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Coronavirus updates in Central Texas: Austin Fire Department employee tests positive for COVID-19

Here are the latest COVID-19 updates, closures and postponements in Central Texas for Tuesday, April 7.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: This blog is no longer active. To get the latest updates Wednesday, 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 7 live blog.

Top Headlines:

Updates:

10:30 p.m. – City of Austin confirms an Austin Fire Department employee has tested positive for COVID-19.

9:05 p.m. – The Department of State Health Services is reporting Mason County has its first confirmed positive case of COVID-19.

9 p.m. – Burnet County is now reporting five confirmed cases of COVID-19.

5:50 p.m. – Austin-Travis County is now reporting 554 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with seven deaths.

More details can be found on the City of Austin website.

5:30 p.m. – Williamson County is looking for volunteers to join its "Mask Brigade." Anyone with a sewing machine is urged to sign up to help make fabric masks to be provided to first repsonders, medical professionals and others.

Williamson County is accepting two types of masks – the COVID Ranger Mask, designed to go over the N95 mask to extend its life, and the Pleated Pattern Mask.

Anyone interested is asked to go to www.wilco.org/howcanIhelp or contact organizers at COVID-19Masks@wilco.org.

4:50 p.m. – Bastrop, Blanco, Hays and Caldwell counties report new cases. Here's where our Central Texas counties stand.

4:35 p.m. – Gov. Greg Abbott has temporarily waived certain regulatory requirements to increase the job capacities of pharmacy technicians and pharmacy interns. Under the governor's waiver, pharmacy technicians can now accept prescription drug orders over the phone — a responsibility typically reserved for pharmacists. The governor's waiver also allows pharmacy technicians to transfer or receive a transfer of original prescription information on behalf of patients. These two waivers can be utilized at the discretion of pharmacists. Additionally, Gov. Abbott has waived certain regulations allowing pharmacy interns to assist pharmacists without the designation of preceptor. 

3:45 p.m. – Texas Health and Human Services has released updated guidance to nursing facilities across Texas on how to react in the event that there is a presumptive or positive case of COVID-19 at a facility. The guidance "spells out the immediate, short-term and longer-term steps a facility should take to help contain the spread of the virus, including protocols for infection control, isolation of residents, and the use of personal protective equipment," said David Kostroun, Deputy Executive Commissioner of the Texas HHS Regulatory Services division.

3 p.m. – The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) is now working with Austin Public Health to screen people at the door for a fever or other COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone with symptoms will be assessed by a nurse and, if necessary, be sent to an isolation hotel.

After the protocols began on Friday, the ARCH has so far sent six people to the isolation hotel. People at the hotel can be officially tested and lined up with additional homeless services.

1:55 p.m. – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced that members of the Texas Senate – both Democrat and Republican – are volunteering staffers to assist the Texas Workforce Commission in answering calls from Texans who are seeking unemployment help. For information about the Texas Workforce Commission and unemployment benefits available to Texans through the federal Cares Act, click here.

1:50 p.m. – Both Caldwell and Williamson counties announce the extension of their stay-home orders until April 30.

12:30 p.m. – Private ambulance service City Ambulance has announced it will donate 100 N95 masks to the Austin EMS Association. City Ambulance also pledged another 100 N95 masks to the EMS Association in the coming weeks.

12:15 p.m. – Austin has revealed the city received 12,472 coronavirus-related calls to 311 between March 4 and April 6. While the largest number of calls were from people requesting information, more than 2,000 calls were to report over-capacity businesses or gatherings:

  • Report restaurants not in compliance: 2,018 calls
  • Report exposure concern, self: 887 calls
  • Report exposure concern, public: 1,054 calls
  • Event-related: 138
  • Report over-occupancy at business or gathering: 2,050
  • Requesting information: 6,083
  • Report active construction: 119
  • Report bars that are open: 36

12 p.m. – Williamson County announces the fourth death due to COVID-19. The deceased is a woman in her 50s. The county also announced six new positive cases, bringing the total to 87.

RELATED: LIST: Confirmed Central Texas coronavirus cases by county

11:45 a.m. – The City of Austin has urged houses of worship to observe the local stay-at-home orders after Gov. Greg Abbott's order last week allowed in-person religious gatherings to continue, superseding the local mandate.

“While we must abide by the governor’s order reclassifying mass in-person religious gatherings as essential, we are also reassured and grateful to see a strong level of support among the Austin faith community for staying home and staying safe, especially this time of year,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “We continue to strongly recommend refraining from hosting or attending any gatherings that would only risk increasing the spread of this deadly disease inside of the congregation.”

11:20 a.m. – Austin health officials confirmed they are investigating five "clusters" of COVID-19 throughout the city, according to KVUE's Tony Plohetski.

There are currently 76 patients hospitalized in Austin. Hospitals across Austin are currently at 50% capacity due to the cancellation of elective surgeries. Health officials also confirmed that half of the 502 COVID-19 cases have experienced symptoms for 14 days, so that chunk of patients should be recovered or near recovery, Plohetski reported.

11:04 a.m. – Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) had adopted an emergency rule to allow end stage renal disease (ESRD) facilities to treat patients more effectively during the COVID-19 response. This emergency rule provides increased flexibility to providers to serve dialysis patients. This will be helpful in providing appropriate social distancing and/or provide locations for patients that have tested positive for COVID-19 at a location separate from other dialysis patients to reduce the chance of spreading the virus, according to Abbott.

11 a.m. – Sen. John Cornyn tells KVUE's Bryan Mays that lawmakers could be doing more to help than just providing the approved stimulus checks.

"We know that small businesses continue to have bills to pay in addition to payroll, but they don't have any income," Cornyn said. "So, yes, we've already done a lot but we'll do more and keep monitoring it as needed."

10 a.m. – Austin health officials say Austin Public Health hopes to offer public testing for the coronavirus as early as this week.

The interim director of Austin Public Health, Dr. Mark Escott, said they are working to develop an online portal allowing citizens who believe they may have the virus to use a sort of online triage system that could remove the possible barriers faced when using a doctor or telehealth. 

9:36 a.m. – The City of Austin announced that all city parks and trails will be closed Easter weekend to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This means the parks will not be open from Thursday, April 9, through sunrise on Monday, April 13. This closure includes all city parks, trails, greenbelts and preserves -- which includes the Roy and Ann Butler Hike and Bike Trail.

9:05 a.m. – Gov. Greg Abbott announced that all state parks and historic sites in Texas will temporarily close starting Tuesday at 5 p.m. The parks will reopen at the governor's direction. The closures are in an effort to "strengthen social distancing practices and prevent gatherings of large groups of people," Abbott said.

RELATED: Gov. Greg Abbott announces temporary closure of state parks, historic sites amid COVID-19 outbreak

WATCH: Mayor Adler discusses wearing masks, Austin's peak coronavirus period

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