinking about making a similar move – just not so fast.

An employee takes down information at a drive-thru coronavirus clinic at the CommUNITYCare at the Hancock Center.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

More than 500 of the 1,800 people who’ve signed up for Austin Public Health’s testing enrollment form met the criteria needed to warrant a COVID-19 test.

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?

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,

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.

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.

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.

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.

Making Masks At Home — What You Need To Know About How To Reduce Transmission Of The Coronavirus

Apr 16, 2020
An Austinite makes a homemade mask for health care workers.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation to use cloth face coverings to help slow the spread of COVID-19 has generated numerous how-to articles and videos. As academics who focus on personal protective equipment (PPE) research and development, we are concerned about the lack of information about two critical features of home mask design: fit and fabric selection.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

As COVID-19 spread throughout Central Texas last month, Central Health, the local health care district, temporarily closed some of its smaller CommUnityCare clinics to consolidate services and conserve personal protective equipment during the pandemic.

Medication abortions are only available to women who are less than 10 weeks' pregnant.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Abortion providers can serve women very early on in their pregnancies and those on the cusp of not being able to get the procedure, under a ruling issued by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday.

Why Wear Face Masks In Public? Here's What The Research Shows

Apr 14, 2020
People wear face coverings at Mueller Lake Park on March 27.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

With the coronavirus pandemic quickly spreading, U.S. health officials have changed their advice on face masks and now recommend people wear cloth masks in public areas where social distancing can be difficult, such as grocery stores.

But can these masks be effective?

A line of customers, spaced apart from one another in accordance with social distancing guidelines, wait to enter an HEB grocery store in South Austin during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The first thing you should know about contact tracing is that it’s time-tested. It’s been around for a long time — one of the original weapons in the public health arsenal for fighting infectious diseases. It was used before vaccines. Before antibiotics. Before we knew most of what we know now about infectious disease.

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