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Central Texas coronavirus updates: Austin reaches 17 confirmed cases, eyes Phase 5 of response

Here are the latest coronavirus updates, closures and postponements in Central Texas for Tuesday, March 17.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: This live blog is no longer updating. To get the latest coronavirus updates in Central Texas, read KVUE's March 18 blog

KVUE is continuing to track the latest headlines and updates regarding coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Scroll down for the top headlines and latest updates in KVUE's March 17 live blog.

Top headlines for March 17

Latest updates:

7 p.m. – Austin reaches 17 confirmed cases of coronavirus. The City says to act as if we are in Phase 5 of Austin Public Health's COVID-19 response.

The Justices of the Peace of Travis County issue an updating standing order. Of note:

  • All non-essential court proceedings will be rescheduled until after May 8
  • All evictions (commercial and residential) are rescheduled until May 8
  • No writs of possession shall be issued until May 13
  • Class C ticket appearances are rescheduled

No warrants for failing to appear to court for traffic tickets will be issued.

Gov. Abbott also waived the 10-day investigation period for Texans applying for unemployment benefits, saying, "We want you to get your benefits ASAP."

6:50 p.m. – Gov. Abbott waives certain regulations and directs the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) to issue an emergency rule, all relating to telemedicine care for patients with state-regulated insurance plans. This will allow telemedicine visits for those patients to be paid the same as in-office visits for insurance purposes.

Abbott's office said medical providers seeking guidance on the impact of the new rule can expect guidance from the Texas Medical Board in the coming days. Insurers seeking guidance should contact TDI or visit their website.

Abbott's office also reminded Texans that patients covered by CHIP or Medicaid will not be charged copays for tests or telemedicine consults, while individuals covered by Medicare or large employer plans should check with their plan administrator to determine specific benefits.

6 p.m. – The mayor of San Marcos signs a new Order that reduces public gatherings to 10 persons. The Order also adds new closures including common dining areas at food establishments, as well as bars. It is in effect until April 1.

Food establishments are required not to allow more than 10 people to occupy the same space or dining room at the same time, and are encouraged to provide take-away or no-contact delivery food service designed to limit exposure between individuals. 

Bars are ordered to close common bar spaces open to the public and are prohibited from allowing consumption on the premises until April 1.

5:30 p.m. – The Diocese of Austin suspends all public Masses and liturgies. Priests have been instructed to offer daily and Sunday Masses privately in the parish sanctuaries. Many of these ceremonies will be shared on parish social media. Church leaders are asked to limit staff in day-to-day operations.

The City of Pflugerville is closing public access to City Hall (Utility Billing), Records (Justice Center) and Development Services. Citizens are asked to take their needs online or by phone.

UT Austin announces all classes will be conducted online for the remainder of the spring semester. Click here for more information.

5 p.m. – Hays County prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people beginning Wednesday at 2 a.m. lasting through 5 p.m. on May 14. It recommends all businesses to practice social distance in buildings, keeping distances of six feet between people.

Kevin Durant tests positive for coronavirus. Click here for more information.

4:30 p.m. – Gov. Greg Abbott requests designation from the Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Declaration to access the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) for the entire state. If granted, the SBA would provide long-term, low-interest loans to qualifying businesses across Texas.

All small businesses who believe they may be eligible for an SBA EIDL should visit the Texas Division of Emergency Management website. They will be directed to the SBA website, where they can apply for assistance.  

4:00 p.m.  City of Austin temporarily closes walk-in utility payment centers on Webberville Road and Research Boulevard.

Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) announces most employees will begin working remotely and the customer service lobby on Colorado Street will be closed to the public.

3:45 p.m. – Starting on Wednesday, the Texas State Capitol will be closed to public visitors. Elected officials will be allowed in while staff that can telework will work remotely.

3:30 p.m. – CommUnityCare Health Centers launches a hotline to assist uninsured Travis County residents experiencing coronavirus-like symptoms who have been in close contact with someone known to have any of the symptoms or who was diagnosed with the virus. People experiencing COVID-19 symptoms who are uninsured and don't have an established doctor can call 512-978-8775 for guidance from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Hutto Public Library announces it will be closed through the end of March, starting at 5 p.m. on March 17. Materials that have been checked out may be returned in the book drop outside of City Hall or may be returned after March 31 without penalty.

