'We are starting to see the beginnings of a surge,' Escott says, as county marks record new COVID-19 cases
"Certainly based on our modeling, as well as some of the other dynamics that we're seeing in the community, including increasing risk-taking behaviors, decreasing use of masks and social distancing, anecdotally, we certainly expect to see a surge begin to happen," Dr. Escott said.
Yesterday, Austin Public Health recorded a new record for the number of new confirmed cases: 86.
"This is about two to three weeks after the reopening of the state, and this is about the time we'd expect to see an increase in cases as a result of that change in policy," Dr. Escott said.
Another piece of evidence suggestive of a surge is an increasing rate of positive COVID-19 test results.
Since Austin Public Health in mid-April debuted a public enrollment system, which allows residents to sign up for free testing at drive-thru sites, the testing capacity has increased—although resources are still limited. Up until mid-May, the positive rate was hovering around 3% to 4%, but last week it was 8.5%.
"Again, this indicates to us that we are starting to see the beginnings of a surge," Dr. Escott said.
County commissioners spoke about news coverage showing hoards of revelers congregating at Lake Travis and bars on Rainey and Sixth streets; the mayor has, on social media, asked people to be more cautious.
"The public is hearing mixed messages," Dr. Escott said, with one side pushing for economic recovery and the other urging confinement. "We've got to be in the middle somewhere."
A sharp increase in cases could overwhelm the local healthcare system and force a second economic shutdown. To avoid this outcome, Dr. Escott stressed the need for continued caution and urged residents to wear masks while in public, and to practice social distancing.
"We're seeing what happens when we're successful at prevention because it's not real yet to the community. They don't know people by name who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 or died," he said. "I know all the names."
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Austin’s Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Gray has apologized after vandals broke into a city-owned hotel in the process of being converted into a homeless hotel.
The break-in was discovered on May 5 at the northwest Candlewood Suites, 10811 Pecan Park Blvd., which had been sitting vacant and unrenovated with no security protocol at the time. The incident came to light after Austin City Council member Mackenzie Kelly, who represents the area, tweeted photos of the damage to the interior.
What she said about the damages:
- Damage spans all three floors of the building and is in nearly every room.
- The entire hotel was stripped of copper.
- Washers, dryers, air conditioners and electrical wiring was destroyed.
- Kelly said she learned of people sleeping at the hotel without permission.
Here are the photos of the inside of the Candlewood Suites that I shared during my press conference at 3pm today.
I want to encourage anyone with information regarding this incident to call Crime Stoppers at 512-472-8477. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/2bVBoA6Vba
— Mackenzie Kelly (@mkelly007) May 12, 2022
A memo from the city said security had yet to be initiated due to a delay in processing the request.
The memo also said it introduced security protocols after the incident, which will now be on patrol “day and night.”
“The intent had been to have security on site previous to this event,” Gray said. “It had been requested, and there was a delay in the request, so it had not been initiated. We acknowledge that as a failure and apologize.”
The city bought the hotel—now called Pecan Gardens—in August 2021 for $9.5 million with plans to convert it into 80 supportive housing units as part of the Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link initiative.
The city’s Homeless Strategy Division expects occupants—individuals exiting long-term homelessness—to move in later this year or early next year.
On Thursday, City Council is poised to approve a contract with Family Eldercare, allowing them to begin renovations.
Additionally, Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell shared photos of an adjoining homeless encampment nearby to the hotel.
He issued the following statement: “I am deeply disappointed that once again the city of Austin has made decisions regarding their property in Williamson County without involving Williamson County leadership in coming up with solutions. I have heard from our residents that Austin’s property has brought crime to their neighborhood. They sent me pictures of what is going on in their neighborhood. The city of Austin made their problem Williamson County’s problem, so I promise our residents that I will work to find a solution. Our residents deserve to not live in fear.”
Austin's home sales were on the decline for the second month in a row as the metro's median home price reached an all-time record of $550,000 in April, according to the Austin Board of Realtors' April report.
While home sales were down 6.2% year-over-year, the five-county metro still saw the second-highest number of sales on record.
Austin was its year-over-year median home price raise 19%, while sales were down 6% in April 2022. (Austin Board of Realtors)
Here's a look at the numbers behind the month's housing report:
- The metro saw 3,280 home sales, 216 short of a record-breaking April 2021
- The median home price grew 19.6% year-over-year to $550,0000
- Active listings jumped 52.5%, causing inventory to rise from 0.3 months to 0.8 months
- The city of Austin has a new all-time median home price record of $640,000
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