COVID-19 Wrap-Up: Get your flu shots early, Austin Public Health says

Coronavirus

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — KXAN is keeping track of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. For up-to-date daily coverage, visit our Texas Coronavirus Live Blog and find a weekly round-up of the top COVID-19-related updates here each week.

Week of September 27-October 3

Last year’s flu season filled up intensive care units and emergency rooms around the area, and now with COVID-19 in town, Austin Public Health officials are urging people to get flu shots before the season begins in earnest.

Leaders have expressed some concern that a “twindemic” will surface, meaning in this case an outbreak of both influenza and COVID-19 happen concurrently and potentially overrun ICU hospital beds. ICUs were already working in surge plans earlier in the COVID-19, but have been able to resume normal operations with normal staffing levels as hospitalizations have decreased.

Here are links to other articles related to COVID-19 for this week:

Week of September 20-26

President Donald Trump said in a news conference that a COVID-19 vaccine would be available for “every American” by April 2021. He said the government would have 100 million doses by the end of the year, as well.

Trump said he’d deliver the vaccine to people “immediately” as soon as a vaccine gets approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

In other COVID-19 related weekly news:

Week of September 13-19

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the six-month mark on Sunday. The unfortunate milestone marks the event that has interrupted just about everything on Earth, including local and national economies and the way of life for most of the world’s population.

In the U.S., more than 6.5 million cases have been reported with almost 200,000 deaths from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. In Texas, more than 686,000 cases have been reported with nearly 14,500 deaths.

Prior to the Texas Longhorns season-opening football game Saturday, students who bought ticket packages that included the game had to test negative for COVID-19 Friday before claiming their ticket. Positive results came back. for 95 out of 1,198 students.

Gov. Greg Abbott moved the operating capacity of most businesses to 75%, but is still keeping bars closed as COVID-19 cases are on a downward trend in Texas.

In other weekly COVID-19-related news:

Week of September 6-12

With the University of Texas at Austin hosting its first football game of the season Saturday against UTEP, close to 25,000 people will flock to DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium to see the Longhorns in action.

Austin Public Health Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott wishes everyone would do what he’ll be doing Saturday night — watching the game at home on television.

He called having a crowd at the game “concerning,” and with current COVID-19 positivity rates, he said the area can expect to see up to 50 new cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The current positivity rate in Travis County is 4.6%, the lowest it has been since early in the pandemic.

Other COVID-19 related news throughout the week:

Week of August 29-September 5

With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations decreasing in the Central Texas, of course a national holiday rooted in large gatherings is on its way.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler is “nervous” about cases spiking as families undoubtedly gear up for the holiday by gathering en masse, and perhaps contributing to another spike in cases like the area had after Memorial Day.

Two students at the University of Texas at Austin, each living in a different residence hall, were confirmed to test positive for COVID-19 on Monday.

First reported by UT’s student newspaper, The Daily Texan, university spokesperson J.B. Bird confirmed to KXAN that one student in both the Jester and San Jacinto residence halls tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

In other weekly news related to COVID-19:

Week of August 22-28

It’s back to school for many universities and local school districts — and learning certainly looks different.

Both Texas State and UT Austin students went back to school — and each university responded to reports of students gathering.

Meanwhile, Austin health officials say they still hope in-person classes will be able to happen Sept. 8 as planned.

“We are winning this battle, but we have to stay the course,” Dr. Mark Escott said. “We have to ensure that we’re in a better place to open schools, and keep them open.”

In other weekly news related to COVID-19:

Week of August 15-21

Masks are here to stay, at least until near the end of the year.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler made the decision effective Aug. 16 that the existing mask order, which states people must wear masks outside of the home in public places if social distancing is not reasonably possible is extended until Dec. 15.

People who don’t follow the mask order risk a fine up to $2,000, but as of Aug. 14, Austin police had issued just one citation over the duration of the order.

Travis County officials did the same thing, and in the unincorporated areas of the county, people risk a $500 fine for not wearing masks.

In other weekly news related to COVID-19:

Week of August 9-15

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott extended the state’s disaster declaration due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it will be in place for at least another month — and will probably be extended again in September.

The disaster declaration allows the state to use whatever resources available to combat the virus that “poses an imminent threat of disaster for all counties in the State of Texas.”

Schools districts around Central Texas started welcoming students back, whether virtually or in-person. Thrall ISD was the first district to ring the bell with classes, both in-person and online, starting Monday.

In other COVID-19 related news this week:

Week of August 2-8

The FBI is looking for people who were tested for COVID-19 at a healthcare facility in New Braunfels.

“Authorities have reason to suspect the COVID-19 tests administered at the facility should not have been used to diagnose or rule out an active COVID-19 infection,” FBI San Antonio said.

The FBI in San Antonio says that people who were tested at Living Health Holistic Care in the past couple of weeks to call (210) 225-6741, prompt No. 1. Those who were tested are also encouraged to get another test at their primary care physician, local health department, free-standing emergency room or urgent-care facility.

In other weekly COVID-19 news:

Week of July 26-August 1

Austin Public Health and its interim authority Dr. Mark Escott are seeing what they can do about getting more rapid tests for COVID-19, something private healthcare providers have been using for quite awhile during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If we have a test that we can reliably use that we can, you know, provide an answer to someone before they leave our site, we can get a whole lot better control over this for future outbreaks than sending off tests that are going to take three or four, 10 days,” Escott told county commissioners.

