Austin’s Top News – May 22, 2020

Austin's Top News from News Radio KLBJ

Austin purchases another motel for the homeless

AUSTIN, Texas – For the fourth time since late last year, the Austin City Council approved spending on a motel to house the homeless. $8.7 million will be spent to buy the Country Inn & Suites off of I-35. Matt Mollica, with the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, thinks the hotel strategy will be key. 

“We think that’s gonna be a really important step in the direction and ending homelessness this year in Austin and Travis County,” says Mollica

The city is spending above what that property is worth; 8.7 million will be spent for a property valued at $4.8 million. 

This past weekend, citizen volunteers were seen cleaning up a homeless camp in South Austin filled with trash, debris and drug needles. The city hasn’t cleaned the camps and stayed home. Orders were issued, and because of that, the council is now approved spending nearly $2.3 million on a three year contract extension with a company. This is in hopes of clearing up the backlog of camp cleanings 

Austin Police Department will get more protective equipment

City Council is allocating $885,000 toward APD from money given by the Justice Department. A little more than $33,000 of that will be used for a total of 579 hours of overtime pay, and about $9,200 will pay for six APD employees to attend pandemic response training.

Continued relief for high risk communities

The Austin City Council approved some relief and help for workers and communities at high risk of catching COVID-19. The City Council approved a resolution to create a strategy to help out communities hit hard by the virus and to learn from those residents what other ways the city can assist. The city also focuses on construction sites in this resolution.

“Thinking about ways that they can notify workers if one of their co-workers tests positive,” says Council Member Ann Kitchen, “that provides some documentation to the worker that they can use to help them with accessing unemployment or other rights that they may have.”

Preparing for possible Memorial Day flooding

Austin was hit by the Memorial weekend floods five years ago. Area leaders think a plan is needed in the event another natural disaster hits, while COVID-19 is still a big concern. Bryce Bencivengo with Austin’s Homeland Security Office tells CBS Austin that traditional disaster shelters probably won’t work.

“We traditionally had a lot of people in a congregate space. That probably isn’t the best option moving forward,” says Bencivengo.

This could lead to the purchase of yet another motel or hotel. They are in talks with the City of Austin about acquiring a property specifically for a natural disaster shelter.

Travis County COVID-19 update

While the coronavirus numbers are rising in Travis County, there still hasn’t been the explosive spread and strain on the hospitals that many had predicted in the weeks following the opening of the first retail stores late last month. As of today, 2,712 cases have been found, 83 have died and 937 have recovered. As of this morning, 96 are still in the hospital.

St. Edward’s grapples with financial strain

St. Edward’s University made the announcement last week that it would have to lay off a non-specified number of employees because of the financial strain COVID-19 has placed on the school. The university is set to lay off 95 employees by the end of this month.

Hays County COVID-19 update

258 cases of coronavirus are confirmed in Hays County and 158 of those have recovered. The majority of these cases are in Kyle, where 127 have tested positive since March. San Marcos has the second most at 71. The county’s hospital system is still not dealing with much of a strain from the virus. Only six are currently hospitalized specifically because of COVID-19.

Texas public schools fall semester plans

The question still remains what Texas public schools may look like in the fall. On a Zoom call, some of the state’s top educators discussed how different things will look in public schools in the fall. Doctor Grenita Lathan is the Interim Superintendent of Houston ISD. 

“Reduced students in the classroom, reduced staff working and also a virtual format with some face to face. A number of our parents want to keep their students at home,” says Dr. Lathan.

Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa says business as usual is out so they’re considering every alternative. 

“Maybe having all of our elementary students report and we spread them out. We even send them to secondary schools and maybe our secondary students can do more virtual learning,” says Hinojosa.

CVS testing sites opening today

CVS Pharmacy is launching 44 coronavirus test sites across Texas beginning today, including five in Austin. The drive-through testing will require an online screening and an appointment through Each person will stay in their car and use a test kit provided to them by a staff member who will also watch and make sure that test is conducted properly. Results should be back within three days.

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