Public Health

People gather in front of the Austin Police Department on May 30 to protest racism and police brutality.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

As COVID-19 hospitalizes Latino and Black people in Austin at disproportionate rates, the Austin City Council on Wednesday deemed racism a public health crisis.

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.”

Julia Reihs/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Though quickly communicating positive COVID-19 test results can be an important way to limit the spread of the virus, Texans and their doctors don't always learn results within the recommended three-to-four days.

Houston Public Media Senior Producer Davis Land found himself at the center of such a story. He recently got tested before visiting some friends.

Julia Reihs / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

From Texas Standard:

Aubrey Matson, a 19-year-old college student, doesn't consider herself "anti-vaccine." But the pandemic hasn’t made her 100% in favor of them, either. She’s concerned that a fast-tracked COVID-19 vaccine could be dangerous.

Gabriel C. Perez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Anyone can become infected with COVID-19. But as the disease spreads across the United States, it's affecting a disproportionate number of African Americans. In Texas, the full picture of that disparity is unclear because the state only has demographic data for about one quarter of all COVID-19 cases.

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

In this installment of Ask a Doctor, UT Health San Antonio physician Fred Campbell answers Texas Standard listeners' most pressing questions about the new coronavirus.

Eddie Gaspar for KUT

From Texas Standard:

As of Monday morning, there is no statewide shelter-in-place order in Texas like the ones in New York and California. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order last week requiring bars and gyms to close and restaurants to limit service to takeout orders. But he said expanding that to shelter in place would be up to local officials.

Abbott is also looking to grow the state's supply of safety equipment for medical professionals, to protect them from COVID-19.

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Elora J. Martinez/U.S. Air Force Academy (Public Domain)

From Texas Standard:

On Friday, President Donald Trump signed a $8.3 billion emergency funding bill to cope with the spread of the coronavirus. Closer to home, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference Thursday in response to a "presumptive" case of COVID-19 in Fort Bend County outside Houston.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Public health officials confirmed Thursday morning the first case of rubella in Travis County since 1999. The confirmation comes roughly a month after the first diagnosis of measles, which was last seen in the Austin area in 1999, too.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin public health officials say there's no longer any risk of a measles outbreak associated with a Travis County case reported in December.

Late last month, Travis County recorded its first measles case in two decades. It stemmed from an individual who had traveled abroad. Austin Public Health says the incubation period, which lasts from 10 to 14 days, is now over and there have been no new cases.

Julia Reihs/KUT

Texas has a thing about being number one. But when it comes to the state of Texans' health, it ranks below the middle of the pack, and it's falling. The United Health Foundation ranked Texas 34th in the country in its 2017 annual report. But there's something that could help: this year's Healthier Texas Summit kicks off in Austin on Oct. 25; it's a conference about how everyday people can achieve healthier outcomes in their own community.

Dr. David Lakey is vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Texas System, and is also an organizer of the event. Lakey says while the overall focus of the summit is how to improve health within our communities, there's also a focus on health policy in the upcoming legislative session.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

The city has given the go-ahead to a contract that would keep its portable public toilet operating for the next five years. The 24-hour toilet, which aims to keep the downtown area clean over special events like this weekend's Austin City Limits Festival, will cost Austin $115,000 this year.  

Emree Weaver for KUT

During the last legislative session, state lawmakers eliminated funding for the Office of Minority Health Statistics and Engagement. It's last day was Aug. 31. 

The agency was small. Its budget was about $2 million. It had about two dozen full-time employees. Yet, it was trying to solve one of the biggest problems facing the state: racial inequities in government services. In other words, the agency was trying to tackle institutional racism.

Pavel Mezihorak for KUT

Austin leads the nation in its balance of lower and higher incomes, according to a new online public health database from the Department of Population Health at the NYU School of Medicine.

thespeakernews via flickr

Public health officials in Dallas County have confirmed the first sexually transmitted case of the Zika virus, which is said to be linked to birth defects.

The virus is typically transmitted by mosquitoes, but Dallas County Health and Human Services said Tuesday that an unidentified person had been infected by sexual transmission — the first confirmed case of a person acquiring the virus in the continental United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the transmission Tuesday.

KUT News

Texas has been criticized lately for the amount the state spends on public health, which includes things like vaccination programs, programs aimed at reducing obesity, tobacco use and diseases like asthma, HIV and diabetes.

Public health also includes tracking and containing disease outbreaks, which is getting more attention since Texas had the first Ebola case in the U.S.

Image courtesy portlandonline.com

You can add another entry to the list of big city amenities Austin is missing: a professional sports team, a subway system, and now – ubiquitous public toilets.

The Atlantic Cities blog has a paean to the Portland Loo, a standalone toilet free to the public, as the Rose City prepares to launch their fifth public restroom with – what else? – an inaugural flush.

To what does Atlantic Cities attribute the Loos’ success? A minimal, “defense-first design” that puts a spigot for washing up outside; sturdy, reinforced doors; and bars at the top and bottom of the structure.

Photo by BrittneyBush http://www.flickr.com/photos/tzofia/

Armadillos aren't known for being particularly cuddly. But a new study may offer a better reason never to pick up one of the armor-plated critters: they can spread leprosy.

Hand position for vaccination
Image courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Texas scored 7 out of 10 in public health emergency readiness, according to a new report issued today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust For America's Health. The study lauds Texas for improving health spending over the past couple years, but warns that the state's looming budget shortfall could reduce our ability to deal with epidemics and bioterrorism.