AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: This live blog is no longer active. For the latest updates on Tuesday, 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 March 23 live blog.
- Austin-Travis County close to issuing shelter-in-place order; no decision made yet
- Gov. Abbott issues 2 executive orders to free up 'countless hospital beds'; says no statewide shelter in place
- Coronavirus: Q&A with an Austin emergency room doctor
- As coronavirus crisis deepens, Congressional rescue talks churn
- LIST: Confirmed Central Texas coronavirus cases by county
- New City of Austin order requires grocery stores, pharmacies to enforce social distancing
- Need a job? These Austin-area stores, other businesses are hiring right now
- Bastrop County reports first presumptive positive COVID-19 case
- Austin coronavirus cases reach 79
7 p.m. – The City of Austin reaches 86 confirmed cases of coronavirus.
IDEA Public Schools says it will be offering free curbside meals to all children under the age of 19 in each of their regions.
All IDEA schools in Austin will have meals available for curbside pick-up from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday.
“At IDEA Public Schools we understand that many of our students rely on us for needs beyond academics,” said Irma Munoz, IDEA Public Schools chief operating officer. “We are very thankful that we have the opportunity at IDEA Public Schools to offer free meals at all of our campuses throughout Texas and Louisiana.”
All meals will be provided via drive-thru only. Kids are eligible for meal service at any school location.
6 p.m. – In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Central Health-funded CommUnityCare Health Centers said it is offering patients medical appointments without leaving the safety of their home.
CommUnityCare said its staff was calling and texting patients that already have scheduled appointments to determine whether or not they can occur by phone. Patients who have not heard from CommUnityCare about their scheduled appointment or are wanting to make an appointment should call 512-978-9015.
5:45 p.m. – Gov. Abbott granted the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) the authority to take the following actions:
- Waiving continuing education requirements for all licenses (Athletic Trainers, Code Enforcement Officers, Cosmetologists, Dietitians, Electricians, etc.) expiring in March, April, and May 2020. Licensees will still submit their renewal applications, pay the required fees, and have their criminal histories checked but they will not need to complete any required continuing education requirements this licensing cycle, the TDLR said.
- Extending inspection times for boilers and elevators with permits that expire in March, April and May. TDLR said hospitals and other medical facilities will see increased demand in the coming weeks. Temporarily extending required inspections for boilers and elevators will allow healthcare operations to continue, according to TDLR.
5:30 p.m. – The City of San Marcos is closing the Children’s Park Playscape, City Park Playscape, all neighborhood park playscapes, Dog Park and Skate Park.
All public restroom facilities and water fountains in all city parks and natural areas will also be closed and shut off until further notice. This goes into effect at 11 p.m.
"All other parks and natural areas remain open for active use within the current permitted constraints of social and physical distancing," the City said. "Groups are limited to 10 people or fewer with recommendations to maintain at least six feet between individuals."
5:20 p.m. – The Central Texas VA announces changes to its veterans’ food pantry truck services.
Veterans participating in the food pantry services are asked to adhere to a six-foot social distance between others. Pre-assembled boxes will be given to veterans taking advantage of picking up food pantry items.
For Austin, normally held the fourth Tuesday of each month, the service is canceled until further notice.
4:50 p.m. – The Travis County Tax Office announces it will temporarily stop taking any new legal action against residents with delinquent property taxes. State penalties and interest will continue to accrue on what those taxpayers owe, in accordance with Texas state law.
If you have a payment plan for your property taxes and need to renegotiate terms or if you need to set up a payment plan, call (512) 854-9473 or email TaxOffice@TravisCountyTX.gov.
3 p.m. – Gov. Greg Abbott requests a presidential major disaster declaration for Texas. According to Abbott's office, the request is based in part on the governor's conclusion that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is "of such severity and magnitude that supplementary federal assistance is necessary to save lives; protect property, public health and safety; and to lessen or avert the threat of a larger disaster."
In his letter to President Donald Trump, Abbott specifically requested Individual Assistance Crisis Counseling and Public Assistance Category B (Emergency Protective Measures), including Direct Federal Assistance for all 254 counties in Texas. The letter also detailed Texas' efforts to mitigate the impact of the virus. According to Abbott's office, the requested federal aid would be used to overcome the shortage of personal protective equipment, needed medical equipment and testing supplies and to address impending shortages of medical equipment and hospital beds. Read the governor's letter.
2:30 p.m. – Blanco County has reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19.
2:13 p.m. – Gov. Greg Abbott announced Texas received $36.9 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the state's first round of funding from a coronavirus bill passed by Congress. $19.5 million will go to 43 local health departments to aid in their COVID-19 response, the governor's office said.
12:57 p.m. – Officials have prepared to issue shelter-in-place orders for Austin and Travis County, but are waiting for recommendations from Mark Escott, the city's health authority, KVUE's Tony Plohetski confirmed.
12:30 p.m. – Austin City Council Member Gregorio Casar said he is bringing an emergency ordinance to the March 26 city council meeting that would create a 60-day grace period for those unable to pay rent due to the coronavirus. He said this will help ease the burden on renters and small business owners.
12:15 p.m. – Williamson County announced five new positive COVID-19 cases, bringing the county’s total to 14.
10:30 a.m. – Lee County announced it has started testing for COVID-19 since it just received test kits. At this time, there are no confirmed cases in the county.
10:23 a.m. – Capital Metro announced that on Tuesday at 10 a.m., it will host a Facebook live Q&A to answer any questions riders may have.
9:40 a.m. – The Hays County Local Health Department, in conjunction with the City of San Marcos, has established a call center to respond to questions from Hays County residents regarding the coronavirus. Residents may call the hotline at 512-393-5525 with non-emergency COVID-19 questions from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
7:35 a.m. – The City of Pflugerville is closing all City parks, playscapes and courts in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The closure includes dog parks and the skate park until further notice.
However, city trails will remain open. If you do use a city trail, be sure to practice social distancing.
5:30 a.m. – Starting March 23, CommUnityCare is temporarily closing seven of its clinics in Travis County in order to conserve protective equipment for the safety of medical staff and patients and expand telehealth services.
Here are the clinics that are closed:
- Austin OB Manor-1408 Shadowglen: Highway 290, Suite 302, Manor
- Austin OB Riverside: 2410 E Riverside Dr., Suite. G-2, Austin
- Carousel Pediatrics May’s Crossing: 1201 S. Interstate 35, Ste 303, Round Rock
- Del Valle Health Center: 3518-A FM 973, Del Valle
- Dove Springs Integral Care: 5015 South I-35, Austin
- Hornsby Bend Health Center: 1412 Hunters Bend Road, Austin
- Manor Health Center: 600 W Carrie Manor St., Manor
The healthcare center will re-assign medical staff to larger health centers so they can focus on fighting the pandemic and consolidating resources. CommUnity Care is contacting patients if their appointments are affected.