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Coronavirus updates in Central Texas: Travis County reports another 8 deaths from COVID-19, 280 new cases

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

Editor's note: This blog is no longer being updated. Click here for Saturday's blog.

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 July 31 live blog.

COVID-19 numbers:

  • Texas: More than 412,100 cases have been reported in the state, and more than 6,200 people in Texas have died, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services
  • Central Texas counties: 
    • Travis County: Over 20,700 cases have been reported and at least 274 people have died. At least 18,292 people have recovered from the virus.
    • Hays County: Over 4,300 confirmed cases have been reported and at least 28 people have died. At least 1,426 people have recovered from the virus.
    • Williamson County: More than 5,700 cases have been reported in the county and at least 76 people have died. At least 4,982 people have recovered from the virus.

Updates:

6 p.m. – Travis County reported another eight deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, as well as 280 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 20,745 cases and 274 deaths. At least 18,292 people have recovered from the virus.

There are currently 338 people hospitalized in Travis County from COVID-19, including 127 in the ICU and 83 on ventilators.

5:35 p.m. – The Austin airport says live music will return across from Gate 17 next week. The airport will feature a limited series of instrumental performances by local musicians on Monday, Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. CDC guidelines will be followed.

5:30 p.m. – Williamson County reported another 99 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the total to 5,715 and 76 deaths. At least 4,982 people have recovered from the virus.

5:23 p.m. – The Texas Juvenile Justice Department provided the following updates related to COVID-19:

  • One youth at the Giddings State School tested positive for COVID-19 on July 30.
  • Seven youth at the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex, in Brownwood, tested positive for COVID-19 on July 30.
  • Three youth tested positive for COVID-19 at the Evins Regional Juvenile Center, in Edinburg n July 31.
  • One staff member and one youth development coach at the Giddings State School tested positive for COVID-19 on July 31.
  • One youth development coach at the Evins Regional Juvenile Center tested positive for COVID-19 on July 31.

Since the start of the pandemic, 161 staff members at the agency’s secure facilities have tested positive for COVID-19:

  • Evins Regional Juvenile Center: 54
  • Gainesville State School: nine
  • Giddings State School: 40
  • McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility: 20
  • Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex: 38

Since the start of the pandemic, 183 youth at the agency’s secure facilities have tested positive for COVID-19:

  • Evins Regional Juvenile Center: 28
  • Gainesville State School: 13
  • Giddings State School: 78
  • McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility: 41
  • Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex: 23

5 p.m. - Hays County reported another 18 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Friday, as well as three new hospitalizations, one person released from the hospital and 53 additional recoveries.

The county has reported a total of 4,315 confirmed cases and 28 deaths. At least 1,426 people have recovered from the virus.

4:35 p.m. - On Friday, hospital capacity for Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David's HealthCare had 74% of the 2,473 total staffed beds occupied, with 83% of the 483 total ICU beds occupied.

4:30 p.m. - The Texas Department of State Health Services said it will not post new data on its COVID-19 dashboard on Sunday, Aug. 2 thanks to a scheduled upgrade to the system that processes electronic lab reports. Data for Sunday will be posted with Monday's update.

11 a.m. - Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Speaker Denis Bonnen, Texas Senate Chairman Larry Taylor and Texas House Education Chairman Dan Huberty release a joint statement on reopening schools in the fall. The full statement reads:

"The Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) guidance for opening public schools in Texas for the 2020-21 school year remains the same as announced two weeks ago. This guidance followed a letter issued jointly by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Speaker, and Chairs of the Senate and House Education Committees.

The top priority is protecting the safety and health of students, teachers, staff, and families. To achieve that goal, the TEA provided local school boards the flexibility they need to open schools in ways that ensure public safety while also providing the best education options for students during this challenging school year.

The TEA guidance applies long-standing state law and Executive Orders to conclude that the authority to make decisions about when and how schools safely open rests with the constitutionally and statutorily established local school boards.

The authority to decide when the school year will begin lies with local school boards. They can choose dates in August, September, or even later. But, whenever the local school board chooses to open, the board must comply with the requirement to provide the necessary number of days and hours of instruction for students.

The authority to decide how schools will safely open this year, again, lies with local school boards. It can be with students in schools, it can be through remote learning, or a combination of the two. In making that decision, school boards have the ability to base their decisions on advice and recommendations by local public health authorities but are not bound by those recommendations.

As the TEA previously announced, school boards have up to a 4-week back to school transition period during which they can offer a solely remote instructional setting if that is deemed needed for the health and safety of students, teachers, staff and parents. After 4 weeks, the school district can extend the transition period up to another 4 weeks with a vote of the school board and receiving a waiver. If any school district believes they need an extension beyond 8 weeks due to COVID-19 related issues, the TEA will review that request on a case-by-case basis.

If at any time during the school year a COVID-19 case is confirmed on a school campus, the school board has the ability to close the campus for up to 5 days to sanitize the campus. Schools that close under this scenario will continue to be funded for providing remote-only instruction.

Additionally, during the course of the school year, a local public health authority may determine that a school building must be closed in response to an outbreak. If that occurs, that school will continue to receive funding for providing remote-only instruction during the period of that closure.

Local school boards also have the flexibility to achieve health and safety goals by offering alternating on-campus/remote instruction for high school students in order to reduce the number of students in campus buildings at one time.

The TEA and the Attorney General correctly note that local health authorities play an important role in school closure determinations during the course of a school year if it is determined that a contamination has occurred necessitating closure, but local health authorities do not have the power to issue preemptive, blanket closures of schools weeks or months in advance of when a school may open its doors to students. Pre-existing Executive Orders have repeatedly made clear that local government operations, such as public schools, are permitted to be open.

School boards established by the Texas legislature play a unique and pivotal role in school decisions that must not be superseded by other local authorities unless expressly allowed. It is clear that school boards can and should work collaboratively with, but not be subject to the advance directives of, local public health authorities, to ensure a safe and effective learning environment for Texas students."

9 a.m. - Austin Public Health held its weekly coronavirus Q&A Friday morning, urging Austin-area residents to not let their guard down when it comes to preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

"We've made the decision to stay in Stage 4," said Austin health authority Dr. Mark Escott. He said ICUs in the Austin area are still full and still under their surge plan. Additionally, elective surgeries are still limited. Escott said that, until the area is at a better place regarding hospital personnel and ICU capacity, Austin will remain in Stage Four.

You can watch the full press conference on KVUE's YouTube channel.

7:50 a.m. - Starting next week, people in Del Valle will be able to get free testing for the coronavirus. Testing will be available at Del Valle Middle School from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. No insurance or referral is needed. The walk-up testing is being offered on a first-come, first-served basis for two weeks starting Aug. 3.

5:30 a.m. - Austin Public Health is set to hold its weekly Q&A press conference at 9 a.m. Friday. This comes as the Austin area is seeing a decrease in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

WATCH: KVUE Defenders COVID-19 Q&A: Is there a target positivity rate for the reopening of schools?

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