Lakeway puts new emergency regulations into effect following the City of Lakeway's "declaration of disaster."

3:20 p.m. – TxDOT postpones its in-person public hearings and gatherings through April 3, with that date subject to change. This excludes the Texas Transportation Commission meeting on March 26. TxDOT said, "Work on projects to improve our transportation system continues, as does TxDOT's ongoing work to maintain and operate our state's transportation system." Read more.

3:00 p.m. – The Burnet County Court at Law is suspending all dockets and jury trial settings until April 1.

2:45 p.m. – The Austin Police Department (APD) is changing its protocols as efforts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic ramp up.

On Tuesday, police said they would no longer respond to crashes where there is no injury and all vehicles are drivable. For lower priority calls, APD will also increase its use of online or over-the-phone reporting.

Additionally, the department will no longer send an officer/civilian to calls that can be addressed through online or phone reporting, including property crime technicians.

APD said there will be no changes to the most serious calls for service where life and property are at immediate risk.

12:50 p.m. – Broken Spoke announces it will be closing "after being continuously open for the past 55 years." The venue said it is taking the situation week-by-week.

12:45 p.m. – Gov. Greg Abbott said as of March 17, Texas was up to 64 confirmed cases of coronavirus across 19 counties. Abbott also reported the state's first coronavirus-related death, involving a man in his 90s in Matagorda County. Abbott said 1,264 Texans have been tested and "that number will continue to increase dramatically." The governor said he was confident the state would be able to test 10,000 people per week by the end of this week.

Austin-Travis County has offered help for residents and businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak. Austin Energy will not disconnect utility services. The Travis County Justices of the Peace have a standing order posted indicating there will be no eviction settings held until after April 1, 2020. The Neighborhood Housing and Community Development (NHCD) Department has offered information and referrals to assist impacted community members with immediate housing needs. The Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) will distribute curbside for seniors and their spouses, which is limited to 10 meals per person. The Economic Development Department has offered services for businesses who may find themselves struggling in the coming weeks, including free business coaching, emergency planning resources, and a family business loan program. Texas Workforce Commission is where people can apply for unemployment benefits.  People with no insurance and no established provider experiencing coronavirus-like symptoms are encouraged to call CommUnityCare at 512-978-9015.  

12:30 p.m. – Gov. Greg Abbott announced he had activated the Texas National Guard to be prepared to assist with response efforts for COVID-19. According to the governor's office, this preparative measure will ensure that the Texas National Guard can assist in various forms throughout the state when needed. Healthcare workers and first responders who are members of the Texas National Guard are excluded from this activation so that they can continue serving the people of Texas in their respective fields. 

Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced that all Austin bars and restaurant dining rooms must close for six weeks in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Adler also announced the City of Austin is limiting gatherings to 10 people.

RELATED: Austin bars and restaurant dining rooms must close due to coronavirus, mayor says

11 a.m. – The AFS Cinema announces it is closing until further notice. Refunds can be delivered via the theater's website. Special programs already on the calendar will be rescheduled for a later date.

Williamson County school districts hold a press conference regarding school closures, lunches and remote instruction. 

All Williamson County tax offices will be closed until further notice. Online operations will still be taking place.

10:30 a.m. – Capital Metro is making changes to its bus schedules. Bus passengers must now board from the rear of the bus unless they're paying with cash, CapMetro said.

9 a.m. – City of Leander Mayor Troy Hill has signed a disaster declaration after other counties and cities did the same in order to maximize the availability of aid and assistance that could be requested to prevent local virus spread. The city is suspending events hosted by the parks and recreation department and by the Leander Public Library through May 1. All municipal court hearings in April will be postponed and all city board and commission meetings in April will be canceled.

7:44 a.m. – Alamo Drafthouse has closed all locations and all but one franchise-owned location until further notice.

5:30 a.m. – Franklin Barbecue announced the restaurant will suspend dining room service "for the time being," but will offer curbside pickup service.

WATCH: Austin mayor on how to stop the spread of COVID-19

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