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Central Texas coronavirus updates: Two UT Austin members test positive

Here are the latest COVID-19 updates, closures and postponements in Central Texas for Wednesday, March 18.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: This live blog is no longer updating. For the latest updates regarding coronavirus in Central Texas follow KVUE's March 19 blog.

KVUE is keeping you informed and providing facts not fear regarding coronavirus, the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scroll down for the top headlines and latest updates in KVUE's March 18 live blog.

Top headlines for March 18

6:45 p.m. – Two members of the UT Austin community, including the first UT student and School of Undergraduate Studies Dean Brent Iverson, have tested positive for COVID-19, the university revealed in a letter to the UT community on Wednesday.

President Gregory Fenves said many more cases are expected during the coming days and weeks.

5 p.m. – Llano ISD says all schools will be closed to students until April 7. Staff will return April 6.

Hutto City Hall closes indefinitely. Citizens and businesses can continue regular business by phone or email.

4 p.m. – St. Edward's University moves all spring semester instruction online and extends spring break until March 29. On-campus student housing will close beginning Sunday, April 5.

Willie Nelson's Luck Reunion will be streamed live online under the name "Til Further Notice," featuring performances by many of the artists booked for the canceled reunion, as well as a few new ones. The event will be streamed from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on March 19 at luckreunion.com/tilfurthernotice or twitch.tv/luckreunion or fans can check out Luck Reunion’s Facebook page for a multifaceted streaming event. Read more about other local music livestreams.

3:30 p.m. – Austin Community College announces it will be moving all spring classes online beginning on March 30. Employees will begin working remotely March 23. Students remain on extended spring break through March 29. Read more.

3 p.m. – Bastrop County on Wednesday said it was limiting all social gatherings to no more than 50 people. This does not include employees working in a business or essential services such as hospitals, pharmacies, day cares, grocery stores, gas stations or hotels to the extent of people staying in rooms, the county said.

The order does include the common area of hotels and any food service areas, as well as restaurants and bars. It also includes events, conferences and religious services.

2:30 p.m. – Hays County has a total of five confirmed coronavirus cases, one of which officials believe was the result of community spread. Four of the patients are believed to have contracted the virus outside of Texas.

Hays Consolidated Independent School District wrote in a letter to the community that a person who was at Tobias Elementary School on March 11 has since tested positive for the coronavirus. Teachers, staff and parents have been notified and the school district is in close consultation with the Hays County Health Department.

Simon Property Group announces it is temporarily closing all of its retail properties, including malls, premium outlets and mills in the U.S. This begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday and ends on March 29.

These properties include Barton Creek Square, the Lakeline Mall, the Round Rock Premium Outlets, the San Marcos Premium Outlets and The Domain.

1:55 p.m. – The City of Dripping Springs has canceled the annual Founders Day Festival along with all city-sponsored events and all events at city facilities through May 14. This includes events at Dripping Springs Ranch Park. The Dripping Springs farmers market has also been canceled this week, while future farmers markets will be evaluated.

1:40 p.m. – Austin Regional Clinic sets up 24/7 coronavirus hotline. People with coronavirus concerns can call (866) 453-4525 and medical professionals will give advice on self-care and treatment recommendations. Austin Regional Clinic is also putting staff at the front entrances of its locations to screen patients before they enter.

1:30 p.m.  Williamson County officials announced four confirmed positive cases of the coronavirus in the county. The cases are a woman in her 40s, a man in his 50s who had exposure to a known case, an infant who has been in close contact with a known case and a woman in her 40s who has known travel history to France.

Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell Jr. has also enacted two new orders, effective at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 18. The first limits community gatherings in Williamson County to no more than 10 people. This order applies to churches, weddings, religious services, concerts, funerals, fundraisers and other such gatherings. The second order mandates that all bars and restaurant dining rooms in Williamson County must close. Restaurants are encouraged to provide take-away and no-contact delivery services. Both orders will be in effect until May 11.

Additionally, the county's chief medical director said testing facilities in the county are increasing day by day. More information will be made available at wilco.org.

1:00 p.m. – The YMCA of Austin has suspended operations at all YMCA of Austin facilities, including those in Bastrop and Hays counties, YMCA said on Wednesday.

The closure includes Bastrop YMCA, East Communities YMCA, Extend-A-Care YMCA, Hays Communities YMCA, North Austin YMCA, Northwest Family YMCA, Southwest Family YMCA, Springs Family YMCA and TownLake YMCA.

The organization has also canceled 10 spring break camps this week and suspended after-school child care at more than 100 sites across Travis, Hays and Bastrop counties until further notice. The YMCA said the cancellations will affect nearly 5,000 children and families.

The organization said it was exploring options to provide small groups with wellness activities in the coming weeks.

