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.
The data, compiled by the PolicyLab at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, suggests Travis County will start to see an uptick in new COVID-19 infections and approach the previous record—125 new cases recorded April 3—by mid-June.
"I know people are suspicious of models because they're forecasts," PolicyLab Director Dr. David Rubin said. "But what I would say is where you see consistent signals, you need to take them seriously."
While there have been positive developments in the local COVID-19 caseload—including what Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott recently called an "effectively plateaued" curve—there is evidence those signals may get louder.
The data analytics firm Unacast, which uses cell phone tracking data to assess social distancing, now rates Travis County as failing, a four-letter grade drop since early April. Residents have reduced their daily mobility 25% to 40%—a D grade—and their nonessential visits by less than 55%—an F. Texas is doing even worse, with a less than 25% reduction in average mobility statewide.
"[T]he picture our models are painting for Texas and Florida provide ample evidence to others who would choose to move too quickly," Dr. Rubin and his colleagues wrote in a blog post published Wednesday. "We see these concerns even as we adjust for additional testing capacity that might have inflated our forecast."
But reopening can be done safely, so long as residents accept "inconveniences," such as wearing masks in public and adapting to new restaurant protocols, Dr. Rubin said. "Our message is not one of, 'Don't reopen,'" he added, pointing to states such as Colorado that have reopened cautiously—and are less at risk of a surge in the future.
Dr. Rubin hopes this updated report serves as a kind of "dimmer switch," spurring residents to change their behavior before they are forced to, such as by a second shutdown. "It's like a hurricane," he said. "What do you do? You board up your windows. You get ready. Maybe you get lucky, and it moves 50 miles to the west, and you don't see the impact. But you're still happy that you prepared."
- Austin Public Health issues color-coded, 5-stage risk chart as ... ›
- Austin hospitals have plenty of supply to meet the COVID-19 ... ›
- New COVID dashboard includes economic stats with data on cases ... ›
- 'We are starting to see the beginnings of a surge,' Escott says - austonia ›
- COVID-19 'can and does spread silently' says UT's Lauren Ancel Meyers as Austin sees record-high new cases again - austonia ›
- Is Austin flattening the COVID curve? - austonia ›
With more research done on the COVID-19 Delta variant, Austin Public Health is upping its goal of 70% vaccinated to at least 80% due to the extreme virality of the strain.
As more Delta cases are identified—up to 29 cases are confirmed in Travis County—health officials are urging the unvaccinated to get their shots to contain the spread and relieve hospitals from reaching full capacity.
Austin-Travis County surpassed the Stage 5 threshold on Friday and has reached a seven-day average of 61 hospital admissions. However, Austin health leaders have yet to make an official shift as the Delta variant calls for new guidance, APH Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said at a joint Travis County Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday morning.
The new guidance has yet to be released, but Walkes said it will take into account the viral load of Delta on both unvaccinated and vaccinated people.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed the Delta variant was as contagious as chickenpox, which has a herd immunity threshold of at least 90% vaccinated.
Although 63.42% of those eligible in Travis County are fully vaccinated, breakthrough cases—where vaccinated people are contracting COVID-19—are being identified. APH has identified 1,496 breakthrough cases of the roughly 800,000 vaccinated. Most breakthrough cases are showing less severe symptoms or are asymptomatic, according to APH.
Health officials are still asking residents to wear masks, although the city cannot mandate any masking orders due to an executive order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
"Our challenge is going to be whether we're going to stand as a community and everyone who can get vaccinated, get vaccinated, and everyone wear a mask—that's what it's going to take," Walkes said.
- Most patients hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated - austonia ›
- Unvaccinated Austinites at risk of Delta variant with hospitals seeing ... ›
- UT warn of full-capacity ICUs, up to 11,000 more hospitalizations ... ›
- COVID hospitalizations reach Stage 4 threshold - austonia ›
- Delta variant, unvaccinated fuel rise of Austin COVID cases - austonia ›
Save Austin Now police petition will reach November ballot after county clerk certifies 25,000 signatures
Save Austin Now is now 2-0 over Austin City Council after its petition to add more staffed police officers to the Austin Police Department was certified, garnering over the 20,000 votes needed to make it on an election ballot.
The petition calls for more police staffing per city resident, quicker response times and more training for city police officers in the wake of increasing violent crime rates nationwide and a year of limited APD staffing. The City Council will now decide whether to implement the ordinance outright or add it to the November election ballot; it will likely do the latter.
