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Coronavirus updates in Central Texas: Austin-Travis Co. reporting 244 confirmed cases, Hays Co. reporting 28 active cases

Here are the latest COVID-19 updates, closures and postponements in Central Texas for Tuesday, March 31.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: This blog is no longer active. To get the latest updates for 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 March 31 live blog.

Top Headlines:

Updates:

7:20 p.m. A second APD employee has tested positive for coronavirus.

7 p.m. – Gillespie County reported its first positive case of COVID-19 on Tuesday, March 31. The City of Fredericksburg said the patient was tested on March 26 and received results five days later. While the test was not performed in Gillespie County, the person lives in the county.

6:15 p.m. Gov. Greg Abbott announces the Comfort Food Care Package (CFCP) program to provide meals for at-risk youth and families in communities. As part of the program, participating restaurants will offer patrons packages to purchase on behalf of families and youth in need. 

Each care package will contain enough food to feed a family of five or six and will be delivered to recipients’ homes. The program is a partnership between the Governor's Public Safety Office, the Texas network of Family and Youth Success Programs (formerly called Services to At-Risk Youth), Favor Delivery, and the Texas Restaurant Association.

The  program includes the following steps:

  1. Participating restaurants list CFCPs on their online ordering system for customers to purchase on behalf of at-risk families and youth in the community.
  2. Customers add CFCPs to their orders and purchase.
  3. Family and Youth Success Programs identify families and shelters who have the most need and work with participating restaurants and Favor to get the meals delivered.

Families interested in the program should contact their local Family and Youth Success Program for more information. Restaurants interested in participating can sign up on the Texas Restaurant Association website

5:30 p.m. – Austin 3-1-1 says between March 23 and March 30, it has taken nearly 6,000 calls about coronavirus. More than half of those calls were from people trying to get information, while nearly 1,000 calls were about a gathering or event over occupancy or not practicing social distancing. The department took 38 calls about restaurants and bars not following the rules.

5 p.m. – Hays County is now reporting 28 active cases of coronavirus.

4:50 p.m. – ZACH Theatre announces it is placing 75% of its employees on furlough. Furloughed employees will continue to receive 100% of their current health benefits. The remaining staff will work on reduced salaries.

ZACH has also postponed its annual gala, Red, Hot & Soul, previously scheduled for May 2. ZACH organizers said the musical "Tortoise and Hare" will soon be made available for in-home viewing and that they are continuing to work to add more family-friendly streaming content in the coming weeks. All ZACH education programs have been moved online, beginning April 1.

4:30 p.m.  To aid local businesses struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, the Hutto Community Development Corporation launched an Economic Recovery Loan Program. Borrowers will be able to access up to $25,000 at no interest, with no payments due for 90 days and a 24-month loan term after the deferment period.

4 p.m.  Austin-Travis County confirms the number of people who have tested positive for coronavirus in the area is now 244. Read more.

Deemed an essential service provider under all local stay-at-home orders, Meals on Wheels Central Texas (MOWCTX) will continue to deliver services to the homebound older adults it serves. MOWCTX said thanks to its volunteers, all home-delivered meal clients have enough lunches to last them through April 10.

3:15 p.m.  Round Rock ISD announces it will be extending closures until at least May 4, in accordance with Gov. Abbot's executive order.

3:10 p.m. – Austin-based jewelry brand Kendra Scott said it is repurposing existing materials and donating its yellow-branded bandanas to local volunteer groups to sew masks to be donated to various hospitals in the Austin, New Orleans, New York and California communities.

3 p.m. University of Texas student paper The Daily Texan reports that seven UT employees and 38 students have tested positive, been presumed positive or are self-reporting a case of COVID-19 as of today. 

2:45 p.m. – The Texas Nurses Association urges Gov. Greg Abbott to issue a statewide stay-at-home order. Read the full letter here.

Texas Land Commissioner and Chairman of the Veterans Land Board George P. Bush announces that the Texas Veterans Land Board (VLB) will provide temporary relief to Veterans with VLB loans.

The VLB will be following protections outlined by the VA, FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These measures will include a temporary moratorium on credit reporting, evictions and foreclosures, and a temporary suspension of late payment penalties. Those with current loans should contact their servicer for assistance and more information.

