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Austin health officials: COVID curve is flattening, but vaccine rollout remains slow
(City of Austin)

Austin public health officials pointed to some positive signs—an apparent flattening of new confirmed COVID cases and related hospitalizations as well as a falling community positivity rate—during a special joint meeting of the City Council and Travis County Commissioners Court on Tuesday. But they also tried to manage the public's expectations regarding the ongoing vaccine rollout, which remains slow due to limited supply.

Local COVID curve may have reached its latest peak

After an alarming surge in cases in Austin, and across Texas, following Christmas and New Year's, there are signs that the curve is flattening. The moving average number of COVID-related hospital admissions hit a peak of 94 nine days ago and now is around 88.

"This is a good sign," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said. "It's not going down yet, but it's at least flat, which I think indicates that our community is responding."

(Austin-Travis County COVID-19 Public Dashboard)

Hospital capacity has been a particular concern in recent weeks. The state opened up an alternate care site at the Austin Convention Center downtown earlier this month as area ICUs neared capacity, and 10 low- to mild-acuity COVID patients are currently being cared for there.

Updated projections from the COVID-19 Modeling Consortium at the University of Texas at Austin, which rely on hospital admission numbers and mobility numbers, now estimate the pandemic will remain flat locally, an improvement from last week when they indicated a worsening crisis.

Similarly, the community positivity rate has also fallen, from 16.2% during the second week of January to 12.8% this past week. "This is a positive indication that things may be slowing significantly," Escott said.

(Austin Public Health)

Still, Travis County remains in Stage 5 according to Austin Public Health's risked-based guidelines—the highest state. The goal positivity rate is 3% or lower, which would allow for less severe restrictions for residents and businesses.

Vaccine supply remains low

Six weeks into the federal vaccine rollout, Austinites remain frustrated by the limited supply of vaccines and mixed messages from state and local officials about who qualifies for a shot—and where to find them.

For the last two weeks, APH has been the only or the main recipient of vaccines from the Texas Department of State Health Services, receiving 24,000 doses and being designated as a hub provider because of its ability to stand-up mass distribution events. Still, the demand for vaccine among individuals in the 1A and 1B priority group far outweighs supply.

Since APH launched a pre-registration system last week, more than 166,000 people have created accounts, despite some tech issues. Of those, more than 60,000 qualify for a vaccine according to the current guidelines, Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard said. Most of them—nearly 90%—are 60 years of age or older.

APH opened some appointments for its latest batch of 12,000 doses, which were claimed within two hours, according to a department spokesperson. Additional appointments will become available later this week.

But many individuals in the priority groups continue to run into roadblocks, overwhelming area providers and their local elected officials with phone calls that often lead nowhere.

This is because Travis County has received 87,825 doses of the vaccine, compared to the 285,000 residents who fall in the 1A and 1B priority groups.

"It is critical that we manage expectations," City Manager Spencer Cronk said.

Escott offered some glimmers of hope amid the current frustrations.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve an emergency use authorization for the AstraZeneca vaccine later this month, which could increase the federal supply.

"Our hope is that we can increase the volume of vaccine available," he said, adding that many local providers—including H-E-B, Austin Regional Clinic, CVS, Walgreens and UT Health Austin, in addition to APH—are capable to administer thousands of vaccines a day once they have the doses needed to do so.


Tito's releases (not so?) ugly sweater line for the holidays, profits to charity

Tito's Handmade Vodka

Show your love for Tito's and for the community this year with a wide selection of not that ugly, uglyish, ugly, uglier, and ugliest holiday sweaters.

There's lots choose from, and plenty of accessories like scarves and socks, plus gear for your dog, too.

All of the items can be purchased online or at the Love, Tito’s Retail Store in Austin, TX. 100% of all net proceeds from online or in-store purchases go to one of the nonprofits we’ve teamed up with.

Click here to see the entire collection in the Tito's store.

Mac and Cheese Fest and Free Art Exhibit
Waterloo Greenway, Good Vibrations Installation

🗓 All weekend

🎨 Creek Show Art Exhibit

Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities

All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park

✨ Mozart's Light Show

This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.

6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703

🗓 Saturday

🥊 Kickboxing in the Park

This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.

10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park

🛍 The Front Market

Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.

11 a.m - 5 p.m | 📍Ani's Day and Night - 7107 E Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78741

🗓 Sunday

🧀 Mac and Cheese Fest

Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.

11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway