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Coronavirus updates in Central Texas: Travis County reports 2 new deaths from COVID-19, 257 new cases

Here are the latest COVID-19 updates, closures and postponements in Central Texas for Tuesday, June 23.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: This live blog is no longer active. For the latest updates, check out our new 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 June 23 live blog.

COVID-19 numbers:

  • Texas: More than 111,000 cases have been reported in the state, and more than 2,100 people in Texas have died, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. More than 3,200 people are hospitalized across the state. An estimated 68,499 people have recovered.
  • Central Texas counties: 
    • Travis County: Over 6,500 cases have been reported and at least 114 people have died. At least 4,512 people have recovered from the virus.
    • Hays County: Over 1,700 confirmed cases have been reported and at least five people have died. At least 389 people have recovered from the virus.
    • Williamson County: More than 1,400 cases have been reported in the county and at least 32 people have died. More than 720 people have recovered from the virus.

Top headlines:

Latest updates:

8:35 p.m. – The City of New Braunfels has issued an order requiring face coverings in all businesses within the city limits. The order goes into effect immediately and requires businesses to develop and implement a health and safety policy that includes wearing masks when social distancing is not possible.

Businesses will have until Sunday to develop their policy, and enforcement will begin on Monday, June 29. Resources for businesses are available on the city's website.

6:15 p.m. – On Tuesday, Williamson County reported 87 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 1,498, with 732 active cases. Deaths from the virus remain at 32 in the county. At least 722 people have recovered.

6 p.m. – Travis County has reported two more deaths from COVID-19, as well as 257 new confirmed cases. There have been a total of 6,596 cases and 114 deaths, while at least 4,512 people have recovered from the virus.

Travis County has 236 people hospitalized, with 94 in the ICU and 34 on ventilators.

5:30 p.m. – COVID-19 is affecting apartment rents in Austin, according to the Austin Business Journal. The latest report from ApartmentData.com shows rent has fallen more than 4% – about $70 per month – since late March.

This is typically a time of year when rents rise, as most moves happen during the summer when school is out. But this year, rents are declining as fewer people are moving during the pandemic. And occupancy is also down, as more new units are available. Downtown Austin, the Arboretum and the Domain are seeing the biggest decreases.

4:50 p.m. – Hays County reports 130 new cases of COVID-19, along with one new hospitalization and eight additional people considered recovered. Since Hays County first started providing numbers, a total of 2,001 lab-confirmed cases have been reported, including five deaths.

As of June 23, the Hays County Local Health Department has received 6,201 negative test results. At least 389 people have recovered from the virus in Hays County. According to the county, there have been 54 total hospitalizations, with 15 still hospitalized as of June 23.

To view a breakdown of the age range of these cases, visit Hays County's interactive dashboard here.

4:40 p.m. – St. David's HealthCare says it currently has the capacity to treat all patients, including those diagnosed with COVID-19. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ken Mitchell also said St. David's has a surge plan should they need to implement it. Read Dr. Mitchell's full statement below:

"We currently have capacity to treat all patients, including patients diagnosed with COVID-19, and we are able to quickly adapt to the needs of our patients and to the healthcare demands of our community. For example, we are moving patients around among our hospitals, as needed, in order to provide the most appropriate care.

While we currently do not have a need to implement such a plan, each of our hospitals has a surge plan, and we continue to review and revise those plans based on what is currently happening within our community, what is projected to happen, and what we’re seeing in communities that have experienced significant COVID-19 outbreaks. Our surge plans include the utilization of all available patient care space within our hospitals and in other settings across our healthcare system. This includes the conversion and/or retrofitting of certain functions in the available space to accommodate this patient population. In addition to physical space, the plans also address the equipment that will be needed, as well as the appropriate redeployment of staff and physicians."

4:30 p.m. – Gov. Greg Abbott has expanded the ability of mayors and county judges to impose restrictions on outdoor gatherings of over 100 people. Previously, this applied only to outdoor gatherings over 500 people. The Governor has also directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to enact emergency rules that provide strict health and safety standards and procedures related to COVID-19 for child care centers in Texas. These two actions are based on data showing an increase in COVID-19 transmission stemming from large gatherings and child care centers, according to Abbott's office.

