Austin is tracking 36 COVID-19 clusters in the general population—more than half among construction workers
Austin Public Health is tracking 36 non-institutional clusters of COVID-19, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott told the City Council earlier today. Of those clusters, 19 are among construction workers, four are at food service or grocery locations, and three are among building cleaning and maintenance services.
Testing conducted at two construction sites earlier this month revealed that COVID-19 exposure is greater among construction workers than the general population. According to Dr. Escott's presentation, nearly 8% of workers tested were positive, compared to a positive rate of around 3.4% for those tested through APH's public enrollment system.
In addition to these clusters, Dr. Escott said workers may be resistant to being tested—either on-site or at community clinics—due to fear of criminal repercussions related to immigration status or a positive result leading to the loss of a paycheck. "This is a significant barrier," he added.
Dr. Escott said another concern is varying positive test rates—which correlate with higher hospitalization and fatality rates—among different racial and ethnic groups. For example, Hispanic and Latino residents who have been tested through the public enrollment system have a positive rate of around 8.6%, more than double that of the overall population. White residents, on the other hand, have a positive rate of around 1%.
Dr. Escott attributed this variability to long-standing disparities in healthcare access and other social services.
Local officials are working to engage construction companies and other employers in partnerships to encourage employee testing, Dr. Escott said, but he didn't provide any additional information about these efforts.
City Council will also take up a resolution Thursday that would direct the city manager to establish a strategy for high-risk workers to prevent COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.
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The University of Texas-Austin continued its march toward a new normal on Friday, as university President Gregory Fenves marked his last day of leadership after five years in office—the final two months of it dominated by sweeping pandemic-era changes on campus.
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Protests over police killings planned for Austin this weekend following widespread demonstrations across U.S.
At least two protests are planned in Austin this weekend over the recent killings of black men by police: Mike Ramos, who was fatally shot by an Austin Police Department officer on April 24 in Southeast Austin, and George Floyd, who died in police custody on Monday after a Minneapolis Police Department officer knelt on his neck. Both events were filmed.
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As Texas navigates reopening restaurants and bars safely, al fresco spots provide the perfect place for long-quarantined Austin residents. Some of these favorites are open only on the patio, others are allowing customers to eat to-go orders in the space, and a few are full service—the details are subject to change. This is not an all-inclusive list, but here they are, in no particular order:
Upscale seafood fare is served under striped umbrellas on the tree-lined porch, with dogs allowed and an unfettered view of South Congress foot traffic.
Address: 1400 S. Congress Ave.
- Reopening today: the zoo (masks required), water parks (advanced tickets required), driver's license offices (appointments required).
- As protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis spread to cities around the county, a demonstration drawing attention to both Floyd and Mike Ramos is planned for Austin this weekend.
- With local businesses concerned they can't make a profit at limited capacity, the city council may soon allow the use of sidewalks and parking lots to increase it, CBS Austin reports.
- KUT notes that, ultimately, it's up to voters to decide who votes by mail.
- Aaron Franklin will be inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame, writes Daniel Vaughn at Texas Monthly, just as his restaurant faces its biggest challenge yet.
'This has dwarfed anything else we've seen': Nonprofits adapt to soaring need, fewer volunteers and a fundraising slump
Since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Austin, the Central Texas Food Bank has seen a tenfold increase in food costs.
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