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.
Abbott suspends elective surgeries in Austin, pauses Texas reopening as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations rise
Amid what he called a "massive outbreak" of new COVID-19 cases. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order suspending elective surgeries at hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties.
"These four counties have experienced significant increases in people being hospitalized due to COVID-19 and today's action is a precautionary step to ensure that the hospitals in these counties continue to have ample supply of available beds to treat COVID-19 patients," Abbott said in a statement issued this morning.
All hospitals in these areas are directed to postpone surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary.
Austin's hospital capacity
Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said Travis County could see its caseload double in the next 18 days and area hospital capacity overwhelmed by mid-July at a virtual press conference yesterday.
Unless the rising curve of COVID cases is not flattened soon, Dr. Escott said he would have to recommend a second shutdown to local elected officials.
Austin's three major hospital systems—Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David's HealthCare—issued a joint statement Wednesday, before the governor's order.
The three hospital systems have 2,470 staffed beds, 71% of which were occupied as of Wednesday night; together they also have 483 ICU beds, 70% of which were occupied.
The surge plan
The systems can increase their total bed capacity to 3,250 beds, but "it would require staffing that exceeds what we typically have available for daily operations," per the statement.
The city released a three-stage surge plan in early April, which includes establishing additional hospital beds.
Although the city has not identified where field hospitals may be, local physicians said that hospitals have been planning for such a contingency for months.
"We do not want to provide care for you at the Austin Convention Center," Dr. Kirsten Nieto, an internal medicine and pediatric hospitalist at Dell Children's and Dell Seton, said at yesterday's press conference. "We want you to stay home."
Abbott also announced Thursday that he is temporarily pausing the state's reopening.
"The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses," he said in a separate statement. "This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business."
This article has been updated with the announcement about pausing the reopening process.
- Austin hospitalizations trigger stage 4 risk - austonia ›
- The other health care crisis: hospitals, private practices shed staff ... ›
- What we know about hospital capacity, ventilators and the city's new ... ›
- Austin prepares Convention Center as a COVID field hospital - austonia ›
- Austin’s doctors may face hard choices in allocation of care as COVID surge continues - austonia ›
Soccer, the sport of many names, is reflected on and off the pitch in the multicultural city of Austin, from fan clubs like Los Verdes to the Austin FC roster.
Spanning across four continents and 12 countries, Austin FC's roster comes from all corners of the globe.
Austin FC's first signee, Rodney Redes, hails from Paraguay. So does the club's first Designated Player, Cecilio Dominguez. Five other players' hometowns are in South America, while five others are from Europe or Africa. While most on the roster signed to Austin FC from other MLS teams, Austin FC players have played as far north as Finland, as far east as Israel and as far south as Argentina.
English and Spanish are the most spoken languages on the team, although Zan Kolmanic speaks Slovenian and the club is well-traveled, too: Jon Gallagher has lived in six countries, while Kekuta Manneh, the club's only true Austinite, left behind all he knew in Gambia to move to the city in high school.
The multiculturalism on the pitch goes hand-in-hand with the city of Austin itself. Over 30% of the city's population is of Hispanic or Latino descent, and Austin is a majority-minority city (meaning non-Hispanic Whites make up less than 50% of the population).
It's brought even the most unlikely groups together; while supporters of Liga MX and the English Premier League used to be on opposite sides of the bar, now they come together in green.
Jorge Chavez, a member of Austin FC fan club Austin Anthem, said that Austin FC helps unite a city full of travelers and move-ins.
"A lot people here are from all these different places, and they might not have that much in common with each other, but now they do," Chavez said.
- Austin FC's Jon Gallagher has lived in six countries - austonia ›
- Julio Cascante comes from Portland Timbers to Austin FC - austonia ›
- Sebastian Berhalter is Austin FC's youngest team member - austonia ›
- Designated Player Cecilio Dominguez is joining Austin FC in his ... ›
- Rodney Redes brings young talent to Austin FC - austonia ›
- Kekuta Manneh's says there's no place like Austin FC - austonia ›
- Austin FC fan Brad Tillery gets Verde Keeper kit from Stuver - austonia ›
- 12 Austin FC fans get inked up in tattoo marathon - austonia ›
- Austin's Latino's feels "close to home" with Austin FC - austonia ›
Less than a week after a fatal mass shooting on Sixth Street and amid rising concerns about violent gun crime, state Republican leaders and gun lobbyists gathered for a celebratory press conference, where Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law seven bills expanding gun rights, including one allowing permitless carry.
"This is a prolific day for the Second Amendment in the state of Texas," House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, said at Alamo Hall in San Antonio on Thursday.
The bills take effect Sept. 1 and include:
- Senate Bill 19: Prohibits state contracts with companies that plan to divest from firearm ammunition companies
- SB 20: Bars hotels from prohibiting guests from bringing guns into their rooms
- SB 550: Permits a person to carry a gun in any type of holster
- House Bill 957: Exempts suppressors made in Texas from federal regulations
- HB 1500: Designates firearms and ammunition sellers and manufacturers as essential businesses
- HB 1927: Allows residents 21 years of age and older to carry a handgun without a permit
- HB 2622: Designates Texas "Second Amendment Sanctuary State"
This expansion of gun rights comes as violent crime rates rise in major U.S. cities, including Austin, where murders were up 50% year-over-year in April.
