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Coronavirus updates in Central Texas: Temporary external morgue moved to Austin-area hospital

Here are the latest COVID-19 updates, closures and postponements in Central Texas for Friday, Jan. 8.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: This blog is no longer being updated.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 and COVID-19 news in the Austin area.

Scroll down for the top headlines and latest updates in KVUE's Jan. 8 live blog.

COVID-19 numbers:

  • Texas: More than 1.6 million cases have been reported in the state, and more than 28,200 people in Texas have died, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
  • Central Texas counties: 
    • Travis County: At least 55,406 cases have been reported and at least 568 people have died. At least 48,783 people have recovered from the virus.
    • Hays County: At least 11,545 confirmed cases have been reported and at least 138 people have died. At least 9,599 people have recovered from the virus. 
    • Williamson County: At least 22,836 cases have been reported in the county and at least 214 people have died. At least 20,659 people have recovered from the virus.

For a look at COVID-19 data across all of the state's counties, click here.

Updates:

9:40 p.m. – San Marcos CISD said it will be extending its "current academic plant through Jan. 22 due to rising cases in our community." More information can be found on the school district's website.

6:15 p.m. – COVID-19 patients currently make up 38% of Austin-area ICU capacity. The Austin area has had an average of 88.6 new hospital admissions per day over the past week.

There have been 1,198 deaths from COVID-19 in the 12-county Central Texas KVUE viewing area since the pandemic began.

6 p.m. – Travis County reported three more deaths from COVID-19 on Friday along with 592 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 55,406 cases and 568 deaths since the start of the pandemic. At least 48,783 people have recovered from the virus.

Travis County currently has 575 people hospitalized with COVID-19, with 157 in the ICU and 105 people on ventilators.

5:55 p.m. – The University of Texas at Austin announced all undergraduate hybrid courses (except in pharmacy and nursing) will be held online through the end of January.

5:50 p.m. – Baylor, Scott & White Health told KVUE on Friday a temporary morgue is now on its property as a precautionary measure as COVID-19 deaths rise in our area.

"Our hospitalization rate – including the number of patients being treated in our intensive care unit (ICU) – is higher today than it has been at any other point in the pandemic," the health care system said in a statement. "As a precautionary measure, we have made preparations to safeguard our community’s loved ones who have passed in a temporary external morgue, which is on our property in the event that it is needed. There is no current need for this resource – it is a precautionary measure only at this time. This is an unprecedented step for us, but one we must take to be prepared in these uncertain times."

5:25 p.m. –  Austin Public Health (APH) has been informed by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) that, as part of the State’s next allocation of COVID-19 vaccine, APH will be getting its largest allocation of doses as part of a Texas program to pilot regional COVID-19 vaccine hubs.

The 12,000 vaccines, which represent less than 1% of the area population, will be given to those who meet the State’s criteria for Phase 1A and 1B of vaccination. Phase 1A includes community healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities and Phase 1B includes residents 65 or older or residents with underlying health conditions that put them at increased risk for severe disease and death from COVID-19. 

RELATED: Austin Public Health to receive 12,000 COVID-19 vaccines next week

APH is expecting to receive the vaccine shipment next week and will begin administering vaccines to people in Phase 1A, specifically residents of long-term care facilities not enrolled in the federal pharmacy program, through a closed clinic.

4:55 p.m. – According to a joint statement from Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David’s HealthCare, currently, the 2,473 staffed beds within all three healthcare systems are 74% occupied, and the 483 ICU beds are 89% occupied.

One more youth development coach at the Giddings State School tested positive for COVID-19 this afternoon.

4:35 p.m. – The Austin metro area recorded an average 1,119 new COVID-19 cases per day over the past week, a new record. The positivity rate average for the area is at 11.35%.

There are 660 COVID-19 patients in Austin-area hospitals, making up 16.67% of total capacity. Friday marks the fifth consecutive day that number is above 15%. Seven consecutive days above 15% means businesses must scale back capacity limits to 50%, according to Gov. Greg Abbot's executive order.

Austin-area ICUs have 41 beds left available.

RELATED: Austin-area hospitalization trend means businesses could soon have to roll back capacity

4 p.m. – Hays County reported another death from COVID-19 on Friday, a Kyle man in his 90s. Health officials also reported 257 new confirmed cases, six new hospitalizations and nine new hospital discharges. There are 146 additional people considered recovered.

3:50 p.m. – Texas reported 17,335 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the total to 1,684,271. The seven-day average is up to a new record of 16,788 new cases per day over the past week – up 27% from a week ago and up 43% from a month ago.

There are a record 13,921 COVID-19 patients in hospitals statewide, up 11.5% from a week ago and up 54% from a month ago.

Texas reported 372 new deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the state's death toll to 29,310. The positivity rate average is at 20.01% statewide.

2:40 p.m. – As of today’s update, Texas has used 41% of its vaccine allocation. And the state got close to doubling its fully vaccinated population – 4,754 added today. More than half-a-million have one dose.

1:04 p.m.  The Texas DSHS is speaking about COVID-19 and the vaccine distribution. You can watch the briefing on KVUE's YouTube channel.

12:30 p.m. – The Williamson County and Cities Health District is gearing up to vaccinate 200 long-term care facility residents and staff. These doses will be allocated and administered starting Jan. 11 as part of the Week 4 allocation.

“Taking care of our most fragile residents has been our top priority since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Dr. Lori Palazzo, MD, WCCHD Medical Director and Health Authority. “While the vaccine is a light at the end of the tunnel for these residents, the focus must remain on rigorous infection-control practices. We are looking forward to the day when families can be reunited and visit their loved ones.”

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