Exactly 1,000 Austinites were vaccinated in the name of live music on Friday, thanks to a vaccine drive put on by ACL organizers and VaxTogetherAustin, which traded a jab for a free, single-day ACL wristband.
ACL tweeted that they would give the first 1,000 people who signed up for the drive a free pass to any day of the first weekend just two days before the drive was scheduled—on Friday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at Q2 Stadium.
Ready to get vaccinated? We are partnering with VaxTogetherAustin, Austin FC and Walgreens to donate ACL Festival 1-Day Tickets for Weekend One to the first 1,000 people who pre-register and get vaccinated THIS Friday, 8/27 at Q2 Stadium in Austin. Signup: https://t.co/LTgmWz7ou5 pic.twitter.com/QTW0ON8y3d
— ACL Festival (@aclfestival) August 25, 2021
Vaccine incentives are not new to Austin—Austin Public Health began offering $50 H-E-B gift cards to recipients of both first and second doses earlier this month. VaxTogetherAustin founder and Executive Director Sharon Cohan told Ausotnia since the uptake of vaccines has plateaued, the giveaway gave people an extra push to schedule an appointment.
"This is Austin and people love live music—both weekends of ACL Music Festival are sold out," Cohan said. "Several people that I've spoken with today have said that they were here because life is busy and you know, they're a little worried about it, they were waiting until a good time. Then they saw this opportunity, and it was too good to pass up."
The drive gave out first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine, second doses of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Though all 1,000 spots were claimed, VaxTogetherAustin is announcing when appointments open up on their Twitter so you might not yet have missed your chance to score a wristband.
Both 26-year-old Jessica Valdes and 28-year-old Andre Mitchell were due for their second shots when the promotion was announced, so registering for the drive was a no-brainer. Valdes chose a Saturday wristband to see Billie Eilish, while Mitchell opted for a Sunday ticket so he could see Tyler, the Creator.
Mitchell, who lives nearby the stadium, said he's excited to finally be able to go to music festivals and travel again now that he's vaccinated.
"I honestly forgot all about it so it's a perfect incentive to get my second dose," Mitchell said. "I can travel anywhere out of the country, that's the biggest thing for me, and I can go to festivals again—especially in Austin, I feel like that's really the bread and butter of everything."
Feeling frustrated because you've already been vaccinated? While she understands the sentiment and wishes vaccine incentives weren't necessary, Cohan said incentives work and the goal is to get as many people vaccinated as possible.
"Vaccine incentives, we wish we didn't need to use them, right? But they work and at this point, if we want to control the pandemic and relieve our overwhelmed healthcare system, we need for people to be taking the vaccine if at all possible," Cohan said. "Our organization is committed to making the vaccine as accessible as possible to reducing barriers to getting vaccinated and reducing hesitancy."
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After months of speculation, a new report says political personality Beto O'Rourke is mulling a run for Texas governor that he will announce later this year.
Sources tell Axios the former congressman is preparing his campaign for the 2022 election, where he will likely vie for the position against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott. The only other candidate that has announced he will take on Abbott for governor is former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West—no Democrats have announced they are running as of yet.
"No decision has been made," Axios reports David Wysong, O'Rourke's former House chief of staff and a longtime adviser, said. "He has been making and receiving calls with people from all over the state."
A new poll from The Dallas Morning News and University of Texas at Tyler shows O'Rourke is narrowing the gap between himself and Abbott's prospects for governor. In the poll, 37% said they'd vote for O'Rourke over Abbott, while 42% said they'd vote for Abbott.
Abbott has been in the hot seat due to his handling of COVID-19 and the signing of landmark legislation into law, including new abortion and voting rights laws; 54% of poll respondents voted they think the state is headed in the "wrong direction." Still, Texas hasn't had a Democrat as governor since the 90s.
O'Rourke's people-focused approach to the 2018 Senator race, which he lost to Sen. Ted Cruz, gave him a widespread following and many hoped he'd throw his hat into the ring since he said he was considering it earlier this year.
"We hope that he's going to run," Gilberto Hinojosa, the state chair of the Democratic Party, told Axios. "We think he'll be our strongest candidate. We think he can beat Abbott because he's vulnerable."
Austin rapper Jordi Esparza may not have won the 2021 Red Bull Batalla, the world's largest Spanish freestyle rap competition, but for a spirited two rounds, the 22-year old Mexican native looked like he had every right to.
On Saturday evening in Los Angeles, the event itself looked like Cobra Kai meets Star Search with graphics adding a very Batman Beyond aesthetic. Over a dozen rappers hoping to represent the U.S. in the international round of the competition took to the stage with in-your-face jabs at accents, sexual orientation and odors, among other things.
This was Esparza's second rodeo; he had placed third at the 2020 National Finals, automatically securing him a spot this year.
However, things were different this year. He was not nervous about the contest. Unlike in 2020, when he made his Red Bull Batalla debut, the anxiety of the event led him to "feeling so bad."
Affecting a casual calm, the locally-based landscaper said he just felt "so relaxed, so happy" and primarily wanted to "enjoy everything."
Choosing his first-round opponent, Esparza, whose stage name is Jordi, elected to go against LA-based Boss.
Esparza freestyled an attack on his opponent's weight and cholo style of dress.
Boss—bracketing his Latin freestyle with English appeals to the crowd—mocked Jordi's lack of education, made fun of how clean Jordi's shoes looked and suggested that Jordi just came back from a Footlocker.
That first round went to Jordi.
But his next opponent Eckonn would prove to be his undoing.
Eckonn compared Jordi to Hannah Montana, while Jordi soulfully explained that he had learned from the best.
Esparza's verbal dexterity is matched by a rattling rhythm and a game face that is as mawkish as it is mockish. The overall effect is that of an underdog with bite.
Eckonn beat Esparza in that round with the overall championship going to Palm Beach-based rapper Reverse.
However, Esparza was just happy to be there. He recently told Austonia going to the finals again was a dream come true—a pinnacle that he said he won't know how to top.
With his nimble jabs and sneaky prowess, honed from pop culture and the swagger of a young working man hungry to be more, Jordi Esparza is just getting started.