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:
- The director for the National Institute of Mental Health said those who recover from COVID-19 could develop post traumatic stress disorder from the illness.
- The Food and Drug Administration adds more hand sanitizers to its recall list
- The Center for Disease Control ranks traditional Halloween activities by COVID-19 risk, and let’s just say house parties and trick-or-treating aren’t exactly recommended
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:
- Some veterinarian offices are much busier during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Researchers say some children could face heart defects after contracting COVID-19
- The Austin music community needs help, and community leaders are calling on the city to offer some
- Applications for RISE 2.0 money closed Monday, and $10 million is set aside for households who have experienced hardships due to COVID-19
- Austin Independent School District parents have a little longer to make a decision on whether to send their kids back to class or keep them remote
- Saturday appointments are now available to get your driver’s license renewed
- A study says heart problems may linger for for who recover from COVID-19
- Texas State University helping the state recruit 200 new contact tracers
- The CDC doesn’t think kids should participate in traditional trick-or-treating this Halloween
- In Ohio, a confrontation over mask-wearing ended up with a woman being Tased in the stands at a middle school football game
- Many families still aren’t allowed into nursing homes or other long-term care facilities, even after restrictions have been loosened
- Downtown Austin Alliance has a plan to help businesses recover from COVID-19
- Austin City Council extended renter protections related to COVID-19 through the end of the year
- Colleges have seen a slight dip in enrollment, but jump in graduate students
- The 2nd Street District sidewalk sale hopes to being much-needed businesses to the area downtown
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:
- UT released a schedule and locations of where students can get tested.
- Anti-mask proponents in Indonesia are being forced to dig graves for COVID-19 victims. Seriously.
- Some school districts in Central Texas have launched their own COVID-19 dashboards to track cases, increase transparency.
- The City of Austin is reopening a relief fund for nonprofit organizations affected by COVID-19
- A Williamson County Sheriff’s Office employee died of COVID-19.
- Planning to appeal unemployment benefits decisions with the TWC? Be prepared to be in it for the long haul.
- Psychologists in Texas are worried the suicide rate will go up during the pandemic.
- Here’s hoping new safety measures will allow San Marcos to reopen its river parks, and keep them open.
- RISE 2.0 funds are available to qualifying households through the City of Austin.
- Party’s Over: A huge party in West Campus at the Texas Rho fraternity house was shut down by the Fire Marshal, and people were given citations.
- Texas teachers have reported nearly 3,800 COVID-19 safety violations since in-person classes resumed.
- The Department of State Health Services gives a “more accurate view” of COVID-19 positives with new calculation procedure.
- The Trail of Lights might end up being a drive-thru event this holiday season.
- Could bars open up again soon while cases decline? Gov. Abbott is under pressure to make that call this week.
- We’re halfway through September and there’s still no sign of another stimulus check coming.
- Actor Paul Rudd made this satirical video about reaching young people to wear masks with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
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:
- 21 cases of an inflammatory illness in children linked to COVID-19 have been reported in Texas
- After adding off-campus test results, UT’s COVID-19 positives in students jumped 282
- Texas State changed its isolation policy to keep students closer to campus
- An errant email regarding a mask policy made parents of Leander charter school students upset
- The Austin Urban League hosted a PPE distribution event Wednesday
- A woman in the Texas panhandle created COVY, the COVID-19 piñata
- We Are Blood needs convalescent plasma donations for those who have recovered from COVID-19
- A local doctor says getting a COVID-19 test 1-3 days after exposure is “worthless”
- On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott extended the disaster declaration for COVID-19 another 30 days
- Texas health officials are preparing to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of October
- It doesn’t look good for a second round of COVID-19 stimulus checks
- The key to colleges thwarting COVID-19 outbreaks could be in the sewer
- An Odessa man called his wife in the hospital to cheer her up with the help of a mariachi band
- 60 COVID-19 deaths can be linked to college campuses, a report says
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:
- Students in a residence hall at Baylor University are being asked to “reside in place” to help slow an outbreak of COVID-19 on campus
- The Houston Astros had its series finale with the Oakland Athletics postponed after a member of the Athletics organization tested positive for COVID-19
- According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 2 million people have recovered from COVID-19 nationwide
- The Llano Independent School District recently changed its policy on face coverings to include all students in the district, including elementary school children
- A pharmacy changed its policy after KXAN’s Wes Rapaport told the story of an elderly woman who couldn’t get her allergy medicine because of an expired driver’s liscense
- Austin City Council sets aside a grant to help people of Asian-Pacific Islander descent get the mental health services they need during the pandemic
- The council also approved more than $800K for high-risk COVID-19 housing in north Austin
- KXAN anchor Sally Hernandez spoke with Alana Rocha of the Texas Tribune about the tools school districts in Texas have to help combat the spread of COVID-19
- On Sept. 2, the University of Texas at Austin reported 42 cases of COVID-19 in students, a huge jump from 17 the day prior
- A UT student was sent to a city isolation facility as they awaited COVID-19 test results
- Should you use face shield instead of a mask? The answer is no.
