Austin’s Top News – November 19, 2020

Austin's Top News from News Radio KLBJ

COVID-19 update

Hospitalizations in Travis County have climbed back above 200 as ICU and bed usage and ventilator usage has also increased slightly. This morning, 204 COVID patients were hospitalized out of the 2,140 active cases in the county. 35,326 cases have been found and that has resulted in 32,717 recoveries.

404 of Williamson County’s overall 11,184 confirmed cases of COVID are considered to be active this morning. Only the 54 of those active cases require someone to be confined to a hospital bed. 10,621 of the county’s confirmed cases have resulted in a recovery. 

Spike in homelessness

Some Austin nonprofits worry that we may see a spike in homelessness due to COVID-19. Chris Baker, with the Other Ones Foundation, helps homeless folks find work. He, along with others, are worried of what will happen when the eviction bans are over and people who have been laid off because of shutdowns have nowhere else to go. 

“We’re all, I think, who work in this field, deathly afraid of what is to come with the influx that we’re expecting of people into homelessness,” says Baker.

Baker says the city has a major problem in that the area housing stock isn’t available to the homeless response system. 

COVID vaccine distribution

Austin Public Health is preparing to dole out COVID vaccines as early as next month, although the vast majority of us won’t be getting it then. Nevertheless, Assistant Director Cassandra DeLeon tells KXAN it’s very exciting that we’re getting so close. 

“Phase one, it will be a finite resource, so we’ll have to be very judicious and how we use that,” says DeLeon.

She thinks phase two will kick off in the spring, at which time it’s very likely the general public will then be able to access it as well.

Austin airport numbers down

Even though a new survey of passengers at Austin’s airport shows a lot of confidence in air travel, officials say they do expect to lose at least 20% of their projected revenue for this year. As for a snapshot of how many people have been flying, the airport says September’s numbers were down by more than 70% from the same time a year ago. 

STAR testing

Debate over the STAR test has returned this week as the TEA hears multiple calls to suspend it. Clay Robison, with the Texas State Teachers Association, says teachers and students are still trying to find their footing, and this is not the time to throw a big test at them as well. 

“We’re kind of reinventing education here. There’s a lot of virtual learning hybrid learning that’s taking a lot of extra time of the students and the parents and the teachers,” says Robison.

Around 60 lawmakers have signed a letter to Education Commissioner Mike Morath asking for that suspension. Morath said the test is needed because kids didn’t take it last year. 

Flix Brewhouse closing

Flix Brewhouse in Round Rock is closing indefinitely. The drive-in movie theater chain, which operates nine theaters in a handful of different states, says COVID has created insurmountable obstacles. Flix Brewhouse also says it hasn’t gotten enough federal relief to allow them to continue operations. However, their CEO is confident that post pandemic they may be able to restart operations. 

Austin economy faring well

The Austin economy is expected to continue to look pretty strong, according to Wells Fargo Economist Sarah House, the metro has managed to keep more jobs and bring more back faster than other metro areas, even with cases of COVID rising near and far.

“Well, admittedly, I think the risk of a double dip recession has grown more recently. We still think that we will be able to avoid another downturn before we even fully recover, and that the recovery should continue on through 2021,” says House.

Although she says there is still significant ground that needs to be covered. 

Vandalism on Travis Democratic HQ

Vandalism of the Travis County Democrat Party headquarters this week may indicate Democrats have a long road ahead in trying to placate the demands of left wing extremists. Procommunist messages were spray painted and Democrat Party Chair Katie Naranjo tells CBS Austin it is very concerning.

“To see this level of destruction and anger and hostility is very upsetting,” says Naranjo.

Austin police are currently investigating.

Matthew McConaughey for Governor

One of Austin’s most recognizable celebrities may be kicking around a gubernatorial run. Matthew McConaughey tells the Hugh Hewitt Show he might consider it if the people of Texas urged him to run. However, he also says he’s looking at it realistically and says he’s not sure he’s confident they could be effective enough as a politician to unify the state.

This news and more on News Radio KLBJ:



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