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Two in Austin test positive for coronavirus; UT and Austin schools close for the day

2 weeks 1 day 6 minutes ago Friday, March 13 2020 Mar 13, 2020 March 13, 2020 8:58 AM March 13, 2020 in News - Coronavirus Pandemic
By: by Regina Mack, The Texas Tribune
View from the Capitol Rotunda in Austin. (Austin Price for The Texas Tribune)

Officials announced early Friday morning that two people in Austin tested positive for the new coronavirus, marking the first cases in central Texas to be confirmed.

Officials said during a press conference that neither case is believed to be community spread, meaning the illness did not come from an unknown infected person.

Dr. Mark Escott, Austin’s interim health authority, said at the conference that the two cases are not related to one another. One patient is a woman in her 30s believed to have caught the disease from a Houston-area coronavirus patient. The woman is quarantined in her home, where other people live and are being monitored for symptoms.

The other patient is a man in his 60s who is critically ill. He was diagnosed in an Austin-area hospital after being transferred from a rural region of the state, Escott said, adding that metro area hospitals routinely accept patients from rural areas.

“This is concerning but not surprising and we have been prepared for the arrival of COVID-19 in our area,” Escott said in a statement. “It is critical that the community continue to heed our recommendations and take personal hygiene seriously. This will be the key to ensuring that this virus doesn’t spread.”

Austin Independent School District announced that school and offices would be closed Friday, March 13 “in the interest of health safety in regard to our students and staff.” UT Austin initially said it would remain open March 13, but announced later Friday morning that it would be canceling operations and classes for the day, tweeting that “essential personnel only should work today.” St. Edward’s University, in Austin, and the Austin Community College District made similar announcements.

The announcement of two positive tests in Austin brings the total number of confirmed cases in Texas to at least 44 as of Friday morning. The largest numbers of cases have largely been centered in the Houston area, in North Texas and at a federal quarantine site in San Antonio.

Last week, Austin officials canceled South by Southwest music and tech festival, which took in more than $350 million last year.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues. 

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