‘We lowered our guard’: Austin doctors, officials say stay home, wear masks or risk second COVID-19 shutdown
Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said he will recommend a second shutdown if the current surge of COVID-19 cases in Travis County is not contained.
"If the situation doesn't improve in the next week to two weeks—I'm going to have to make a recommendation to the mayor and the [county] judge that we shut down," he said at a virtual press conference earlier today. "And I don't want to do that."
Though Escott can make the recommendation, local jurisdictions have little authority to actually implement a shutdown.
If we continue on our current trajectory, my fear is that we may face a decision to shut down again in the next 2-4… https://t.co/HjiFWRW7Pw— Mayor Adler | 😷wear a mask. (@Mayor Adler | 😷wear a mask.) 1593033970.0
Dr. Escott was joined by local health care professionals at the event, who echoed his pleas to Austin residents that they stay home, when possible, in addition to wearing masks and socially distancing when they are out.
"The lid's off," he said. "We've got to put it back on."
Modeling from researchers at the University of Texas at Austin shows Travis County's caseload could double—jumping to 13,000 from the current estimate of 6,600—in the next 18 days.
At that rate, the five-county region could see its hospital capacity overwhelmed, Dr. Escott said.
Dr. John Abikhaled, president of the Travis County Medical Society, said Austin residents have risen to this challenge before.
"During the lockdown, we did something amazing. We proved that we can control the virus and flatten the curve," he said. "But then we got tired. We got a little stir crazy. And we lowered our guard."
New local orders took effect yesterday, requiring businesses to mandate masking among employees and customers after a protracted back-and-forth with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
While Abbott encouraged Texans to wear masks and stay home in a statement issued yesterday, he has also said that he does not plan to pull back on the state's reopening for the time being.
Dr. Christopher Ziebell, chief of emergency medicine at Dell Seton Medical Center, asked residents to stay home as much as possible and wear a mask in public, even if it feels like an infringement on personal liberty.
"While you are free to do the wrong thing, you are also free to do the right thing," he said.
St. David's Emergency Care Specialist Dr. Ann Buchanan said area hospitals have been planning for a surge for months and are prepared to respond to one. But her colleagues added that it is a worst-case scenario.
"We do not want to provide care for you at the Austin Convention Center," said Dr. Kirsten Nieto, an internal medicine and pediatric hospitalist at Dell Children's and Dell Seton. "We want you to stay home."
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The Texas French Bread Bakery, located on 2900 Rio Grande Street, has been completely destroyed after a fire erupted on Monday night.
The Austin Fire Department responded to the fire just before 11 p.m., where they arrived to see flames coming from the roof of the bakery. Firefighters fought the fire for about an hour before the roof collapsed.
While no one was injured in the fire, firefighters say the historic building was completely totaled.
Texas French Bread just went up in flames pic.twitter.com/agXqKN3c00
— Jordan (@AimIessFriend) January 25, 2022
AFD determined that the fire was accidental and caused by mechanical failure. AFD said the damages amounted to $1.6 million total: $1.1 million in structural damage and $500,000 in damage to the contents of the bakery.
This year, Texas French Bread will celebrate 40 years of business. Before the bakery occupied the building, it was the Rome Inn, a music venue that hosted 1970s artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Austin's first major league team is ready to extend its reach with a new collaborative sports complex The Pitch, an Austin FC destination packed with local food, beverages and Verde fervor is set to open in Northeast Austin in February.
The Pitch, a collaboration between Austin FC and Karlin Real Estate, among other entities, will be located in the 50-acre Parmer Pond District, which already hosts the club's practice facility St. David's Performance Center.
Dubbed a "true destination" for both soccer fans and the community, The Pitch will consist of multilevel shipping containers designed by Mark Odom Studio that will carve out into a 1,200-seat stadium complete with a soccer pitch made of turf, food and beverage options and a five-acre "Parmer Pond" featuring jogging trails.
Made from multilevel shipping containers, The Pitch will include food and a 1,200-seat soccer pitch made from artificial turf. (The Pitch)
“The launch of Karlin’s new food and entertainment experience will greatly enhance the Parmer development while perfectly complimenting St. David’s Performance Center,” Austin FC founder Anthony Precourt said. "The Pitch... will offer a strong variety of food options and gathering spaces for guests who will utilize St. David’s Performance Center and Parmer Field for a variety of events.”
The Pitch project lead Dave Greeley, who helped come up with the concept, is a former president of Austin FC parent company, Two Oak Ventures.
“The vision behind The Pitch at the Parmer Pond District is to be a first-of-its-kind sports, dining and entertainment destination,” said Dave Greeley, The Pitch project lead and Team Orbis president. “This will be an unmatched experience for Parmer Austin tenants, Austin FC and club supporters, and the community."
With its proximity to the practice center, the venture hopes to contribute to the growing "soccer city" of Austin during Austin FC matches and youth games with the Austin FC Academy hosted at the St. David's Performance Center.
The Pitch hopes to converge both community and club interests with Austin FC. (The Pitch)
In addition to the soccer pitch, stadium and pond, The Pitch will provide a foody experience made by the creative team behind Austin staples like Fareground and Easy Tiger. The complex will offer local bites including:
- Ranger Burger, which offers beers and burgers made from highly-coveted Wagyu beef direct from Ranger Cattle in East Austin
- Ga Roti, which merges flavors from Northern Vietnam with the culinary techniques of France to create a unique rotisserie chicken joint
- Taco Flats, a local taco chain serving Mexico City-style tacos, micheladas and more
- Sand Bar, which fulfills its namesake with beauty cocktails, local beers and a sand volleyball court
- Coffee Club, a coffee shop and bakery
- Corner Kick Bar, the soccer-focused main bar of The Pitch complete with "tunes, TVs and (a) beer garden"
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