Austin COVID hospitalizations reach highest point in months as four Delta variant cases are confirmed
COVID-19 hospitalizations are on the rise in Austin, likely fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant and overwhelmingly affecting unvaccinated individuals.
There have been four confirmed Delta variant cases in Travis County, Austin Public Health announced Wednesday.
Meanwhile, there were 24 new admissions in the five-county Austin metro on Tuesday, bringing the seven-day moving average to 19—its highest point since April 29, according to Austin Public Health's risk-based guidelines.
This puts the metro squarely in stage three, where APH recommends that high-risk unvaccinated individuals—namely those 65 years or older—avoid any non-essential activities to mitigate risk.
Overall, 100 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the metro as of Tuesday, with 39 in the ICU and 19 on ventilators.
More than 90% of the hospitalized patients are unvaccinated, Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes told KXAN last week, mirroring trends around the country.
The Austin metro is now in stage three of APH's risk-based guidelines based on new hospital admissions. (Austin Public Health)
New reported cases are also trending upwards. More than 200 cases were reported Tuesday, bringing the seven-day moving average to 85, up from 33 a week ago, according to APH.
Walkes told Travis County commissioners on Tuesday that the likely culprit behind these trends is the more contagious and deadly Delta variant, which now accounts for about 58% of all COVID cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. In late May, Delta was estimated to account for approximately only 3% of new cases in the U.S.
Although Travis County is approaching the threshold for herd immunity—which experts have estimated is around 70%—it has not yet reached it, meaning that the disease is still circulating and evolving to become more contagious, pushing the threshold further up. There are also still subsets of the population that are not yet eligible for the vaccine, including young children.
More than 70% of Travis County residents 12 and older are partially vaccinated, and more than 61% are fully vaccinated, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Local health officials continue to implore residents to get vaccinated if they haven't already. "Existing vaccinations are still more than 90% effective in keeping individuals safe," Interim APH Director Adrienne Sturrup said in a July 2 press release. "It is more important than ever to have these discussions around vaccinations and why they are so important for families and our community in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19."
Information about where to find a free COVID vaccine can be found here.
This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. to include how many cases of the Delta variant have been confirmed in the metro.
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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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