100% Austin news, info, and entertainment, straight to your inbox at 6 a.m. every morning.
In five minutes, you're fully informed and ready to start another great day in our city.
While 2020 gave us at least two weeks of relative sanity before COVID-19 struck, 2021 started out in utter chaos.
Despite New Year's Day being relatively quiet for the American people, a break from the madness would turn out to be short lived. Here's a look at what the new year has brought so far:
On day two of the new year, University of Texas fans got news that Head Football Coach Tom Herman had been fired. And only moments later, it was announced that Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian would replace Herman as head coach.
The announcement came as a shock to many after they just watched the Texas Longhorns beat the Colorado Buffalos in a 55-23 bowl victory and finished the season with a 7-3 record. In December, Texas Athletics Director Chris Del Conte had also confirmed Herman would keep his job.
https://t.co/w0BcDoAJXM https://t.co/fqLa3dr1E0— Chris Del Conte (@Chris Del Conte)1609605906.0
On Jan. 4, the city experienced the second-highest levels of cedar pollen in the past 25 years. This can be stressful because, while there are some key differences—primarily the lack of fever in the so-called "cedar fever"—pollen allergies and COVID-19 have similar symptoms such as congestion, runny nose, headache, fatigue and change in smell or taste.
In week one of the new year, the U.S. has experienced massive spikes in positive covid cases. Hospitals are maxing out their ICU beds, a joint statement from Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David's HealthCare revealed on Tuesday said that 2,473 staffed beds within all three healthcare systems are 79% occupied, and the 483 ICU beds are 88% occupied.
Congress' met to certify the election results with some senators prepared to claim voter fraud, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Trump supporters descended upon Washington D.C. in the thousands for the "Save America" rally at The Ellipse where President Donald Trump told the crowd to march down the road to the nation's Capitol building.
Protesters across the country gathered in front of their own state Capitol buildings, including hundreds of people who congregated in front of the Texas Capitol chanting, "Stop the steal!"
Signs from the Trump rally at the Texas Capitol on Jan 6.Christa McWhirter
By mid-afternoon, the U.S. Capitol building was breached for the first time since 1812 by protesters in D.C. in what is being labeled by lawmakers across the country as an insurrection. Four people were killed in the riot—including one Capitol building police officer.
Austin's Ending Community Homelessness Coalition announced they would not move forward with the homeless count for this year, following many other cities that have cited COVID-19 concerns.
Also on Jan. 7, the U.S. recorded for the first time a one-day death count of 4,000 due to COVID-19. In Texas, the first case of the more contagious COVID-19 strain was identified in a Harris County resident.
Despite so much chaos at the beginning of 2021, one new Austinite seems to be doing well for himself. Tesla CEO Elon Musk was officially named the richest man in the world. The South African entrepreneur recently surpassed Jeff Bezos' worth of $187 billion when his worth rose to $188.5 billion.
@teslaownersSV How strange— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1610033547.0
Some say it feels like 2020 never ended with all that's happened in just one full week of the new year.
After reaching Stage 4 last week of Austin Public Health's risk-based guidelines, Austin-Travis County is now at the Stage 5 threshold with a seven-day average of 50 hospitalizations and dwindling ICU capacity.
While unenforceable under Gov. Greg's Abbott order against local mandates, vaccinated individuals are asked to choose drive-through and curbside options, outdoor activities, social interactions with limited group sizes, as well as social distance and wearing masks indoors. Partially or unvaccinated individuals are asked to avoid gatherings, travel, dining and shopping, choose curbside and delivery options, as well as wear a mask on essential trips.
Flashing back to early-pandemic times, hospitals are at critical capacity—the 11 county Trauma Service Region of 2.3 million people is fluctuating at 16 staffed beds, according to APH.
In a statement on behalf of Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David's Healthcare, a spokesperson said that hospitals are asking residents to "help us and each other" by getting vaccinated and continuing to utilize safety practices to slow the spread of the virus.
According to the statement, a "longstanding" nurse staffing challenge combined with the recent COVID-19 spike is putting "extraordinary pressure" on hospital systems.
Along with the unmitigated spread of the virus in unvaccinated, the more contagious Delta variant is also to blame for the spike in cases. The seven-day moving average of COVID hospitalizations in the Austin area reached the Stage 5 threshold of 50 on Friday, triggering local health officials to ask residents to take action.
Local hospitals have a "surge plan" that includes utilization of "all available patient care space and employees within our hospitals and in other settings" that will go into effect when capacity is hit, according to the statement.
The hospitals are working on sourcing supplemental staff and emphasized that emergency care will still be available but it may involve patient transfers "in order to provide the most appropriate care."
Healthcare systems have hit this threshold previously during the pandemic: the city held an alternate care site at the Austin Convention Center from January to March of this year.
"Our responsibility during this pandemic continues to be balancing our readiness to care for patients with COVID-19, while making sure patients who depend on our hospitals receive needed and timely care," the statement said. "We do not want to see necessary non-COVID care delayed as it was during the early stages of the pandemic."
This story has been updated to after publication to include that Austin has reached the Stage 5 threshold.
- Everything you need to know about breakthrough cases in Austin ... ›
- Vaccine demand follows Austin ZIP codes with most COVID cases ›
- Delta variant, unvaccinated fuel rise of Austin COVID cases - austonia ›
- Austin bars, restaurants respond to Abbott's reopening order - austonia ›
- 1 1/12 oz sweet pepper-infused Tito's Handmade Vodka
- 3 oz soda water
- 1 oz grapefruit juice
- 1/2 oz lime juice
- 1/4 oz simple syrup
Austin legend Willie Nelson will perform at the Texas Capitol today, his first large performance since the pandemic began, closing out a four-day long march across Central Texas to build support for federal voting protections.
Organized by The Poor People's Campaign, the march began in Georgetown on Wednesday and will end with a 10 a.m. rally at the Capitol featuring appearances from former U.S. Congressman Beto O'Rourke and Rev. Dr. William Barber.
Willie Nelson (with Charlie Sexton & friends) will play a free concert at the Poor People's Campaign march for democracy & justice in Austin this Saturday! https://t.co/zZSA0BpbWA
Sign up to join us and see Willie at 10am Saturday: https://t.co/KrDPIFIvST
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) July 29, 2021
The rally calls on Congress to "stop attacks on democracy" by ending the filibuster, pass all provisions of the For the People Act, restore the 1965 Voting Rights Act, raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour and pass permanent protections for all 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Nelson denounced election law proposals gaining traction in red states, such as Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3 in Texas, which 55 House Democrats foiled by fleeing to Washington, D.C., on July 12.
The bills would require additional ID verifications for mail-in ballots, allow partisan poll watchers "free movement" and prohibit elections officials from sending absentee ballot applications to voters who didn't request one.
"Laws making it more difficult for people to vote are unAmerican and are intended to punish people of color, the elderly and disabled," Nelson said. "If you can't win by playing the rules, then it's you and your platform–not everyone else's ability to vote."
The march is in the spirit of the Selma to Montgomery March of 1965, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which protested the blocking of Black Americans' right to vote by Jim Crow laws.