This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Friday, Aug. 7. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.
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Austin Public Health reports seven more deaths
Austin Public Health reported 224 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Friday, up from 232 yesterday. The seven-day average of daily new cases is now 248. Seven new deaths were reported, for a total of 295.
There are now 279 people hospitalized with the virus in the five-county region (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell), 18 fewer than yesterday. Despite that net decrease, APH reported 24 new COVID-19 hospital admissions in the region Friday. The seven-day average of hospital admissions is now at 35.
Local officials are keeping an eye on that number and adjusting restrictions based on it. An average below 40 could push the region down to stage 3 of APH’s risk-based guidelines, but that move also depends on other factors, like ICU and ventilator capacity. Officials are recommending the area stay in stage 4, the second-highest level, for now.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says the law doesn't support local eviction bans
Local governments that have halted evictions are out of step with the state’s property law, Attorney General Ken Paxton said in an opinion issued Friday.
The opinion is nonbinding and simply an interpretation of the law, but signals the state’s position should a lawsuit be filed. Currently, the City of Austin and Travis County have banned evictions until after Sept. 30; a spokesperson for Austin said Friday the city is looking into whether it would change its ban because of this opinion.
Republican state Sen. Brandon Creighton of Monroe asked Paxton to weigh in on the issue. In his opinion, Paxton wrote that a state disaster declaration does not allow local governments to “rewrite” state law.
Texas allows limited visitation at nursing homes and long-term care sites
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has released rules for limited visitation at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Visitation had previously been put on hold, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in these vulnerable spaces.
According to the new guidelines, physical contact between patients and visitors won’t be permitted. At nursing homes, people can visit outdoors only. At other long-term care facilities, people can meet indoors or outdoors, but if meeting indoors, additional safety measures, like the use of a plexiglass safety barrier, will be needed.
Facilities will have to meet certain requirements before they can have visitation. They must have zero active cases among residents and go at least 14 days with no cases among staff.
The commission has also released additional emergency rules for nursing homes, including requiring them to screen residents for symptoms at least three times a day and mandating the facilities make plans to maintain a two-week supply of personal protective equipment.
“This is a rapidly evolving situation and we are constantly assessing what actions are necessary to keep residents and staff safe in these facilities,” Executive Commissioner Phil Wilson said in a statement. “By following these procedures and rules, facilities can more effectively prevent the spread of COVID-19 and help us achieve our shared goal of reuniting residents with their families and friends.”
More nursing home guidance from Texas HHS can be found here.
Round Rock City Council will move election that had been postponed due to COVID-19
The Round Rock City Council said it will move its next election from May 2021 to this November, after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the city could not wait until 2021.
The elections were originally set to take place in May of this year, but were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last night, council members directed the city attorney to draft an ordinance that will move the postponed elections to Nov. 3.
Last month, Paxton issued a letter that said local governments did not have the authority to delay any elections past the November date. Mayor Craig Morgan defended the council's original plan to hold elections in 2021, but ultimately said they would take place in November.
"Let me be very clear, there will be other battles to fight when it comes to local control but this is not the one," Morgan said. "This is not the time to take our city down this road, that we can agree with."
The council will vote to adopt the election ordinance next week.
— Allyson Ortegon
Financial crisis caused by the pandemic is hitting Hispanics harder than most
A new study from the Pew Research Center finds unemployment rates spiked particularly high among Hispanic women. Pew found that the unemployment rate among Hispanics jumped from about 5% in February to almost 19% in April, before dropping a bit in June.
Among Hispanic men, the unemployment rate peaked at almost 17%. For Hispanic women the unemployment rate exceeded 20%. According to the survey, about 6-in-10 Hispanics said they live in households where someone lost a job or had their pay cut due to the coronavirus outbreak, which is a much higher rate than the average of U.S. adults.
The survey also found the majority of Hispanics say they have had a hard time making ends meet during the pandemic. They are also more likely than U.S. adults overall to say the worst is yet to come during the pandemic.
— Ashley Lopez
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