Austin’s Top News – October 20, 2020

Austin's Top News from News Radio KLBJ

Homeless hotels at capacity

Austin’s converted hotels for the homeless are nearing their capacity limits. Austin Public Health’s Stephanie Hayden tells the Public Safety Committee the protective shelters helping the homeless steer clear of COVID are still working to keep the population safe.

“Currently we have five pro lodges that are open. All are at or near capacity, so we have roughly about 320 guests that are there,” says Hayden.

Other city staffers say they’re still looking for more hotel and motel space. One newly acquired space last week will add 75 beds to the total count.

Election turnout continues to rise 

There is no sign of any slowdown at the polls at either Travis or Williamson County. Record breaking numbers continue to be reported, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir tells FOX 7 that despite the pandemic, most people are voting in person. 

“First day we were tied, the second day we were just a little bit high and every day after that we have been between 3,000-4,000 voters above the 2016 election,” says DeBeauvoir.

Since last Tuesday when early voting began, 266,000 people have cast a ballot in Travis County. In Williamson County, more than 119,000 votes have been cast. 

COVID-19 update

Travis County sees a slight bump upward for its number of active coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. As of this morning, 846 of the county’s 31,053 confirmed cases are said to be active. Of those, 104 people are hospitalized. ICU bed space has also decreased a bit this week. Since March, 29,760 people who have had the virus have made a recovery.

Antibody study 

The UT health system is working on one of the largest COVID-19 antibody assessments in the nation. UT Health is partnering with the state health department to figure out how many Texans actually have antibodies already. Dr. Jennifer Shuford says tests can reveal quite a lot.

“In part, where we need to have more resources is it helps us know how our interventions may have helped prevent or reduce transmission in certain areas,” says Shuford.

The study is also trying to determine how being asymptomatic might affect the body’s antibody response. About 100,000 people are taking part in this study. 

Stop the Spread TX

National School Safety Week 2020 has proven to be dramatically different from 2019. Issues of bullying and school violence have been replaced with reports of COVID safety violations. The Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers set up an online school safety tracker, so teachers, students and parents can find out in real time the COVID issues on specific campuses. So far, there have been 2,300 reports filed. 

“Many of them are safety reports around masking. Many of them are COVID response reports,” says Capo.

Zeph Capo heads up the Texas chapter of the AFT. He says they’ve even petitioned Governor Abbott to call for stronger enforcement of the COVID safety standards. 

“Tell people to wear the damn mask. Make sure they’re following protocols on campus,” says Capo.

High speed police chase

Hays County deputies opened fire on a man following a high speed police chase. Officials say deputies were able to disable the car during the chase, prompting the driver to point a gun out the window and shoot at them. They returned fire hitting the driver. No deputies were hurt. The driver’s name and condition are still unknown. 

West campus robberies continue

Another robbery in West campus has students concerned. UTPD says a student was robbed at gunpoint over the weekend, and students like Katie Smith told CBS Austin, they feel less and less safe. 

“I’m afraid I don’t really want to go outside late at night anymore,” she says.

Others say it only intensifies their fears as they hear stories of armed robberies from fellow students. Governor Abbott has sent in state troopers to assist with policing in the area.

Backyard chicken coop virtual session

Austin Resource Recovery will host a virtual session on backyard chicken coops on Thursday. The free class will teach people how to properly care for chickens in an urban setting. Attending that class will make you eligible for the city’s home rebate program which gives you $75 for either owning a chicken coop or a home composting system. 

This news and more on News Radio KLBJ:


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