Austin’s Top News – July 30, 2020

Austin's Top News from News Radio KLBJ

COVID-19 update

Travis County has now surpassed the 20,000 mark for the total number of coronavirus cases. Of the 20,187 cases that have been confirmed since March, 371 are currently hospitalized and 264 people have died. Meanwhile, 17,691 have made recoveries. 

Williamson County has experienced a slight increase in its numbers over the past 24 hours. As of this morning 554, coronavirus cases are active. That’s one more than a day ago. 69 people are hospitalized, which is seven more than a day ago. But the recoveries have also increased by 42; that number now stands at 4,822. 

University of Texas COVID guidelines

Earlier this week, Travis County Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott warned against allowing 50% capacity at Darrell K Royal stadium during Longhorn football games.

“It’s a bit of a reach right now. I think it’s not really living in the realm of reality for what we’re likely to experience this fall,” says Escott.

Athletics director Chris Del Conte says he is working with the University of Texas president on a 25% model, and he plans to make more details available in the coming weeks. Since UT is a state school, neither the city nor the county has the authority to cap that stadium’s capacity.

UT and Texas State University, are both asking students to self-isolate for two weeks before returning to campus. UT President Jay Hartzell says if it’s not possible to quarantine at home, then a two week quarantine will be needed before a student’s first scheduled class or on-campus activity.

A survey conducted by The New York Times has put the University of Texas at the top of a dubious list. The report says UT has more confirmed COVID cases than any other university in the US, with 443. That does include the 64 cases that resulted from a spring break trip to Mexico. Other schools in the state are also high on the list, but none of those are here in central Texas.

Austin leaders set to finalize city budget 

Austin Police and activists alike, will have their eye today on the Austin City Council meeting. The council is set to make the final budget decisions for the upcoming fiscal year. Police jobs and up to half the department’s funding is on the chopping block. Officer Abino Cadenas with the Police Association says he gets calls from community leaders wanting more police, not less.

“Specifically Del Valle or Harris Branch. It’s just areas that happen to be in the outskirts of Austin and the committee members are upset because our officers have to deal with all 911 calls and they’re stuck in the inner city,” says Cadenas.

He says the council is not thinking about the repercussions this could have. Aside from the police, the ones who will feel this cut will be the victims of crime. 

Among the numerous proposals put forth by the Austin City Council, this week is one that would completely demolish the police headquarters building at 8th and I-35. Councilman Jimmy Flannigan says all staff should be removed. Once the building is torn down, a new structure should be built to address systemic racism. APD staff would be moved to another underutilized building.

The Austin City Council has given the green light to a one year contract to help clean out homeless camps. However, some city leaders are worried how this might impact the homeless. Public Works Director Richard Mendoza says it will undergo sensitivity training. 

“Some increased visits by our social service providers, namely interval care, and the host teams. They have them visit these locations both prior and post cleanups,” says Mendoza.

The council also moves to bring these cleanups into the fold of city work to add more oversight. 

Squatter in Brentwood

A homeowner in the Brentwood neighborhood says the house he has been trying to sell was recently occupied by a squatter. Speaking anonymously to CBS Austin, he says that squatter had been staying there for at least a week. 

“There’s a pan to make mashed potatoes and there was leftover mashed potatoes and boiled shrimp in the fridge. It looked like he had the beef fajitas and corn tortillas on the agenda for the next night,” he says. 

The man also stole some electronics. Police are investigating, but no arrest has been made. The homeowner is also having to disinfect the entire house.

Mysterious seeds coming in the mail

Hundreds of Texans have gotten some strange deliveries recently in the mail. The Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller says so far about 200 reports have come in about packages of seeds being delivered from China. He says it’s concerning because they don’t really know much about what those seeds are.

“A lot of them are just weeds that would be very detrimental to our horticulture, to our agriculture industry. We don’t need another invasive plant species,” says Miller.

Bottom line, he says don’t plant them. Don’t even open the package if you get one. Instead, call his office and someone will come out to collect those seeds safely. 

This news and more on News Radio KLBJ:



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