Public Notice: You Know Things Are Bad When ...
Part 47 in a long series
Coronavirus (remember when that was a big thing?) actually did squeeze back into the headlines this week, as Texas jumped way up in the national ranks for new cases and hospitalizations following Gov. Greg Abbott's precipitous "Open Texas" proclamations and the Memorial Day excesses. And officials fully expect that the mass protests will bring another bump in the numbers – even as epidemiologists remind us that tear gas increases the risks of COVID-19, for all classes of people, worsening symptoms of those who have the disease, bringing symptoms to the fore for those who have the virus but are asymptomatic, and increasing the chances of acquiring the virus for those not yet infected.
At least it's gotten easier to get tested for the virus: Austin Public Health this week announced that they're "encouraging individuals who have not been able to practice social distancing to sign up for a free COVID-19 test." They've loosened their requirements in order to let more people without symptoms sign up for an appointment at their drive-through site; create an account at www.austintexas.gov/COVID19 to start the process.
Central Health and CommUnityCare do that one better: As we go to press, they're testing anyone who shows up at one of their centers for any reason – "Show up, get tested. It's that quick and easy" – except at the main Hancock Center station, which is only testing those with symptoms or an exposure. Best of all: Testing is free for the uninsured, and if you have insurance, they'll bill your insurance company. Testing sites are open 9am-noon and 1-4pm every day but Sunday – at Hancock six days a week, and at six other locations at least one day a week – drive-through or walk-up. Call 512/978-8775 for more info, or see www.communitycaretx.org.
Austin ISD, meanwhile, is scrambling to figure out the distance-learning puzzle, as it becomes ever more clear that the virus is drastically steepening the learning curve for disadvantaged and special needs students, and widening the achievement gap. To that end, they're asking students in grades 6-11 for feedback on the past semester as they consider "possibilities for the 2020-21 school year." Questions focus on the student experience: how supported they have felt these past few months, what their greatest needs may be, and what concerns they may have about returning to school. Students must enter their student ID number to access the survey, but all submissions will be confidential; see here. The district is holding a series of "Conversation Circles" on the topic as well: today, Thu., June 11, from 2-3:30pm, and 6-7:30pm with a focus on Special Education; then Sat., June 13, 11:30am-1pm (Spanish with English interpretation); and Mon., June 15, 9-10:30am.
Coming soon: Stay Black and Live: A Virtual Juneteenth Celebration hosted on Friday, June 19, from 6-10pm by the George Washington Carver Museum, Cultural and Genealogy Center, Six Square, Greater East Austin Youth Association, Jump on It, and Austin Public Library, with support from the Vortex – film screenings, raffle prizes, free food, a dance party, poetry, music, and more, streamed across multiple platforms and at www.juneteenthatx.com. To kick it off, the Juneteenth Committee will distribute 600 BBQ plates to communities most impacted by COVID-19, beginning at 5:30pm in the Carver Museum parking lot.