This week, Austin police arrested two juveniles in connection with the mass shooting on Sixth Street early Saturday morning, left one dead and 14 others injured. Two months ago, a former Travis County sheriff's deputy shot and killed three people in North Austin, prompting an hours-long manhunt.
"We support the right of every law-abiding American to be able to have a weapon to defend themselves," Abbott said. "That is different from teenagers unlawfully getting access to guns to commit crime. Those are people who deserve to be behind bars for the rest of their lives."
Local public safety advocates have attributed this rise to police budget cuts, which Austin City Council enacted last August, but cities that increased their police spending are also seeing increases.
In light of rising violent crime rates, the Austin Police Department launched a gun crime prevention program in April. Although not all violent crime involves guns, gun violence is increasing and may involve stolen guns or illegally manufactured "ghost" guns. "I'm just very concerned about the number of illegally possessed firearms and how we can curb that," Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon said during an April 15 press conference.
Rising violent crime rates continue to spur gun sales in the Austin area—and around the country. "In this increasingly dangerous world, people want to be able to protect themselves," embattled NRA President Wayne LaPierre said at the press conference Thursday. "Thank god Texas is leading the way in making that possible.
A long shot
Conservative activists have lobbied for permitless carry for years, without success. But state lawmakers reached a compromise last month after the Senate added a series of amendments to address concerns from law enforcement groups, which worried permitless carry would endanger officers and make it easier for criminals to access guns.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick celebrated the bill's passage, which he described as an expansion of Texans' freedoms. "The media needs to understand that you are so far out of touch with where Texans and Americans are on this issue," he said.
Nearly 60% of Texas voters opposed permitless carry, according to an April University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll. Melanie Greene, lead volunteer for the Moms Demand Action Austin group, recently told Austonia that state lawmakers are likely motivated to pursue such legislation because of a small, vocal minority of gun rights activists and the threat of drawing even more conservative opponents in primary elections.
- Austin police: Violent crime uptick could be 'here to stay' - austonia ›
- Austin police seek to increase prosecution of violent gun crime as ... ›
- Abbott goes against latest Biden gun control policy with push for ... ›
- After Austin shooting, Texas lawmakers mull permitless carry ... ›
- 5 things to know about the permitless gun carry law in Texas - austonia ›
Austin's tech labor market, which was already tight heading into the pandemic, has grown even more so as California companies flock to the capital city. It's made for a situation where employers are listening more to worker demands to fill job openings.
For tech workers—like their counterparts in the restaurant, construction and myriad other industries facing labor shortages—that means setting their own terms, such as remote work options and higher wages.
"We are living in times when the employees are the king or the queen," said Angelos Angelou, founder and CEO of local consulting firm AngelouEconomics.
A talent center
Lured by the state's business-friendly climate and Austin's growing tech scene, California-based companies such as Tesla, Oracle and TikTok built factories, relocated headquarters and opened offices. Austin posted the highest tech migration rate of any city in the country between May 2020 and April 2021, according to a recent LinkedIn analysis.
With so many new resident businesses, job growth kept pace. The Austin metro ranked fourth nationally for tech job postings growth in March, according to Silicon Valley Bank's latest State of the Markets report.
Oracle relocated its headquarters to the Riverside location in Austin. (Shutterstock)
To fill these roles, local tech companies have to look beyond the city limits. Employers poach from their competitors, recruit recent graduates from area colleges and universities or look to the national labor market for talent, Angelou said.
Summer Salazar, director of employer engagement at the University of Texas at Austin, has seen a huge influx in tech sector job postings on the university's job board in recent months. "We feel that demand," she said.
An employee's market
Jaime Cabrera, 28, recently graduated from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and is looking for a policy job at a social media company. He didn't go into his job search with plans to stay in Austin but has seen various intriguing openings, citing Bumble, Lyft and TikTok. "I didn't realize how many companies are here," he said.
The tech labor market also affects employees who are not looking for a new job but instead seeking better benefits or internal policy changes from their current employer.
Lawrence Humphrey, 27, lives in North Austin and works for IBM. Shortly after the murder of George Floyd, he co-founded Tech Can Do Better, which advocates for a more equitable industry. Since then, there has been little quantitative progress in terms of more diverse hiring and other metrics. But there has been a qualitative shift. "Issues around racial equity are just far more of a priority from the perspective of the employees, so therefore it's far more of a priority for the employers," he said.
OG vs. newcomers
Although the pandemic has accelerated the growth of Austin's tech industry, the industry was already established. In the latter half of the 20th century, the city attracted big tech originators like IBM because of its enticingly low labor cost and spawned homegrown giants like Dell—trends that continue today.
The arrival of Silicon Valley tech transplants in other growing tech cities, such as Miami, has led to tension with the so-called old guard. In Austin, such competition has forced companies to compete for workers, leading to more mobility.
"When I was in the job market, my god if you changed jobs often—and often meant once every three years—you were considered a traitor," said Angelou, who headed the Austin Chamber's economic development department from 1984 through 1995, helping to recruit companies such as IBM, Apple and Samsung to town. "Now people change jobs every nine months, it appears, and that is considered a plus."
- California tech employees move to austin for business and way of ... ›
- Burnt out? Austin companies offer new employee benefits - austonia ›
- Austin millennials lead recent labor union drives - austonia ›
- Buc-ee's avoids national workers shortage with benefits - austonia ›
- Austin has worse national worker shortage with less workers ... ›