Dr. Escott said that the antigen tests aren’t quite as accurate as the PCR tests, which is what APH currently uses. Those results take days to come back after being sent to a lab. Rapid tests typically return results in as little as 15 minutes.

In other weekly COVID-19 news:

Week of July 19-25

Austin Public Health reports that 93 babies have tested positive for COVID-19 between April 9 and July 22 in Travis County.

This comes after after Nueces County in Corpus Christi reported 85 infants tested positive for the virus. 

As KXAN reported, the state COVID-19 totals don’t seem to reflect these numbers. One doctor we spoke with since recommendations to test the babies of COVID-19 positive moms in the hospital went into effect, she had been seeing more newborns testing positive.

While current data indicates that children are less likely than other age groups to be severely impacted by COVID-19, Austin health leaders in Austin have recently expressed concern about spread of the virus among children, especially as school starts in the fall.

Researchers at the University of Oxford in England say their experimental coronavirus vaccine produced an immune system response in “almost everyone,” they said Monday.

“We are seeing good immune response in almost everybody,” said Dr. Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute at Oxford University. “What this vaccine does particularly well is trigger both arms of the immune system,” he said.

In other weekly news:

  • A 5-year-old boy in Dallas is reportedly among the COVID-19 deaths this week. According to Dallas County officials, the boy had been critically ill in an area hospital and also had underlying health conditions.
  • The Austin Convention Center is being prepared as an alternate care site to take patients in case local hospitals get overwhelmed with COVID-19. Health officials say they are hopeful they won’t have to use this alternate care site.
  • An Austin family welcomed home 75-year-old Martha Stanley 108 days after her COVID-19 diagnosis and recovery. She stayed in the ICU for 68 days and then was transported to a long-term rehab facility, her family says.
  • A couple in Kentucky is under house arrest after they refused to sign an agreement with public health officials to restrict their movement after one of them tested positive for COVID-19

Week of July 11-18

Austin Public Health Interim Authority Dr. Mark Escott told Travis County Commissioners he’d like schools to delay the start of in-person instruction to at least September 8, unless schools are prepared to offer online-only classes.

Several school districts, including Austin Indepedent School District, followed Dr. Escott’s suggestion.

Round Rock and Leander ISDs have submitted letters to the Texas Education Agency asking them to rethink reopening plans, and teachers are staging a sit-in Wednesday at the Texas State Capitol to demand a change in plans from the TEA.

Dr. Escott also said that if school was to take place in-person without a vaccine present, 70% of students in Travis County would contract the disease, and potentially more than 1,000 students could die.

  • A vaccine for the novel coronavirus looks promising, and will begin the final stage of testing this month
  • After Houston mayor Sylvester Turner said the Texas GOP couldn’t hold its in-person convention in the city, the party was forced to move it online as the Texas Supreme Court denied a petition to force an in-person convention.

Week of July 4-July 10

Independence Day 2020 passed in a unique fashion, with fireworks lighting up empty streets. A socially distant Fourth of July saw many in Central Texas finding new ways to celebrate the old traditions. The beginning of the week started with a grim warning from Texas Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd: “Mask It or Casket.” Texas Governor Greg Abbott told KXAN News on Wednesday that another shutdown of Texas businesses would be ‘in contradiction’ to his executive orders.

  • The Dell Diamond in Round Rock was one of the only fireworks shows in the area that wasn’t canceled and several hundred people traveled from all over to celebrate a socially distant July 4.
  • On Monday, KXAN talked to Austinites who were still waiting on their COVID-19 test results, sometimes for over 12 days. KXAN’s Investigative Team learned that wait times depend on where health care providers send them — and then depend on those facilities’ capabilities. Of course, rising demand as numbers surge statewide also contributes.
  • Twenty-two Austin Police Department officers tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, the department confirmed this week. Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday said he believes recent protests contributed to the increase in COVID-19 cases. Austin police have not confirmed this, however.
  • Gov. Greg Abbott on a second shut down of businesses: “The last thing that we can and should do is to close down. It’s my understanding that the Mayor has made clear that he understands that any attempt to close businesses back down into a lockdown or stay-at-home standard would be in contradiction to my executive order.”

Week of June 27- July 3

Across the state, Texans are starting a new summer month and the third month since Texas shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19. Starting Friday, face coverings are now mandatory across Texas after Thursday’s executive order by Gov. Greg Abbott. With the order, the Governor has brought new dynamics to the July 4 weekend table.

“COVID-19 is not going away. In fact, it’s getting worse,” Abbott said in Thursday’s announcement.

  • The University of Texas at Austin released its “Protect Texas Together” plan for the fall 2020 semester. Masks will be mandatory and classrooms will be capped at 40% capacity. In the plan, students will be able to choose if they want to take classes in-person, online or through a hybrid of the two. Tuition remains the same for all three options, the university says.
  • At Texas State, nearly 100 faculty members are concerned about the university’s plan to reopen for the fall semester. A couple faculty members told KXAN they believe the university is reopening too quickly and that faculty have been underrepresented in the decision-making process.
  • On Tuesday,  Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in an interview with Fox News that he didn’t need the advice of the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, Anthony Fauci. Patrick said Dr. Fauci expressed concern over the state’s process for reopening during the pandemic. Patrick followed up with — “he (Fauci) doesn’t know what he’s talking about. We haven’t skipped over anything. The only thing I’m skipping over is listening to him.”

Week of June 22-26

This week, Texas saw a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases, with Gov. Abbott hitting pause on the continued reopening of some Texas businesses.

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