- Dwayne Johnson, better known from his WWE days as “The Rock,” said he and his family all caught COVID-19 and have recovered
- The CDC is telling states to be ready to distribute COVID-19 vaccine as early as October
- Are people still moving to Austin during the COVID-19 pandemic? The short answer is yes.
- Austin Public Health teamed up with CommUnity Care, Central Health to put on free PPE distribution events
- A law enforcement union wants COVID-19 to be declared a “presumptive illness”
- There are four COVID-19 clusters involving schools in the area, and public health officials have linked some of them to football team workouts.
- COVID-19 cases are spiking at Texas State University
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:
- Mental health issues are rising among adults during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. A local law enforcement officer says he’s seen an increase in mental health calls.
- Airbnb banned parties and events at its listings and capped occupancy at 16
- Texas State started school Monday. Students have already reported concerns over house parties days before the first day.
- Eight school districts returned to classes Monday, including Johnson City ISD, which said about 80% of students will return to in-person classes.
- UT Austin students started classes Wednesday. Ahead of that first day, KXAN’s Alyssa Goard got a tour of campus and the precautions the university is taking for in-person classes. Meanwhile, Austin’s top doctor sent a letter to sororities and fraternities as videos of gatherings surfaced. The letter reminded those organizations of local COVID-19 orders and said violations could result in punishments.
- Dripping Springs ISD decided to give parents the option for virtual or in-person learning after the first four weeks of virtual school
- Austin and Travis County moved down to Stage 3 of the risk-based guidelines after hospitalizations improved
- As Hurricane Laura prepared to make landfall, evacuees from the coast headed inland, some to Austin. City health leaders said they weren’t excessively concerned that evacuees could spread COVID-19, and said the city has taken precautions.
- Thrall ISD reported one staff member at each of its campuses tested positive for COVID-19. Four other staff members and a total of 54 students have been asked to isolate after officials traced the positive cases’ contacts.
- Austin health officials are still targeting Sept. 8 as the day they allow in-person classes to resume in schools, and the interim health authority says that is a priority as the area’s COVID-19 response moves ahead.
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:
- Austin health officials stress that people “can’t let their guard down” as cases in the area plateau and hospitalizations decrease.
- Thrall ISD welcomed students back to the classroom Aug. 10, and since then a middle school employee has tested positive for COVID-19
- There’s possibly a new strain of COVID-19 in Malaysia, and it seems to be more infectious than the original
- Want to know which Austin breweries are open and have inside seating available to get out of this insane heatwave? We’ve got that
- The City of Austin opened some amenities with restrictions like golf courses, tennis courts, boat launches and others
- Most CapMetro services are returning to normal ridership levels, but there are still some service modifications due to COVID-19
- A 15-year-old Austinite created a company and will donate money she makes from it to COVID-19 relief
- It’s not an ideal situation at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with 135 cases in the first week of on-campus classes. They’ve moved to remote classes now
- Need a laugh after reading all this grim and gloomy news? There’s a giraffe stopping to smell the [roses] flowers in H-E-B. OK, it’s not actually a giraffe, but come on
- Students at UT are moving into residence halls, and as you might have guessed, things are going to work a bit differently this year
- A series of coding errors have led to more than 500,000 COVID-19 cases not being reported by the Texas DSHS
- Staff at UT, not the UT police department, will be responsible for enforcing mask orders on campus
- Is your favorite Alamo Drafthouse theater opening soon? Perhaps.
- New analysis estimates 10.7% of all Texans have contracted COVID-19
- A local gym converted its exercise space into a series of “workout pods”
- COVID-19 became the fourth-leading cause of death in Travis County, passing the number of people who died of strokes based on 2018 data
- Austin Public Health surpassed its testing goals for May, June and July. It completed 39,609 tests in May, 50,910 tests completed in June; and 69,243 tests completed in July.
