Austin latest Texas city to ban large gatherings amid virus

FILE - This Feb. 7, 2018, file photo shows the skyline in Austin, Texas. Amazon on Thursday, March 28, 2019, announced expansion of its Austin tech hub. A company statement says the new jobs will include software and hardware engineering, research science and cloud computing. Seattle-based Amazon currently employs more than 20,000 workers across the company's 17 North American tech hubs. More than 1,000 jobs have been created in the Austin tech hub in the last four years.(Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP, File)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Austin became the latest Texas community to prohibit large gatherings as a way to help stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

The city on Saturday issued an order prohibiting public and private events and other community gatherings of more than 250 people. The order also covers Travis County, where Austin is located.

Events that could be part of the ban include weddings, religious gatherings and funerals. The ban will continue until at least May 1.

“This community must do all we can to minimize person-to-person passage,” said Mayor Steve Adler.

There were 56 cases of the coronavirus in Texas, the Department of State Health Services reported Sunday. Harris County, where Houston is located, had the most cases with 10.
The vast majority of people who contract the coronavirus recover within weeks. It causes only mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems.

In South Texas, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. on Saturday ordered all county sponsored events with more than 250 people to be canceled or suspended for at least 14 days.

Last week, Dallas banned public gatherings of more than 500 people for at least seven days.

The chief clinical officer at the University of Texas on Sunday announced that school President Greg Fenves has tested negative for the coronavirus. Fenves was screened after his wife tested positive and another family member was presumed positive. Fenves will remain in self-isolation.

The school said that because Fenves had shown some flu-like symptoms earlier in the week, it remains possible he was infectious before he was tested. Anyone who was in close contact with him is encouraged to remain in isolation.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission on Sunday announced that it won’t allow non-essential visitors to have access to nursing homes because of the significant health risks to residents from the coronavirus. Nursing home facilities are being encouraged to use FaceTime, Skype or other similar means of communication for residents to maintain contact with family and friends.

The racetrack in Austin that hosts the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix and other motor racing series announced Sunday it is closing indefinitely after a series of cancellations because of concerns about the coronavirus.

The Circuit of the Americas was supposed to host the MotoGP Grand Prix of the Americas on April 5 and the IndyCar Challenge on April 26. Both races have been canceled. The track is also home to the USL soccer team Austin Bold and the league season has been suspended.

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