Coronavirus update in Austin, Central Texas: April 8, 2020

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: This blog is no longer active. For the latest updates, check out our new live blog here.

KVUE is keeping you updated with the latest coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, news in the Austin area.

Scroll down for the top headlines and latest updates in KVUE's April 8 live blog.

Top Headlines:

Updates:

9:15 p.m.  TSA reported its officers screened just over 97,000 people total on April 7, compared to more than two million on the same day last year. Screening numbers are down 94% since March 15.

6:30 p.m. – Austin-Travis County confirmed coronavirus cases grow to 597. Deaths remain the same at 7.

6:05 p.m. – Austin American-Statesman photojournalist Lola Gomez shared her experience with battling COVID-19 during a virtual town hall held by the Austin Justice Coalition.

"I remember I was talking to my sister in Florida. I said, 'We need to tell Mom because I don't know if I am going to make it," Gomez said. 

Gomez said she is feeling much better but still has a cough and trouble breathing.

6 p.m. – Bastrop County has amended its COVID-19 order to include the closure of Bastrop County and city parks, as well as ask people to wear face coverings in public.

5:30 p.m. – Gov. Greg Abbott suspended a list of statutes concerning appearance before a notary public to execute a self-proved will, a durable power of attorney, a medical power of attorney, a directive to physician, or an oath of an executor, administrator, or guardian. These suspensions temporarily allow for appearance before a notary public via video when executing such documents. 

The suspended statutes are: 

Tex. Estates Code § 251.104(b)Tex. Estates Code § 251.1045(a)Tex. Estates Code § 751.0021(a)(4)Tex. Health & Safety Code § 166.154(b)Tex. Health & Safety Code § 166.032(b-1)Tex. Estates Code § 305.054Tex. Estates Code § 1105.052

The following conditions will apply:

A notary public shall verify the identity of a person signing a document at the time the signature is taken by using two-way video and audio conference technology.A notary public may verify identity by personal knowledge of the signing person, or by analysis based on the signing person’s remote presentation of a government-issued identification credential, including a passport or driver’s license, that contains the signature and a photograph of the person.The signing person shall transmit by fax or electronic means a legible copy of the signed document to the notary public, who may notarize the transmitted copy and then transmit the notarized copy back to the signing person by fax or electronic means, at which point the notarization is valid.

The suspension will remain in effect until ended by the governor or until the March 13 disaster declaration is lifted or expires. Any documents executed during this suspension will remain valid afterward.

5 p.m. – The City of Georgetown Parks and Recreation Department will be closing all parks and trails from sunset on Thursday until sunrise Monday due to social distancing goals and limiting gatherings of more than 10 people.

4:30 p.m. – Gov. Greg Abbott announced a one-time waiver of the federally required cash or in-kind match contribution required for the Victims of Crime Act and STOP Violence Against Women Act grant funds.

He said the waiver will provide financial relief to 600 grant recipient organizations in Texas who are federally required to contribute up to 25% of their own funds or donated services towards a project in order to remain eligible for continued grant funding.

4:25 p.m. – Hays County is now reporting 54 active COVID-19 cases, with 77 total lab-confirmed cases and 23 recoveries.

4 p.m. – The City of San Marcos said it will install portable restrooms, sink stations and hand sanitizer stations at the Southside Community Center and in the lot adjacent to the Dog Park at 250 Charles Austin St., to be available for public use on Thursday. The effort is part of a short-term strategy to provide personal hygiene needs for the public, including the homeless community.

3 p.m. – Gov. Abbott announced that Texas Health and Human Services (HHS) will provide more than $168 million in emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food benefits.

The HHS received federal approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide the maximum, allowable amount of SNAP benefits to recipients based on their family size. These emergency allotments are currently authorized for the months of April and May and will affect all SNAP recipients in the state.

SNAP recipients will begin seeing the additional amount on their Lone Star Cards by April 15 for this month’s benefits, and by May 15 for next month’s. Disbursements will be staggered and will start on April 9. SNAP recipients will not need to take any further action to receive these new benefits. More information about SNAP benefits is available here.

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announces he will send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $701.8 million in local sales tax allocations for April, which 0.5 percent less than in April 2019. These allocations are based on sales made during the month of February by businesses that report tax monthly.

May's allocations, which will mostly reflect sales made in March, will begin to show the impact of coronavirus-related business shutdowns. The agency expects local allocations in May to be lower, and June allocations will likely deteriorate even further.

2:45 p.m. – Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt announced at a press conference that non-essential activity in the Austin-Travis County area is down 64%, but warned that social distancing is still necessary. Judge Eckhardt also said she thinks the number could get even higher, which would further reduce the stress on hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can watch the full press conference on KVUE's YouTube page.

2:40 p.m. – Multiple health centers in the Austin area have been awarded more than $7.8 million in another round of federal grants, according to Sen. John Cornyn's office. This includes the centers announced by Rep. Doggett earlier in this blog.

The additional facilities include Lone Star Circle of Care with $2,473,925 and Tejas Health Care with $651,875.

Capital Metro announces that a fifth employee, a bus operator, has tested positive for the coronavirus. Their last day working was March 24. Today, CapMetro exchanged 6,000 medical-grade masks for 6,000 disposable surgical masks with their partners at ATCEMS.