- Austin Public Health also encouraged people to take part in a free, in-home testing initiative. It said this is specifically designed for people who don’t feel comfortable leaving the house
- Data on COVID-19 cases in Texas childcare centers is available to the public
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:
- During a press conference in Beaumont, Gov. Abbott said the state will only classify COVID-19 cases as positive is if the patient takes a viral PCR test that has results confirmed by a lab. He said while Texas is looking to increase testing capabilities with rapid antigen tests, those results if positive will be classified as probable — not positive.
- The City of Buda suspended permits for door-to-door solicitors and will not grant any until the COVID-19 pandemic is declared over and the disaster declaration has been lifted by Gov. Abbott.
- The Texas Workforce Commission is reviewing President Trump’s latest executive order extending unemployment benefits, but states will be on the hook for funding part of it.
- Power 5 college football conferences Big Ten and Pac-12 have postponed their upcoming football seasons and will try to play games in the spring.
- The Big 12, ACC and SEC have released football schedules and plan to play in the fall. The Texas Longhorns will open the season Sept. 12 against the UTEP Miners.
- Gatherings of 10 or more are now allowed in unincorporated areas of Williamson County.
- One Texas lawmaker is calling on Gov. Abbott to direct CARES Act money toward struggling childcare facilities.
- Austin Public Health says there is no need for employers to require proof of multiple negative COVID-19 tests to return to work.
- KXAN reporters Nabil Remadna and Alex Caprariello looked into what plans school districts have when students or staff test positive for COVID-19 while at school.
- Five months into the COVID-19 pandemic, people are still not able to get through to the Texas Workforce Commission to file or check on unemployment benefits.
- Neighbors aren’t happy with Austin Roller Rink’s “Kickin’ It Country Dance Party” nights, but the business says they are within the COVID-19 restrictions
- Austin police officers have issued just one citation for not wearing a mask for the month the ordinance has been in place
- Famed Austinite Matthew McConaughey interviewed the country’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, on Instagram, because of course he did
- This Austinite is encouraged people to take part in “virtual clean-ups” in their neighborhood to spruce them up during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Gov. Abbott warns people of “COVID fatigue” during a press conference in West Texas
- An Austin nonprofit has fears the actual number of homeless students is higher during the COVID-19 pandemic than what is actually reported
- Here’s what a socially-distanced elementary school cafeteria looks like
- As some Texas schools reopen this week, some questions linger about how districts will report COVID-19 cases
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:
- The Round Rock Hairy Men canceled the final two games of their season, after two team members tested positive for COVID-19
- Government gears are grinding away, delaying the second stimulus package
- An Austin couple just got married, moved into a home, then both came down with COVID-19 within a month
- Due to COVID-19 cases in the area, Austin ISD leadership wants to delay the start of school from Aug. 18 to Sept. 8. The school board will vote on that in a special meeting Thursday
- The Downtown Austin Alliance is leading the efforts with its team members and Austin police officers partnering to hand out the supplies and have socially distanced conversations with people in need
- A football coach at Mason High School tested positive for COVID-19 and is quarantined
- Will Texas’ retirement-eligible teachers go back to the classroom in a pandemic?
- Austin ISD moved the start date for the 2020-21 school year to Sept. 8 and will petition TEA for another four weeks of virtual learning as the area tries to contain COVID-19
- An Oklahoma woman volunteered for a COVID-19 vaccine trial so she could see her grandchildren again
- Texas will now allow some visitors in nursing home, long-term care facilities
- An artist from Austin is helping to ‘keep Austin weird’ with T-shirts to benefit COVID-19 relief campaigns
- Southwest Airlines is changing how it cleans its planes after flights, will now focus on tray tables and lavatories
- The City of Austin is reopening the Live Music Disaster Relief Fund with an easier application process
- Central Texas school districts are figuring out what they’re going to do in the case of a COVID-19 outbreak at school
- A group of freshmen at the University of Texas at Austin created a nonprofit to keep elderly people from getting lonely during the pandemic
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:
- Dr. Escott thinks we should stay on the couch for Longhorns football this fall.
- APH says schools should open at 25% capacity when they first let students in.
- Where COVID-19 cases are falling and growing in Central Texas
- Texas Health and Human Services Commission finally releases COVID-19 nursing home data
- A group of UT freshmen started a nonprofit to keep the elderly from being lonely during the pandemic.
- Baylor is requiring students who return to campus this fall to do so with proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
- Area school districts are starting to set protocols for in case kids test positive for COVID-19.
- 5 Travis County Sheriff’s Office employees, 3 inmates test positive for COVID-19.
- The City of Austin won’t being its employees back to City Hall until at least September.
- The largest COVID-19 vaccine trial in the U.S. is now underway, and they have 30,000 volunteers to test not just for vaccine effectiveness, but for its safety as well.