Over 25,000 of the 27,778 signatures racked up by the public safety petition were certified as valid, well over the 20,000-vote threshold required to be certified with the City Clerk. City Clerk Jannette Goodall placed the city's seal of approval on the petition on Tuesday morning.
The petition, by the same political group that got the camping ban reinstated through a petition in May, seeks to:
- Require minimum staffing of two officers per 1,000 residents
- Require a minimum standard of 35% community response time
- Add 40 hours of training
- Require city council members, Mayor Steve Adler and other city staff to enroll in the Citizens Police Academy
- Facilitate minority officer hiring through foreign language proficiency metrics
Austin's 160 patrol vacancies have dropped its staffing rate to 1.2 officers per 1,000 residents, according to the department. APD's response time has increased by about one minute and 50 seconds in a year.
The petition comes nearly a year after APD's budgets were slashed by city council following the summer's Black Lives Matter protests, which saw several demonstrators severely injured as millions called for justice in the police-related deaths of George Floyd and locally Mike Ramos, an unarmed Black man killed by APD officer Christopher Taylor, in April 2020.
Austin and the U.S. have experienced a widespread uptick in violent crime rates in 2021. The city has reached 49 homicides in 2021, higher than the total number of murders in all of 2020 and the 38 homicides in the city in 2019. Austin police officers have seen response times rise as the department suffers increased vacancies and fewer newcomers while cadet classes are being readjusted.
Opponents argue the ordinance would ramp up a policing budget while taking away from other departments including Fire, EMS, violence prevention, and mental health care. City Council Member Greg Casar, the Travis County Democratic Party and the Austin Justice Coalition have spoken out against the organization's latest public safety move, calling out the campaign as a "right-wing petition" that misleads those who sign.
🔥 PANTS ON FIRE: Republican-front group Save Austin Now is lying about their petition!
They say their measure is about police reform, when it's really about devastating our city budget - all for the benefit of the police union. Watch the video here ⬇️ #ATX pic.twitter.com/Z6QQSfhHfH
— Gregorio Casar (@GregCasar) August 2, 2021
The latest battle between city council and Save Austin Now will be decided by Austin residents in the Nov. 2 election.
- Austin City Council drags on homeless camping ban reinstatement ... ›
- Conservative Jennifer Virden announces run for Austin mayor ... ›
- No homeless public camping vote on November ballot for Austin ... ›
- Save Austin Now sues city of Austin over camping ban petition ... ›
- City files response to Save Austin Now lawsuit - austonia ›
- Save Austin Now tries again to reinstate camping ban - austonia ›
- Save Austin Now calls on attorney in fight over Austin no-camping ... ›
- Save Austin Now relaunches petition to reinstate camping ban ... ›
- Save Austin Now submits police staffing petition - austonia ›
- Save Austin Now launches petition against crime - austonia ›
Austin City Limits fest and iHeartRadio Fest are the latest festivals to announce the removal of rapper DaBaby, who has come under fire for homophobic comments made during a recent festival.
The 29-year-old rapper, whose real name is Jonathan Lyndale Kirk, was dropped by Lollapalooza just hours before his set on Sunday, followed by the Governor's Ball in New York and Nevada's Day N Vegas after making unsolicited comments about men with HIV/AIDS at the Rolling Loud Festival in Miami. Rolling Stone Magazine confirmed with iHeartRadio organizers that DaBaby will no longer perform.
DaBaby will no longer be performing at Austin City Limits Music Festival — lineup update coming soon. pic.twitter.com/jAYfdJFxJf
— ACL Festival (@aclfestival) August 3, 2021
There is no word on who he will be replaced with yet, though rumors on ACL's subreddit, r/aclfestival, are saying they expect Tyler, The Creator, who performed at Lollapalooza. Kirk will be replaced at Day N Vegas by rapper Roddy Ricch.
Kirk later backtracked his offensive statements on his Instagram story, but again faced criticism for not exactly apologizing.
After facing a second round of backlash for his Instagram statements, the rapper posted on Instagram, saying:
In addition to being dropped from the festivals, DaBaby has been denounced by fellow celebrities like Dua Lipa, Madonna and Elton John.
- Bad vibes: Austin fears for fate of ACL—official word: 'too early to tell ... ›
- ACL brings a piece of normalcy back with iconic flags pitched in ... ›
- Some Austinites want ACL Festival out of Zilker Park - austonia ›
- Austin is back! ACL says in-person 2021 Zilker live music festival ›
- ACL 2021 lineup features Miley Cyrus, Black Pumas and more ... ›