Austin’s Top News – October 14, 2020

Austin's Top News from News Radio KLBJ

Abortion ban struck down

The Texas law banning the most common form of abortion has been struck down by a federal appeals court. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Texas law banning the abortion procedure referred to as dilation and evacuation during the second trimester. Amy Hagstrom Miller, the CEO of Whole Women’s Health, filed suit back in 2017. 

“Judge Dennis and his majority decision states that this law forces abortion providers to act contrary to their medical judgment,” says Miller.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says the fight isn’t over. 

“The Texas Legislature acted well within its constitutional limits when it banned this barbaric practice,” says his spokesman, Alejandro Garcia. 

Early voting turnout

The first day of early voting was huge in Travis County. Almost 36,000 people turned up at the polls. County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir expects those lines and wait times to thin out over the next few days. However, she does expect Election Day to be very, very busy. 

“I still need almost 400 out of about 2,500 Election Day workers, so we’re still recruiting,” says DeBeauvoir. 

In Williamson County, 22,707 ballots were cast on the first day of early voting. That’s a new record. Early voting continues through October 30th. 

Fears of election interference have some wondering what Austin police may be doing during the voting season. APD Assistant Chief Joe Chacon says officers are not actively watching the polling stations, but they know where they are.

“They have the ability to go by, kind of do a directive patrol or just keep an eye to make sure that everything looks good with the lines that might extend well off the premises of the polling location,” says Chacon.

Outside of keeping the peace, police really won’t be taking any other action. 

Travis County bars not open

The day has arrived for bar owners to begin reopening, but there’s been nothing but silence from Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe in regard to whether he’ll give bars the all clear to do so. Austin Mayor Steve Adler says the latest UT models don’t bode well for bars. 

“We could experience an 87% increase in admissions and a 55% increase in hospital bed use, 64% increase in ICU bed utilization by November 1st,” says Adler.

Lack of any discussion from the counties led many to believe that bars will remain shuttered for an indefinite period of time in Travis County.

COVID-19 update

Some of Travis County’s most recent COVID-19 numbers are unavailable this morning. Austin Public Health blames that on an external laboratory but hasn’t elaborated. What we do know is there are 90 people hospitalized today, and while that is an increase, it’s up by only two from a day ago. 

There are eight more people hospitalized for coronavirus today in Williamson County than there were a day ago. As of this morning, 26 people hospitalized and 183 cases are active. That number’s up by 20. In all, 9,043 cases found since back in March, 8,715 of those cases have resulted in a recovery. 

Researchers and health leaders from Austin/Round Rock Metro say the pandemic is getting worse. Area Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott says the latest predictions from UT health shows COVID hospitalizations growing in the days just ahead of the election. 

“The past several weeks, the projections have looked relatively flat in some circumstances, approaching the threshold for stage two of risk. Right now, through the next three weeks, that line has not crossed stage two. In fact, it goes further into stage three of risk,” says Escott. 

Dr. Escott says the area had been close to crossing into stage two with a rolling admission rate of 12, 3 times before. But just like now, COVID numbers bounced deeper into stage three. 

AISD sick out day

For what they say is a show of solidarity for teachers from the Austin School District, families are planning a sick out day today by not reporting the class. Parent Marissa Ennis tells CBS Austin that means students not logging into anything that counts for attendance. 

“So that would mean don’t email your teacher. Don’t log into your zoom meetings. Don’t go into your BLEND page, which is where kids can see their assignments and do homework,” she says.

Because the district relies on attendance for state funding, she says she hopes this will send a message to the school board that teachers shouldn’t have to work on campus during the pandemic. 

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