“These are just some of the steps Texas will take to contain the rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations,” said Gov. Abbott. “Today’s proclamation and emergency rules will aid in that effort in two key ways: allowing restrictions on large gatherings where COVID-19 is easily spread and implementing a statewide standard of infection control for child care centers. However, as we face this challenge, there is no substitute for personal responsibility. I urge all Texans to do everything in their power to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus by wearing a face mask, washing their hands often, and staying six-feet apart from others.”

4:25 p.m. – According to Austin Public Health's Dr. Mark Escott, over 70% of new COVID-19 cases since June 8 have been in the 20-39 age group. The same group is experiencing increases in hospitalizations, he said.

4 p.m. – Williamson County said its Wilco Forward Small Business Grant Program has issued more than $31.6 million out of the $35 million allocated to assist small businesses affected by COVID-19.

The Williamson County Auditor's Office has approved 3,297 applications as of Monday, June 22, the county said. In the past week, the auditor's office has received 181 new applications. The average grant is $9,603.57.

Businesses owners interested in applying have until June 30 to submit an application.

3:37 p.m. – As of Tuesday, June 23, Caldwell County has 286 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 234 of which are active. Four people have been hospitalized, 50 people have recovered and two people have died. 

3:10 p.m. – KOKE FM announced its Morning Show host, Bob Cole, has tested positive for COVID-19. The radio station said Cole is currently resting, following physician's orders and quarantining at home.

3 p.m. – Capital Metro said a total of 23 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic: two employees of the CapMetro Early Learning and Childcare Center; 17 operators; one admin employee and three maintenance employees. There were three cases reported in March; nine in April; three in May and eight in June, with seven of those reported in the past week.

1:30 p.m. – Gov. Greg Abbott says Texas has surpassed 5,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day for the first time.

12:25 p.m. – Texas state hospitals and state-supported living centers have debuted a new pen pal program amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program will help residents and patients stay connected with their communities during this challenging time, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHS) said on Tuesday.

“As part of our dedication to provide the best care possible at state hospitals and state supported living centers, our staff has developed unique ways to help residents and patients cope with feelings of isolation caused by the pandemic,” said Mike Maples, HHS deputy executive commissioner for the Health and Specialty Care System. “With the newly created pen pal programs, people receiving care in our facilities have been able to maintain social interactions with volunteers.”

Socialization is an important part of maintaining good mental health, HHS said.

Volunteers have already sent more than 900 cards as part of the program.

Anyone interested in volunteering can fill out an application online or email volunteerhhsc@hhsc.state.tx.us.

12:13 p.m. – The University of Texas announced that high school students who apply to UT for fall 2021 undergraduate admission will not be required to submit an ACT or SAT test score as part of their application. According to UT, this change will allow the university to better serve potential students by ensuring that testing limitations related to COVID-19 do not affect a student’s ability to apply.

This is a student-centered decision. During this time of uncertainty for students and high schools, we are focused on working with students to support their next steps toward college,” said Miguel Wasielewski, executive director of admissions. “Suspending this requirement ensures that students have the information they need to complete their application for admission.” 

For more information, visit the University of Texas website here.

10 a.m. – Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is distributing 18 additional cases of the antiviral drug remdesivir to seven hospitals across the Austin area. These cases have been provided to DSHS through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This is the fifth round of distribution from the federal government. At 368 cases, enough to treat approximately 1,472 patients, this is the largest distribution so far and brings the total cases distributed to Texas hospitals by DSHS to 977.  

9:51 a.m. – The Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) announced on Twitter that a child at the Giddings State School tested positive for COVID-19. TJJD said the child and five others were quarantining. Since June 6, Giddings has had four staff members test positive COVID-19, TJJD said. 

8:53 a.m. – H-E-B plans to transition its temporary pay increase into a permanent plan for store and supply chain employees, the company announced June 22. 

8:41 a.m. – Officials announced six new COVID-19 positive cases among the inmate population and six new cases among Travis County Sheriff's Office employees. Travis County officials said the TCSO employees worked in the corrections bureau and the admin bureau.

WATCH: 6,339 confirmed COVID-19 cases reported in Travis County as of June 22


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