- The White House and GOP are working on a $1 trillion second stimulus plan.
- KXAN’s Rick Taylor wrote that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said COVID-19 hot spots are becoming much harder to contain due to so much community spread.
- A California man contracted COVID-19 in Italy while on a skiing trip in February, and he eventually had to have most of his fingers amputated due to the virus’ effect on his blood flow.
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
- With training camp dates set for NFL teams, the players are still wondering what the league is going to do to keep them safe
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.
- Austin-Travis County EMS leaders say they are working at capacity and fear they won’t have enough ambulances to make calls. To help accommodate the number of patients, an “alternate care site” or temporary field hospital will open at the Austin Convention Center on July 21.
- A vaccine for the novel coronavirus looks promising, and will begin the final stage of testing this month
- An Odessa hospital is calling on retired nurses to come in and help treat COVID-19 patients
- More cases of COVID-19 are popping up in nursing homes in the Austin area
- A 30-year-old man died in San Antonio from COVID-19 after he contracted the disease at a “COVID party.” He thought the disease was a hoax, the doctor said.
- 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.
- Federal funding was extended for community-based COVID-19 testing centers in Texas
- The Texas Education Agency announced that Texas classrooms can stay closed for longer than 3 weeks in the fall without losing state funding — if local health officials order it. On Saturday, teachers and school employees rallied at the Texas Capitol to protest Gov. Greg Abbott and the TEA’s plans for reopening schools.
- On Friday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an open letter to religious private schools, saying they can open in the fall regardless of local health orders.
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.
- “Mask It or Casket,” Chief Nim Kidd said on Sunday, in defense of Gov. Greg Abbott’s mandatory face mask order in Texas.
- 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.
- The University of Texas announced that one of its staff members has died in relation to COVID-19 — it’s the school’s first fatality.
- 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.
- With covered faces and recommendations to stay home, Texans prepare for an Independence Day that likely will have very little going on, as cities in the Austin area announced the cancellation of July 4 events and closures of city facilities.
- Popular southeast Texas beaches like Port Aransas, Padre Island, South Padre Island and Galveston all put restrictions in place over the weekend to slow the spread of COVID-19. Several of the beaches will close public access over the weekend.
- Travis County officials closed all county parks and boat ramps starting Thursday evening ahead of the holiday weekend.
- Austin’s economy was dealt another big blow on Wednesday, with the cancellation of the Austin City Limits Music Festival. The festival — which generated $291 million for the local economy in 2019 — won’t be held again until October 2021.
- Last week, Gov. Abbott ordered all bars with more than 51% of sales off alcohol to close. In response, the Texas Bar & Nightclub Alliance, in addition to several Texas bar owners, filed a lawsuit against Gov. Abbott. The lawsuit claims that Abbott’s order violates the group’s Constitutional rights to operate their businesses, in addition to discriminating against the bar industry without credible reasoning.
- 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.”
- The Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) launched a new tool Wednesday to help increase testing capacity. According to Austin Public Health (APH), it is offering free COVID-19 testing, but due to an overwhelming demand, appointments may not be available until up to one – two weeks after the assessment is taken. Local health leaders acknowledged its plan to increase testing in June was a “lofty goal.”
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.
- As of Friday, June 26, there are 137,624 total cases of COVID-19 in Texas — in addition to 2,324 deaths; 5,102 hospitalizations and an estimated 59,018 active cases.
- Texas beat its own record for most new cases reported in a day three times this week. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, each day broke the previous day’s new case numbers. Friday’s numbers did not top Thursday’s, however, there were still 5,707 new cases reported.
- On Tuesday, the Texas Education Agency announced two new ways state school districts will be able to calculate attendance in the fall. “Synchronous” and “Asynchronous” instruction will allow students to attend class, regardless of whether lessons are prerecorded or broadcast live with interaction.
- On Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was joined by the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut to announce nine states – including Texas – from which residents will be required to quarantine for 14 days upon airport arrival in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. The regulation was a turning tables moment, since Gov. Abbott placed similar restrictions on those three states back in April.
- On Thursday, Abbott issued an executive order immediately suspending hospital elective surgeries in four of the largest counties in the state: Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis. The restrictions were first placed March 13 and then loosened on April 22. Abbott said the halting on Thursday was precautionary and to preserve hospital beds.
- Friday morning, Abbott announced his executive order closing bars at noon and limiting restaurants to 50% capacity to help prevent further spread.
- As of Friday, Harris is the county with the most cases, with a reported total 28,255; 18,183 active cases; and 361 deaths.