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UT modeling consortium predicts record hospitalizations to come from omicron, leading APH to take action

Austin is currently in Stage 3, in which APH recommends everyone where a mask to slow the spread of the virus. (Pexels)

Austin Public Health has updated its COVID-19 risk-based guidelines, expressing concern over the fast-spreading COVID-19 omicron variant ahead of the holidays.

Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said on Tuesday morning that APH is following guidance from a COVID-19 Modeling Consortium by the University of Texas. The report, released last Thursday, states that community transmission of omicron could pose record hospitalizations and surpass all previous peaks.

APH has subsequently updated guidelines of Stage 3, from a seven-day moving average of 15-29 to 15-24, and Stage 4 to 25-50.

“We've come together this morning to warn our community of the danger we face heading into the next few weeks," Walkes said. "We are continuing to act as though we're in Stage 2, and if this continues, our ICU beds will fill up and overflow by hundreds by the time the New Year arrives. We are on the brink of Stage 4 and we need to act as such."

Austin-Travis County is currently in Stage 3, for which APH recommends the following:

  • For fully-vaccinated low-risk individuals:
    • Wear masks indoors, especially when meeting with people outside your household and while traveling.
  • For fully-vaccinated high-risk individuals:
    • Wear masks while gathering with people outside your household, dining out, shopping and traveling.
  • For partially vaccinated or unvaccinated low-risk individuals:
    • Wear a mask in all situations and get vaccinated.
  • For partially vaccinated or unvaccinated high-risk individuals:
    • Avoid unessential activities and get vaccinated.
The latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 92% of reported cases in Texas are from the omicron variant. The variant has shown much faster transmission than delta, though it is still unclear whether the sickness that ensues is milder or not.
As of Monday, Austin reported a low seven-day moving average of 15 cases but a high level of community transmission, at 113.6 cases.
Since hospitals already see an influx of hospitalizations during the winter months, APH officials also recommend getting tested for the virus both before and after travel—quarantining for 10 days if you test positive. Additionally, APH recommends staying home if you think you could be sick.

"Don't let this disease be the Grinch to your Christmas and your holidays," chief administrative officer for disease prevention and health promotion Cassandra DeLeon said. "We know that if we mask and we social distance and we stay home and we're sick, we can protect each other."

Though APH officials expressed concern over having to raise guidelines to Stage 4 before the New Year, Chief Epidemiologist Janet Pichette said it is possible to make it through the holidays without moving up a stage.

“Whatever you do right now, if you're going to wear your masks and go out and go shopping and make sure you're being cautious, hopefully, we'll never get to Stage 4," Pichette said. "The things that we do now will set the path for our future and I think we need to be mindful of that."


With deposition and trial looming, Elon Musk has offered $44B for Twitter, again

Elon Musk has proposed once again to buy Twitter for $54.20 a share.

The news that Musk is offering to carry on with the $44 billion buyout was first reported by Bloomberg. Now, a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission shows Musk made the proposal in a letter to the tech giant on Monday.

The New York Stock Exchange temporarily halted trading in Twitter stock twice Tuesday, first because of a big price move and the second time for a news event, presumably the announcement of Musk's renewed offer.

While the per share offer price on this latest proposal remains the same as the original offer, it’s unclear if Musk has made other term changes or if Twitter would reject it. According to other reports, a deal could be reached this week.

The stock closed at $52.00/share Tuesday, indicating market uncertainty around the $54.20 offer.

After Musk informed Twitter of plans to terminate the original agreement in July, Twitter sued. A trial has been expected in Delaware Chancery Court on Oct. 17.

With the proposition of a buyout on the table again, it revives the question of whether Musk might move Twitter from San Francisco to Central Texas.

He’s done so with some of his other companies. Tesla’s headquarters in southeast Travis County had its grand opening earlier this year and tunneling business The Boring Company moved to Pflugerville. At least two other Musk companies, SpaceX and Neuralink, have a Central Texas presence without being headquartered here.

Technology journalist Nilay Patel this afternoon voiced concerns that owning Twitter and Tesla together could be problematic for Musk, as his Tesla manufacturing facilities in Germany and China are both in countries that have disputes with Twitter over content moderation and censorship.

Telsa shares fell after the Twitter news became public, before rallying to close up, at $249.44.

Austin rents nearly double in a year and are now in the top 5 nationwide

While searching for a place to live, Austin renters will face monthly rates of nearly $3,000, a recent guide from rental marketplace Dwellsy shows.

The median rent in August this year was $2,930, a more than 86% increase since August 2021. That’s $820 more than the nationwide median asking rent in August and puts Austin just below the Bay Area, Boston and New York for large cities with the most expensive asking rent.

“Within this group, Austin, TX stands out for the highest increases in asking rent, which has nearly doubled since this time last year,” the study notes.

Outside of those large cities, however, others are seeing even higher rent spikes. Metro areas that ranked above Austin in one-year increases include those like Kansas City, MO with a 112% change in rent since last August and Tucson, AZ with a 124% change.

The data reflects large apartment communities, single-family homes and 2-6 unit buildings.