Coronavirus update: Austin and Travis County advise residents to start using face masks, coverings when in public

The city of Austin issued a stay-at-home order March 24. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
The city of Austin issued a stay-at-home order March 24. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

The city of Austin issued a stay-at-home order March 24. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

This post will include updates from Travis County and the city of Austin for the week of March 30, including daily case counts. For local updates from March 23-29, please click here.

Update: April 5, 6:16 p.m.

The city of Austin and Travis County jointly announced April 5 that the entities have adopted new Centers For Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, recommending local residents wear face masks or fabric coverings—such as scarves or bandanas—when going outside to perform essential activities such as going to the store. According to the city and county, wearing a face mask or covering should be paired with social distancing to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“This is another piece of a complex process to slow the spread and flatten the curve in our community,” Interim Health Authority Mark Escott said in a news release. “While you might otherwise feel well and healthy, we need everyone’s help to prevent the potential asymptomatic spread to others who could face more severe symptoms.”

According to Austin Mayor Steve Adler, using fabric to cover faces is the next step in preventing the spread.

"[Fabric face coverings] are really easy to make and everybody has everything they need to make one lying around the house. It’s important, though, to absolutely still follow the six foot rule," Adler said.

The total number of reported coronavirus cases in Travis County increased to 484 April 5, and there have now been six coronavirus-related deaths in the county since the outbreak started in mid-March.

Capital Metro has also announced that one of its four employees who tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this week has died, although the entity would not officially state the cause of death. The employee was a bus mechanic who did not have any interaction with the public, according to a statement from Capital Metro. The agency will not be releasing his name.

Update: April 4, 8:43 p.m.

With 30 new cases reported, Travis County and Austin health officials have confirmed 460 coronavirus cases as of April 4.

Update: April 3, 6:07 p.m.

In another day where Travis County saw a record high in confirmed new coronavirus cases, the area count stands at 430 on April 3.

Austin and Travis County health officials also confirmed the fourth local death due to the coronavirus.

To see how coronavirus has spread across the state and a breakdown of how the pandemic has hit Central Texas, click here.

In response to the local coronavirus outbreak, Austin ISD has closed all 129 of its school campuses indefinitely. Previously district had said closures would last through at least May 4.

Also, the All Together ATX Fund held an all day digital telethon April 3. Austin Community Foundation and United Way for Greater Austin have teamed to create the fund to provide flexible resources to nonprofit organizations disproportionately impacted financially by coronavirus. You can learn more about the fund here.

Update: April 2, 4:03 p.m.

There have been 46 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Travis County over the past 24-hour period, according to the most recent update by Travis County and Austin officials April 2. The new cases bring the total number of local cases to 351.

Earlier in the day, Capital Metro announced that one bus mechanic and three bus operators had contracted the coronavirus. The first bus operator last worked on March 25, and the other two operators last worked on March 26.

Also, Travis County announced April 1 that while county parks have not yet permanently closed due to the coronavirus, they will be closed from April 10-April 12 for Easter weekend in order to limit possible gathering opportunities for the holiday. According to the county, some parks will reopen in a limited capacity April 13 to allow access to walking, hiking and biking.

Update: April 1, 4:55 p.m.

April 1 saw 61 new confirmed coronavirus cases in Austin and Travis County, representing the highest jump in cases for one single day in the area. A third local death related to coronavirus was also confirmed by local health officials.

The April 1 spike to 305 total cases comes one day after the area set the previous single-day record in new confirmed cases with 38 on March 31.

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Travis and Williamson counties continue to climb, Sendero Health Plans announced April 1 that it would be waiving all fees associated with treatment of coronavirus with in-network providers for its members. The move makes Sendero, Central Health’s nonprofit health care plan, the first Affordable Care Act plan in the Austin area to waive cost-sharing for coronavirus treatment.

Over the past 24 hours, local school districts including Ausitn ISD have also announced that school campuses will remain closed through May 4, after Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order regarding the state's response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis during a March 31 afternoon press conference. Austin Community College also announced its campus would remain closed through at least May 31 and students will have a pass or no-pass option for the spring semester.

Update: March 31, 4:33 p.m.

The number of coronavirus cases confirmed in Austin and Travis County is 244 as of March 31. The 24-hour increase from 206 on March 30 is the largest single jump in one day the area has seen since the first local cases were announced on March 13.

Of those 244 cases, nearly half of the individuals to test positive are between ages 20-39—121 cases, or 49.6%.

On March 31, the Austin Public Health Department announced that 28 young adults returning to the Austin area from a spring break trip in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, are among the positive cases.

Health officials said around the third week of March, a group of about 70 people in their 20s departed in a chartered plane for the trip. In addition to the 28 individuals who have already tested positive, APH said "dozens" more are under investigation.

In the area, a total of 57 individuals between ages 20-29 have tested positive.

"While Mexico at the time of [the students'] travel was not under a federal travel advisory, Austin-Travis County residents should follow the CDC’s travel recommendations indicating travelers avoid all nonessential international travel," a media release from the city and county said. "A leisure vacation of any kind is not considered essential."

While hospital resources have not yet been stressed due to coronavirus patients, city officials are planning for situations in which individuals will need additional space to be quarantined.

The city announced March 27 it has finalized a lease agreement for the 292-room Crowne Plaza hotel off I-35 in north central Austin for "quarantine and isolation" purposes.

Update: March 30, 5:30 p.m.

According to health officials from the city of Austin and Travis County, the area saw its second coronavirus death March 30, and the number for confirmed local cases rose to 206. The first death from the coronavirus occurred in Travis County on March 26.

Austin Public Health announced it will be setting up two isolation centers at licensed nursing home facilities where nursing home residents in Austin who have tested positive for the virus will be able to stay and receive care if they do not need to go to the hospital or if they have already been discharged. The goal is to separate those who have tested positive from the rest of their peers at the nursing home and prevent anything similar to what happened in Washington, where 35 people died at one nursing home facility.

The city of Austin has also further closed recreational facilities at local parks March 28 in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Beginning March 28, all city tennis courts, basketball courts, skate parks and pavilions are closed to the public, according to a news release from the Austin Parks and Recreation Department. Other public parks facilities—such as playgrounds, playscapes, exercise equipment, pools and recreation centers—were previously closed to the public March 16.
By Nicholas Cicale
Nick has been with Community Impact Newspaper since 2016, working with the Lake Travis-Westlake and Southwest Austin-Dripping Springs editions. He previously worked as a reporter in Minnesota and earned a degree from Florida State University.


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