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Local health officials urge Austinites to stay vigilant against COVID this Labor Day weekend
(Austonia staff)

After Memorial Day festivities were attributed as a cause of the surge in COVID-19 cases earlier this summer, Austin health officials warned residents against gathering this Labor Day.

Despite recent progress, including a declining positivity rate among COVID-19 tests, local officials warned Austinites that the region could quickly reverse course if precautions are not upheld over the weekend and as students continue their return to school.

"Labor Day weekend is not the time to crowd bars, to have barbecues and to gather with family," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said Friday. "Now is the time to stay the course because if we change our behaviors, three weeks from now we could be back where we were in June and July with increased cases and uncontrollable spread."


The surge earlier this summer was attributed, in part, to Memorial Day festivities.

Ahead of the weekend, Escott and his colleagues at Austin Public Health asked residents to wear masks, social distance, wash hands and limit their activities to those that are essential.

"We're not saying you have to lock yourself in your house this weekend and do nothing," he said. "Just don't have your neighbors over and your extended family over because that's where we see danger."

By many metrics the pandemic situation is improving. The seven-day moving average of new daily hospitalizations was 18, as of Thursday evening, down from 27 two weeks ago and nearly 37 a month ago.

But as predicted new clusters—defined as three or more cases—have emerged in students returning to school. Earlier this week, Escott said four area primary and secondary schools had reported clusters, with more than 25 cases between them. Most stemmed from athletic activities, such as football.

The University of Texas at Austin, meanwhile, has reported 118 cases among students since its fall semester began Aug. 26. In the last week, nearly a quarter of confirmed COVID cases in Travis County have been among UT students, Escott said Friday.

"We need you to be part of the solution," he said, urging students to take their role as community members seriously. "We need you to take leadership."

St. Edward's University and Austin Community College are also reporting student COVID cases on their respective dashboards.

Local health and school officials have not provided clear guidelines about what would lead to a closure of their campuses.

Escott also raised concerns about the return of in-person sporting events and the possible reopening of bars.

Later this month, the Texas Longhorns will play their first home football game at the Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, which will be limited to 25% capacity—or 25,000 fans. While Escott acknowledged UT's efforts to ensure safety, such as canceling pre-game tailgating, he said Austinites at high risk should "think twice" before choosing to attend such a large gathering.

Earlier this week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott hinted at "next steps" regarding the state's shutdown orders, which currently prevent bars and restaurants that make 51% or more of their revenue from alcohol sales from opening.

Popular

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

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
Dwellsy

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.