Austin’s Top News – May 29, 2020

Austin's Top News from News Radio KLBJ

COVID-19 update for Travis and Williamson counties

30 people are now classified as recoveries in Travis County. The total has risen to 1,114 coronavirus recoveries of the overall 3,124 cases found since March. The number of people in the hospital has also taken a good step downward; 88 as of today. Yesterday morning, that number was at 97. 92 people have passed away from the virus since March.

Williamson County’s coronavirus hospitalizations have dropped slightly from yesterday. 13 are currently receiving inpatient treatment and 23 patients have died. Since March, 365 have made a full recovery. 208 of Williamson Counties COVID-19 cases remain active.

Rising hospitalizations in Austin cause for concern

The City of Austin says if local COVID-19 hospitalizations reach 20 a day they may slow re-openings or even call for more shutdowns. Austin Public Health says the area is seeing 8-10 new hospitalizations every day, yielding so called stage three restrictions. Austin Mayor Steve Adler says if they reach stage four there will be action from multiple levels of Texas government. 

“If we’re facing our hospitals being overrun and people dying needlessly then we’re gonna act. I would expect us to act at all levels; state level, county level and at the city level,” says Adler.

If Austin hits 20 hospitalizations a day, he’d expect residents to act accordingly as well. 

Plans in place to enforce COVID-19 state guidelines

As we head into weekend number two with Austin bars back open, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission will be paying many of them a visit to make sure they’re following state guidelines. Last weekend TABC stopped by at least 40 local bars. Mayor Steve Adler was very critical of some downtown venues last week that were packed with people. 

The latest effort by Austin in Travis County to encourage mask wearing may involve public pressure on the private sector. Former County Judge Sarah Eckhardt says local leaders have to get creative. 

“Much that was in our orders with regard to COVID-19, the governor has stripped away our enforcement mechanisms,” says Eckhardt.

She and Austin Mayor Steve Adler are recommending people boycott any private business that won’t force every one of its customers to wear a mask. 

“Peer pressure is tremendous,” Eckhardt says.

Austin leaders discuss how to spend economic aid 

The Austin City Council hasn’t yet voted on how exactly it will spend the $271 million economic aid it’s received. $25 million likely will go toward helping people pay rent and about $23 million given in small business loans. It’s very possible that another motel will be purchased for the homeless, with about $2.3 million already under consideration for that.

Distance learning is not reaching all the kids

It won’t be known for a long time how kids who have been doing school work from home will be impacted by the loss of the classroom this year. Schools try to figure out how to reopen safely next year. Ken Zarifis with Education Austin tells CBS Austin we have to be honest about the reality of the current situation. 

“We’re not reaching all the kids. Distance learning is not going to get all the kids. Yet at the same time, we have health risks of bringing people back into our schools,” says Zarifis.

He’s long advocated for a lot more public education funding. Zarifis says now would be the time for Texas to invest billions of dollars into public schools. 

Pease Elementary closes down permanently 

The year may have come to an end for the Austin School District, but an entire era is now at an end for one of its campuses. Pease Elementary in downtown Austin was one of several schools flagged for closure last year by the school board. After 144 years, students, parents and staff have said goodbye for the final time. 

The Round Rock Express is facing economic hurdles

Even though Governor Abbott has cleared professional sports to resume this weekend, the remainder of the season for the Round Rock Express is very uncertain. Express President Chris Almendarez says they need to generate revenue one way or the other. Dell Diamond may even be turned into a temporary Airbnb. State and local tax revenues generated by sports tourism pumped tens of millions of dollars every year into the city of Round Rock.

This news and more on News Radio KLBJ:


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