Austin’s Top News – July 21, 2020

Austin's Top News from News Radio KLBJ

Convention center hospital site on standby

For weeks, Austin’s been preparing the convention center as an alternate site to alleviate pressure on hospitals, and the plan was to open today. However, as Mayor Steve Adler points out, Austin’s numbers are slowly turning in the right direction. 

“You can see how our behavior in this community has a very real impact on the amount of virus that’s out in our community, the number of people that get sick,” says Adler. 

Austin Public Health and Mayor Steve Adler both say there are not enough cases now to warrant opening the convention center today. The site will remain on standby if it is needed in the future. 

COVID-19 update

The total number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Travis County has really not moved either way in the past 24 hours. There were 480 people in the hospital this morning. There were 480 people in the hospital at the same time yesterday morning. The fact that there really hasn’t been an increase for the first time in many weeks is very promising news. 17,791 cases are confirmed overall, that does include 209 deaths and 4,500 recoveries.

Williamson County sees a drop in hospitalizations There are now 98 COVID-19 patients hospitalized there, seven less than yesterday. A number of recoveries are also continuing to steadily climb. 3,767 people have recovered from the virus. That’s over 100 more than the same time yesterday. 4,888 cases have been found since March.

Austin will continue to struggle financially

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar is not painting a rosy picture of the state’s finances. His projection is Texas will come up $4.6 billion short in the new budget. That’s thanks in very large part to the shutdowns caused by coronavirus. 

“Until consumers and businesses are confident the virus is controlled, we are highly unlikely to see economic output, employment and revenues return to pre-pandemic levels,” Hagar says. 

Record gains are expected as the economy rebounds, but that really won’t be cause for celebration because there will also be a bill in the back of this year’s unprecedented declines. 

Bankruptcy filings in the Austin area have jumped up sharply this year. According to the Austin Business Journal, 40 Chapter 7 or Chapter 11 filings have been recorded through July 10. That’s an increase of 54% from the same time last year. Chapter 7 protects a business from liquidation of assets. Chapter 11 lets a business reorganize its credit obligations. 

Save Austin Now aims to fix homelessness

The group Save Austin Now says it’s turned in more than enough signatures to give people a say on the city’s homeless camping ordinance. The group’s Matt Mackowiak says they’ve turned in 24,000 signatures to the clerk’s office. If all goes well, they’ll start working up ballot language for the November elections to once again, ban camping on the street. He says this will help the homeless.

“Because they will be in shelters in transitional housing and to some extent on the state campground, where they’re safe with police on site with services on site. Rather than living under highways and in tents on the median on roads like Riverside Drive,” Mackowiak says.

Through the hunt for signatures, Mackowiak found there was no partisan divide about wanting to live in a safe neighborhood. 

City leaders discuss reallocating police funding

City Council Member Greg Casar is pondering what Austin Police Department divisions could be taken out from under APD and put into a separate department altogether.

“As it relates to internal affairs, you know, it’s again something that’s been discussed. I know there might be legal challenges. Have we looked at whether internal affairs appropriately fits within the police department or if it could fit outside of it?” says Casar.

City staff also say they’ll have a report about possibly separating the DNA lab from APD ready by next month. 

Austin schools to select new superintendent

The Austin school board will meet tonight to discuss the selection of a new superintendent. The current Superintendent Paul Cruz, is leaving for a position with the University of Texas. The school board agenda says it will name the lone finalist for that position, but state law will require a three week waiting period before the district can officially extend any offer of employment.

Nearly two weeks ago, Austin sent off samples of algae for testing that were found in Ladybird Lake. The results are in and they do confirm the presence of dihydroanatoxin which is produced by the algae and can quickly be fatal to dogs. At least five dogs died last year and the city is recommending you keep your dog out of the lake.

Amazon’s footprint in Central Texas is growing even larger

The City of Kyle will soon become home to Amazon’s new sorting center. Kyle says Amazon’s leasing a 308,000 square foot facility in the Kyle Crossing business park and hopes to hire 200 people. According to the Chamber of Commerce, Kyle is the fifth fastest growing city in Texas.

This news and more on News Radio KLBJ:

https://omny.fm/shows/klbjam-flash-briefing-1/am-newscast-7-21-20

 

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