For more about the VLB’s Land and Home Loan Program, visit the VLB website.

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar reminded business owners that April 15 is the deadline to file property tax renditions with their county appraisal districts. Different deadlines apply for certain regulated properties.

Business owners affected by the coronavirus pandemic can request an extension of the deadly to May 15 in writing to the chief appraiser. Some appraisal districts already have extended the deadline, so check with your local appraisal district first.

For information relating to your property appraisals, owners should refer to their local county appraisal district. For other taxes, the Comptroller’s office is providing updates on the Comptroller’s COVID-19 Emergency Response page.

2:15 p.m. – At a press conference March 31, Gov. Greg Abbott expanded his executive order, which "in short," means Texans are expected to stay home unless they are doing an activity or work somewhere listed as essential. A list of essential services can be found online. If Texans must leave their home, they must follow the "presidential standard of distancing practices," Abbott said.

The governor said the order is enforceable by any law enforcement officer in the state. Punishment could mean a fine or up to 180 days in jail.

This order has been issued through April 30. School buildings must remain closed through May 4 and students should continue remote learning in the meantime.

Watch the full press conference on KVUE's YouTube page:

WATCH: Gov. Greg Abbott gives update on how state is handling COVID-19

1:49 p.m. – Hays County is now reporting 22 active cases of COVID-19

1:30 p.m.  Meals on Wheels says it will begin dropping off two week's worth of food to cut back on interactions. The organization is in urgent need of volunteers. Click here to learn more.

1 p.m. – The Home Builders Association of Greater Austin has sent a letter to Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt asking the city and county to include all home building as an essential service, citing guidelines from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency that designate construction as "essential critical infrastructure."

Current rules for Travis County only include affordable housing projects as essential.

12:40 p.m. – Confirmed Williamson County cases grow from 42 to 50.

12:20 p.m. – Austin Smiles, a nonprofit dedicated to pediatric surgical and post-surgical care for children born with cleft lip and cleft palate, will donate personal protective equipment (PPE) to local organizations, including Austin Disaster Relief Network, Austin Oaks Hospital and the Center for Child Protection, the organization announced on Tuesday.

Austin Smiles said it has partnered with Synergy Plastic Surgery, who will match the donations for Austin Disaster Relief Network's PPE donations drive.

11:15 a.m. – CapMetro's fare-free rides start April 1 and continue throughout the month. CapMetro officials said the company will revisit at the end of the month to see if it needs to continue the fare-free service. Passengers must board through the rear door and maintain a safe distance while on our vehicles, CapMetro said.

Due to grocery store shortages, Texas Roadhouse locations across the state are selling ready-to-grill steaks directly to the public, the restaurant said. Texas Roadhouse said it is offering a variety of fresh-cut steaks including Ribeye, Strips, Sirloin, and Filet. To place an order, guests are encouraged to call the restaurant.

11:10 a.m. – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed for immediate appellate review in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to enforce Governor Abbott’s Executive Order (GA 09) postponing any unnecessary medical procedures to preserve desperately needed medical supplies for the health professionals combating the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). According to Paxton's office, the governor’s executive order applies to all health care facilities and professionals in Texas to ensure that hospitals and their staff have access to as much personal protective equipment and hospital beds as possible during the crisis. Paxton's office said abortion facilities want special treatment not available to any other health care provider in Texas.   

RELATED: Federal judge temporarily blocks Texas' ban on abortions during coronavirus pandemic

11 a.m. – The Austin Public Health Department (APH) announced it was investigating a cluster of COVID-19 cases involving a large group of young adults returning from a spring break trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Health officials said approximately 70 people in their 20s departed in a chartered plane for the trip and some of the group returned on separate commercial flights. APH said 28 young adults from the trip have tested positive for COVID-19 and dozens more are under public health investigation. Four of the confirmed cases did not present any symptoms, APH officials said.

RELATED: Group of Austin spring breakers test positive for coronavirus after trip to Mexico

8 a.m. – Llano Independent School District has extended its school closure through April 13 and plans to have staff and students return on April 14, the superintendent said. Check Llano ISD's website for regular updates on COVID-19.

WATCH: Gov. Abbott expands order requiring certain travelers to quarantine

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