Austin’s Top News – May 21, 2020

Austin's Top News from News Radio KLBJ

COVID-19 in Travis County

AUSTIN, Texas – There have been 2,644 cases of coronavirus in Travis County since March. Austin Public Health says 82 people have died but 925 have recovered. Health officials pointed out the rate of new hospitalizations has flattened out. 89 people are in the hospital, compared to the 90 at the same time yesterday.

Later today, the Austin City Council will vote on a resolution in support of high-risk workers. Council member Greg Casar says that includes those over 65 and people with preexisting conditions. It also includes workers who fear the overall fallout of getting coronavirus. 

“One of the main reasons people refuse tests was that they didn’t feel sick,” Casar says. “They know that if they tested positive that they might lose multiple weeks worth of work.” 

The plan is to build a strategy that helps high-risk employees start working from home or help them find a new job if working from home is not an option.

Austin Police need help and new funding today for personal protective equipment. City Council will vote on allocating more than $885,000 from the Department of Justice. While most of that would go toward the equipment itself, about $40,000 would be set aside for overtime pay and preparedness training.

Remdesivir offers glimmers of hope

10 cases of the drug remdesivir are being delivered to Austin area hospitals this week. Dr. Thomas Patterson with the UT Health San Antonio says the ongoing trials continue to offer glimmers of hope.

“It’s an antiviral drug that has shown promise in animal models against the coronavirus,” says Patterson.

Travis County Hospitals will get six cases, Williamson County will get three and Hays County will get one. The governor’s office says the results from these remdesivir trials show an average recovery time of 11 days, compared to 15 days with a placebo.

The fear of COVID-19 testing

With the world focusing on COVID-19, Austin health leaders say they are still having trouble getting people tested. Interim health authority for the Austin area, Dr. Mark Escott says some walk away from Austin Public Health testing because they think it will cost them money. More are afraid what will happen if they end up testing positive. 

“It’s people’s concern that if they test positive that they will be out of work for an extended period of time. In circumstances where people don’t have sick time, they don’t have job protection,” says Escott.

Another problem is getting immigrant workers to take the test as they fear it could help get them deported. Dr. Escott says those fears are unfounded. 

In Williamson and Hays County

Round Rock is still by far the biggest hot spot among Williamson County’s 513 cases of coronavirus. Round Rock has 125 compared to Georgetown, which has the second highest amount at 30. 280 people have recovered and 16 people are hospitalized for coronavirus. 53% of Williamson County hospital beds are still available. 

A dozen more cases of COVID-19 have been found in Hays County, but the number of recoveries is still climbing faster. 250 cases found overall since March, while 155 now recovered. Only six of those who currently have the virus are receiving inpatient treatment inside of a hospital.

UT to have in-person classes this fall

The University of Texas has a new plan in place for the fall semester. President Gregory Fenves says students will be able to return to campus classes, though they will only run from August 26 to Thanksgiving. After that time students will remain off campus and take final exams remotely. Fenves says that is to limit the chance of students returning from Thanksgiving break with COVID-19.

Governor Greg Abbott is not finding much support from the Texas State Teachers Association over his decision to let school campuses open back up on June 1st. Spokesman Clay Robison says the state and local district should all be on the same page but they’re not. 

“Having a sufficient amount of masks and other protective gear for everybody on campus; strict guidelines on how to maintain social distancing and sanitation and the enforcement of all of the above,” Robison says. 

They also want to see limited class sizes and limits on the number of students allowed in each hallway. 

New elevator guidelines

Texas has issued new recommendations for elevators. The guidelines say no more than four people should ride at any one time, and each person needs to stand in one of the elevator’s four corners. Property owners and managers should also consider adding NanoSeptic button covers, which are self cleaning. 

This news and more on News Radio KLBJ:

https://omny.fm/shows/klbjam-flash-briefing-1/am-newscast-5-21-20

 

 

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