Austin’s Top News – November 18, 2020

Austin's Top News from News Radio KLBJ

COVID-19 update

Travis County is now very near to the 200 mark for hospitalizations, which is a number not seen since the summer. Right now, 194 COVID cases involve hospitalization out of the 2,077 active cases. There have been 35,020 confirmed cases since March, with 32,474 of those resulting in a recovery.

The COVID numbers are also up across the board in Williamson County. Compared to this time yesterday, 27 new active cases were recorded. That number is now at 367 and hospitalizations are up to 48. That’s an increase of five. But overall, the vast majority of cases there have also resulted in recovery. 10,558 people recovered out of the 11,084 confirmed cases.

Possible tightening of restrictions

So with the numbers rising across Austin and across the state, there’s more talk of possible tightening of restrictions. Travis County Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott believes it could happen. A recent study shows the risk of spreading the virus grows the larger businesses occupancy. The current state allowed level is 75%.

“I think it is wise to have ongoing discussions about whether or not we should roll back to 50% and certainly that would be a decision from the governor. As the cases continue to increase across Texas, it seems like it would be a logical step to try to mitigate that risk,” says Escott. 

However, he knows there may be other factors that drive that risk up, not just going out to eat with friends or family. 

Austin Mayor Steve Adler is not ruling out the possibility of trying to impose strict COVID regulations on the community. An appellate court has sided with Attorney General Ken Paxton over in El Paso, ruling that the local government there cannot supersede state restrictions. Adler says, if things get bad enough here, Austin will fight Paxton on that. 

“I would imagine that the folks here locally, myself included, wanna do everything you can. We could easily end up in court as well,” Adler says.

The ruling in El Paso will likely go all the way to the Supreme Court. 

Student extracurricular activities 

Among the growing number of recommendations from health officials, one is aimed at young people. Travis County says any student who participates in extracurricular activities should remain masked at all times while around family members. The same recommendation is being made for college students who live on campus. 

Bars will not open in Travis County

Newly sworn in Travis County Judge Andy Brown has no plan to allow bars to resume operations. He says he will continue monitoring the situation, but reopening does not seem likely any time soon. During his campaign, Brown, who formerly headed the Travis County Democrat Party, vowed to increase contact tracing and free access to testing. 

Wilco certified election results

Williamson County has officially certified the results of the election. However, a lot of people still believe voter fraud permeated many facets of the election this year from coast to coast. County Judge Bill Gravell says the county certification doesn’t mean the process has ended. 

“You need to know that there is an audit that will occur and that the state, from my understanding, will come in and pull selected ballots and make those match up,” says Gravell.

Election Administrator Chris Davis says he is confident in the results. But several citizens have told the court this week they have proof of voter irregularities, including signed affidavits. 

Ken Paxton accusations

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is fighting back against accusations from top aides that he’s violated federal and state laws. He’s accused of attempting to legally shield a wealthy campaign donor from a federal investigation. He released a statement to the citizens of Texas calling the accusations overblown and based on assumptions. University of Houston political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus says with reelection looming in 2022, he is now reaching out to his base. 

“He clearly is the most endangered statewide official in Texas, and he’s gotta be able to put up a good front or he’s going to get, not only a strong primary challenge, but he’s gonna have a bunch of Democrats were gonna wanna be hungry to pounce on him,” says Rottinghaus.

He’s also still facing federal charges for securities fraud dating back before he was elected as attorney general. 

Plants toxic to pets

Texas dogs will be represented in the 2021 state legislature. American Holly and Poinsettias are two of the more popular household plants this time of year. Both are toxic to pets. San Antonio State Representative Ray Lopez filed a bill requiring a consumer warning on the sale of household plants that are toxic to dogs. Shelby Bobosky of the Texas Humane Legislation network says this time of year is the most dangerous.

“Because it gets colder and we bring them in. You need to watch out for the ferns and some of the smaller palms that could be there. So additional notice given to pet owners we think is a good thing,” says Bobosky.

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