Some Austin businesses are reinstating mask mandates after local health officials announced a shift to Stage 4 on Friday.
At this stage, all residents—including those who are vaccinated—are encouraged to wear masks while indoors and unvaccinated individuals are asked to avoid nonessential trips, according to Austin Public Health's risk-based guidelines. These recommendations are unenforceable, however, after Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order in May prohibiting local government entities from issuing mask mandates.
But a handful of local businesses—including restaurants, retail establishments, universities and churches—have heeded local officials' recommendations by reinstating their own mandates, citing the Delta variant and breakthrough cases as reasons for the policy change.
Waterloo Records in downtown Austin and the Blue Starlite drive-in theater, which has three area locations, were among the earliest adopters, announcing new masking requirements on July 15, more than a week before local health officials announced the shift to Stage 4.
Unfortunately, with Covid infections rising in Austin, even some of the fully vaccinated getting infected, the uncertainty of the delta variant, and with Austin now in stage 3 on a collision course with stage 4 restrictions, we are going back to requiring masks at all times.— Waterloo Records (@WaterlooRecords) July 15, 2021
Attention patrons,— Blue Starlite (@UrbanDrivein) July 15, 2021
Due to the rising risk of the DELTA variant, and out of an abundance of caution, we will once again be enforcing a mask policy for all employees and guests. Thank you very much for your continued support of our little drive-in. https://t.co/Y8FAzHAWQY
BookPeople, in downtown Austin, soon followed suit.
Dear Readers,— BookPeople (@BookPeople) July 21, 2021
In order to keep our community safe from rising covid-19 cases in Austin we are now requiring masks from all employees, customers and vendors inside our store.
Thank you for understating and we hope to see y'all soon! pic.twitter.com/x0qXdJjxDy
Starting Monday, St. Edward's University in South Austin will require masks in indoor campus spaces.
With Austin's move to Stage 4, the university is requiring face coverings in campus indoor spaces to protect our community. This is effective on Monday, July 26th and applies to all community members and visitors regardless of vaccination status. Stay safe, Hilltoppers!— SEU Campus Safety (@SEUSafety) July 23, 2021
Retail establishments, including Method Hair in East Austin and Dragon's Lair Comics & Fantasy in North Austin, also joined in, citing the recent move to Stage 4.
Effective immediately, Dragon's Lair Austin is requiring masks for all guests and employees. No current changes to events at this time, but please stay tuned to social media for updates. If you have any questions about event changes, please email email@example.com pic.twitter.com/rmjKYPzYm4— Dragon's Lair Austin (@DLairAustin) July 23, 2021
At least a few restaurants, which have been especially hard hit during the pandemic, have reinstated masking requirements, including Justine's Brasserie in East Austin.
"This was not an easy decision (we're tired on masks, too), but breakthrough Covid cases are real and growing," the restaurant wrote in a Saturday Instagram post. "We wish we could follow France's lead and ask diners, particularly those opting for the (still limited) indoor seating, for proof of inoculation. Abbott, however, has made it illegal for us to do so."
Joe's Bakery in East Austin and Quack's 43rd Street Bakery and Hyde Park are asking patrons to mask up.
St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Northwest Austin held its worship services outside on Sunday, with socially distanced seating and masks required for all attendees, regardless of vaccination status.
Other businesses have taken the Stage 4 announcement to reiterate their existing masking requirements.
REMINDER: Masks are required on board ALL #CapMetro services regardless of vaccination status.— Capital Metro (@CapMetroATX) July 23, 2021
If you do not have a mask, disposable masks are available on board--just ask the operator.
Let's keep each other safe out there! #MaskUpATX pic.twitter.com/5wQihjwQyr
Although the aforementioned businesses have reissued mask mandates, they appear to be in the minority, with most letting customers decide whether to mask up—at least for now. These include major retailers like H-E-B, which made masks optional for fully vaccinated customers on June 9, citing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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East Austin restaurant la Barbecue has been robbed a third time in less than three months, according to a post on the restaurant's Instagram.
In the post, the restaurant included photos of what appeared to be a man exiting a minivan from surveillance footage.