12:45 p.m. – The City of Georgetown announces various service changes, including:

  • GoGeo transit hours will be reduced to Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting March 23. The new hours are for fixed-route services and paratransit services. There will be no Saturday service starting March 21. CARTS will continue to provide needed medical trips for pre-scheduled trips.
  • Public access to the Georgetown Animal Shelter is now by appointment only. City pet licenses will be sold over the phone, by email or by mail. Animal Control will conduct business as usual. Information about new guidelines for volunteers can be found at pets.georgetown.org
  • Georgetown residents must bag all landfill trash but may keep recyclable items loose. Texas Disposal Systems will continue to operate normally and the transfer station on Walden Drive remains open to the public.
  • Starting March 18, the Georgetown Public Library will offer curbside pickup of reserved materials in the library's Ninth Street parking lot. People with questions about this service can call (512) 930-3551. The library is also offering storytimes and activities for kids on their Facebook page.
  •  All court dockets currently scheduled in the Georgetown Municipal Court between March 18 and April 3 will be rescheduled. Individuals will be notified of their new court date via mail. The municipal court will also be reducing the size of future dockets. Any person who is unable to comply with an appearance date or a prior order from the judge is encouraged to contact the court to discuss options for an extension.
  • Georgetown Mayor Dale Ross has appointed City Manager David Morgan as the official emergency management coordinator. Ross has also ordered that the City can enforce social distancing standards at city council meetings.

12:20 p.m.  The May 2020 Austin Record Convention has been canceled. The convention's organizers said they will spend "all of their energy making the Fall 2020 Austin Record Convention (October 16, 17, 18) the best it can possibly be."

Shoppers who purchased tickets online should get a refund through the Ticket Leap system. If you don't see one, contact the convention's organizers and they will look into it. 

12:00 p.m.  The ZACH Theatre cancels all performances of "Roe," "The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show," "Every Brilliant Thing,' and "Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch." The theatre has also canceled its spring break camps and postponed its classes, which will resume online on April 1. For more information, click here.

Patrons who had purchased tickets to any of the above performances have three options: 

  • Apply the value of your ticket as a tax-deductible donation to the organization, "which will be used to support ZACH artists and employees affected by these cancellations."
  • Exchange your tickets for a future ZACH performance in the 2019–20 season.
  • Exchange your tickets for a ZACH gift card of the same value. 

11:52 a.m. – Austin-Travis County health officials announced that COVID-19 testing availability in the area would be increased. According to officials, the increased amount of available tests won't be able to cover all of the people who are seeking testing.

Officials say prioritization of testing will go to those most at risk and experiencing symptoms.

11:36 a.m. – The Caldwell County Commissioners Court bans gatherings of more than 50 people. The order does not apply to critical infrastructures such as airports and transit; government buildings providing essential services; schools; grocery stores or pharmacies; hospitals and medical offices or facilities; or the day-to-day operations of day care facilities or private or public sector businesses.

11:30 a.m.  Local health officials confirm that the number of people who have tested positive for coronavirus in the Austin-Travis County area is now 23.

St. David's HealthCare confirms that a physician has tested positive for coronavirus. St. David's said the exposure was not the result of a breach of protocol in its hospitals and it will continue to follow the practices for preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

11:20 a.m. – The Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA) suspends public access to the central office and PBRA property offices and implements a number of overall precautions, as well as precautions specific to Section 8 residents. Read more.

11:15 a.m. – Gov. Abbott issues a proclamation allowing 2020 local elections to be postponed. Local governments now have the ability to postpone their May 2 elections until Nov. 3. 

In conjunction with Abbott's action, Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs has released an election advisory providing guidance for political subdivisions on the process of postponing their May 2 elections.

11:08 a.m. – All Austin municipal court locations will be closed to the public through March 29, although individuals may still contact the court by phone or email to get information and handle their cases.

All court dockets are canceled and cases that are set on dockets will be rescheduled after May 8. Individuals will be notified via mail of their new court date. All due dates will be extended until May 8, including initial appearance dates (as indicated on citation), payment dates (payment plans, extensions, etc.), deferral dates (driving safety course, other deferrals) and community service. Class C warrants will be suspended. For more information, click here.

10:30 a.m.  Gov. Greg Abbott announces he has directed the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to temporarily waive expiration dates for driver licenses, commercial driver licenses and other identification forms. The waived expiration suspension will be in effect until 60 days after the DPS provides further public notice that normal driver license operations have resumed, according to the governor's office.

9:26 a.m. – Starting March 23, all parks managed by the Lower Colorado River Authority will close until further notice. Park reservations can be rescheduled or canceled online.

WATCH: Flatten the curve: Slowing the spread of coronavirus


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