Austin Mayor Steve Adler said that the city would reverse its decision to offer testing for COVID-19 to people without symptoms because the city no longer has the capacity for it.
Adler attributed the decision to Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott in a Facebook video.
"Dr. Escott is now saying that not everybody can get tested," Adler said in Friday's video. "We're going to go back to only testing people who are symptomatic because we, frankly, don't have enough testing capability."
The Texas Tribune reports long lines at testing sites.
Travis County reported 728 new cases on Saturday, though no reports were made public Friday because the COVID-19 dashboard was down for maintenance.
Adler also asked that people who have health insurance avoid using the Austin Public Health free testing service.
"We have so many people that are going online that it's hard to get an appointment for several days," the mayor said. "Anybody who has insurance should not be using Central Health or CommUnityCare testing. If you have insurance, please contact your doctor or your insurance carrier and find out where it is that you can get testing."
In an email update sent Saturday, the mayor said the city may hit hospital capacity by mid-July. He urged residents to wear masks and keep distance from each other.
NOW is crunch time. We have to change our behaviors to change course. This week alone, our rate of infections grew… https://t.co/fTvASJqE1V— Mayor Adler | 😷wear a mask. (@Mayor Adler | 😷wear a mask.) 1593266362.0
The mayor said Friday he appreciated the governor's order to close bars again and decrease capacity in restaurants.
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Airbnb is moving to make its COVID-induced ban on house parties permanent—but from the affordable housing shortage to
"Under 25" bans, the short-term rental service may be losing its shine in Austin.
In 2019, the company moved to prohibit “open-invite” parties that were advertised on social media and “chronic party houses." By 2020, its ban broadened to all parties and events "until further notice," which was officially coded into policy Tuesday.
From August 2020 to January 2022, Airbnb denied over 48,000 reservations in Texas from serial party offenders, and around 3,300 reservations were declined through the "Under 25" system in Austin.
For some Austinites, the party ban may be the last straw.
Society has progressed past the need for Airbnb's https://t.co/44rTBDQPX1
— Caleb (@ipleadthef1th) June 20, 2022
But Airbnb has already caught plenty of flack for its possible contributions to the nation's housing shortage.
In Austin, short-term rentals are required to be registered through the city. And while the city reports around 1,900 rental units in the rental registry, according to city demographer Lila Valencia, data collection site Inside Airbnb has tracked close to 12,000 in the area.
Inside Airbnb founder Murray Cox said that too many Airbnbs in Austin could shrink the available housing market.
"If the housing units (have) been taken off the market, that's displacing people, it's making housing more scarce. And it's probably driving the cost of housing up," Cox told Austonia.
Short-term rentals could also eat into new housing in Austin, from apartment buildings to accessory dwelling units on single-family properties.
"If new housing has been built, and it's being tied to Airbnb, that's also really just servicing the tourism industry as opposed to the housing needs of the city," Cox said.
Because a large portion of its customers are tourists, Airbnbs may also tend to crowd around desirable areas, such as downtown or South Congress. South Congress's average rent now rivals New York City, according to Austin Business Journal.
"When that happens, you're taking away housing units in an already densely-populated area where there is more of a shortage of housing," Valencia said. "And so then the people who historically once lived there are no longer able to afford to live there, and the unit itself isn't even going to somebody who could afford to rent it on a more permanent basis, but rather to people who are coming in and visiting for a weekend or two."
Despite the pandemic—and growing frustration among homeowners and renters—Airbnb saw a record year in 2021. But two of Airbnb's billionaire founders have quietly sold $1.2 billion in company stock in the last year, a possible premonition of what's to come.
And while some have created an Airbnb "empire"—one company owns 338 available listings in Austin—many priced-out Austinites are fed up with big investors' influence in the tight housing market.
These are not imperialist conquerors; they’re over leveraged milk toast millennials who probably borrowed money from their wealthy boomer parents and be bailed out by the same #housingmarket#airbnb#recessionpic.twitter.com/K6DM8bT730
— Texas Runner (@OGtexasrunner) June 21, 2022
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