"This guy pulled up in a car full of stuff… he ripped our gate open and stole a couple empty kegs," the post said. "The ring system scared him off so he did not venture back into the area. PLEASE EVERYONE ON THE EAST SIDE BE CAREFUL!!! This guy goes back into his car to grab something before he goes in. I am hoping he won’t be back!!"
The robbery comes as many restaurant and food truck owners have been on guard from recent break-ins. East Austin cheesesteak truck R&B's Steak and Fries has also been robbed three times in around three months, according to owner Kris Elliott. Elliot said the truck was last robbed around a month and a half ago.
"When the weather gets cold, it seems like these things start to happen more often," Elliott said. "We're just happy no one got hurt."
Additionally, he said all 5 of the food trucks in their lot have experienced burglaries. The landlord of the space is taking action by investing in alarm and camera systems. "Been very tough dealing with this problem as us small business owners are just trying to survive during the pandemic," Elliott said.
And it's not just in East Austin. North Austin restaurants Eldorado Cafe and Chez Zee Bistro were both broken into and robbed on the weekend of Jan. 8, while over a dozen food truck robberies and break-ins were reported in the latter half of 2021.
Some, like Chez Zee's Deborah Velasco, wonder if the understaffed Austin Police Department's decision to no longer respond to non-emergency calls is part of the problem. Xose Velasco, owner of East Austin's Discada, said owners are keeping their guard up in the wake of the robberies as he was robbed twice within a month of reopening in November 2021.
"We try to keep the lights on," Velasco said. "We're a little bit more careful."
After 12 months, the long-anticipated massive Tesla factory in Southeast Travis County is up and operating and everyone wants a look inside.
Phase 1 of Giga Texas appears to be tied up as production of the Model Y Tesla is underway, the electric car company revealed on Wednesday in its fourth-quarter earnings call. The factory, located on the former Harold Green-turned Tesla Road, sits on more than 2,000 acres of land in southeast Travis County.
Here's a glimpse inside the factory.
Model Ys will be the first Teslas to come out of Giga Texas with an estimated delivery of August. The wait estimate comes after Tesla noted supply chain issues have affected their factories, which have been running below capacity for several quarters. A deep blue metallic like this goes for $1,000 more than a white or silver Model Y, totaling $61,990.
Model Ys began being produced at Giga Texas at the end of 2020. In general assembly at the factory, the Teslas get their major interior components to finish the vehicle.
Workers at Austin's Gigafactory are attaching seats to a structural battery pack. It's been described by some as the biggest difference between Texas-made Model Y's and the current version at the Fremont, California factory. It shouldn't have a major impact on the owner's experience, but Tesla has updated instructions for the jacking procedure, as the lift points are different.
With a sleek, open office setup, workers can take in a view of the factory from their seats. It's a component CEO Elon Musk wanted for what is now the headquarters of Tesla.
On the Austin, Texas public location Snapchat, a photo of inside Giga Texas has appeared. On the left you can see a sneak peek of a Model Y body.pic.twitter.com/N7zliZ5vkL— Sawyer Merritt (@Sawyer Merritt) 1643081462
With Snapchat's maps, anyone can look at everyday activity happening at the factory. To view these geographically-linked stories, click the bottom left "map" icon and search "Tesla Giga Texas." Once you've found it, you can view the Snapchat story of those in and around the facility. While most stories stay up for only 24 hours, Giga Texas is a designated place on Snapchat, allowing users to view a collection of photos and videos from the inside.
Following Model Ys, Texas-made Teslas will include the Cybertruck, Semi and Model 3. But it might be a while before those other models arrive. EV makers have been hit hard by the chip shortage, and it's thought that changing features are contributing to Cybertruck delays as Tesla works to compete in the electric pickup market.
Joe Rogan paid a visit to buddy Elon Musk this week. The two have been seen around town since both moving to Texas. Naturally, Rogan was impressed with the prototype.
If you're dying to get a closer look at this factory, you just might get to. In December, Musk said the factory would have tours available to the community early this year.
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