2:15 p.m. – The Buda City Council voted to waive food truck fees for the second quarter. The council also waived credit card transaction fees, utility late fees and utility disconnects for two months, and gave the Inspired Minds Art Center a two-month waiver of license fees.

The council also authorized the Still Budaful Stimulus Program to assist businesses negatively affected by the pandemic. The stimulus is a local economic development program authorized under Chapter 380 of the Texas Local Government Code to help reduce the resulting economic strain on local businesses. The total contributions between the City of Buda and Buda Economic Development Corporation amount to $380,000, allowing eligible businesses to apply for the following assistance programs.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area and Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area announce they are now supporting Central Texas businesses in finding resources that can help avoid layoffs during the COVID-19 crisis. For more information, click here.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, announces more than $4.6 million in funding for Austin community health centers. Secured in the CARES Act, the recently-passed coronavirus relief package, this funding is delivered through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). People’s Community Clinic is receiving $1,000,775 and Travis County Healthcare District (Central Health) is receiving $3,676,220.

1:52 p.m. – Austin Mayor Steve Adler, along with health officials, gave an update on how the city is combating the coronavirus pandemic. 

You can watch the full press conference on KVUE's YouTube page:


RELATED: Travis County leaders working to identify emergency medical sites in new 'Surge Plan'

1:45 p.m. – Bastrop County is now reporting 18 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 310 people under investigation. There has been one death in the county.

1:30 p.m. – Gov. Greg Abbott said the Texas Military Department and Prestige Ameritech will partner to increase face mask production for health care workers. Abbott said Prestige Ameritech's 24-hour operation at its Fort Worth headquarters will be staffed in part by members of the Texas National Guard 36th Infantry Division and will produce around 2 million masks per week.

12:50 p.m. – Cedar Park announced it will be closing all city parks and trails at sunset on Thursday, until sunrise on Monday, April 13. Additionally, Williamson County has closed the Brushy Creek Regional Trail as well as its county parks for the same time period. The City said these efforts are aimed at tackling the spread of coronavirus during the busy holiday weekend.

12:40 p.m. – Austin Community College (ACC) announced it would move all summer classes online for the summer 2020 semester to help contain the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the health and safety of students and employees. All standard student support services will be available virtually including advising, free tutoring and tech support.

12:30 p.m. – Gov. Greg Abbott announced at a press conference that Walgreens will soon begin to offer 15-minute drive-thru testing for COVID-19 in Texas.

Gov. Abbott also provided updated numbers regarding COVID-19. He said that as of April 8, 96,258 Texans have been tested for COVID-19 and of those, 9,107 people have tested positive.

Additionally, Gov. Abbott said that 1,491 Texans have been hospitalized for COVID-19 and there have been 175 fatalities in the state.

12 p.m. – Williamson County announced 10 new cases, bringing total to 97. Forty people have recovered.

Gov. Greg Abbott is holding a press conference about the state's COVID-19 response. Listen in:


11:04 a.m.   The Republic of Texas Motorcycle Rally, known as ROT Rally, has been rescheduled for June 10 through June 13.

11 a.m. – UT announced its Pharmaceutical Engineer and 3D Printing Lab is making face shields for Dell Medical School and other facilities.

10 a.m. – We Are Blood (WRB), the sole provider and protector of blood to more than 40 hospitals and medical facilities in Central Texas, said it is launching a convalescent plasma program (CPP) to support local hospitals requesting plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients. Plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients contains antibodies that may be helpful for treating patients still battling the virus, according to WRB. 

"COVID-19 convalescent plasma is our best weapon for treating patients who are dealing with active and serious cases of COVID-19," said Nick Canedo, vice president of community engagement for We Are Blood.

9:20 a.m. – The City of Taylor announced parks, trails and open spaces will close during the Easter weekend to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The closure goes into effect at sunset, Thursday, April 9 and goes through sunrise, Monday, April 13, according to city officials. It includes all City parks, trails, and green spaces - which includes the skate park, pavilions, playscapes, volleyball, basketball, tennis court areas, and restrooms, as well as hike-and-bike trails, open spaces, and running track. Signage, gate closure and regular patrols will remind the community of the park closures, city officials added.

The Williamson County Parks and Recreation Department also announced it will be closing county parks and trails at sunset on Thursday, April 9, until sunrise Monday, April 13. The decision to close these facilities and outdoor locations is an effort to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and prevent residents from being exposed to the virus during the busy holiday weekend, county officials told KVUE.

9:15 a.m. – Airbnb’s Frontline stays program is expanding to allow individual COVID-19 responders to book places to stay directly on the Airbnb platform, which includes eligible stays in the Austin area. According to Airbnb, through the Frontline stays program, the company’s community of hosts are helping to provide housing for medical personnel, relief workers and other first responders on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis, including those who need a convenient place to stay while serving or self-isolating. Airbnb said it is waiving its fees for the first 100,000 stays booked through this program. The Airbnb community of generous hosts have already offered 100,000 places to stay for people responding to the pandemic, the company told KVUE.

WATCH: COVID-19 cases surge across Texas


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