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After weeks of an apparent flattening, Austin Public Health reported 1,034 active cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday—the highest caseload since mid-August.
"It is a gradual but significant increase in the number of cases," the department said in a press release issued on Thursday.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Austin-Travis County reported 148 and 154 new cases, respectively, about a 50% increase from the seven-day moving average of 96.6 reported previously.
(Austin Public Health)
More than half of those who tested positive at APH testing sites were between the ages of 20 and 39 years old, according to APH.
The numbers suggest that those who recently participated in a gathering, such as a Halloween party, have had a higher risk of encountering someone infected with the virus. As a result, APH recommends that everyone who gathered outside their household last weekend get tested and self-isolate at home.
"APH cannot prevent a spike in cases ahead of the winter holidays without the support and cooperation of our entire community," the department said. "An increase in case numbers will lead to needless hospitalizations and deaths."
This spike follows a few weeks of local health officials cautiously reporting a relatively flat COVID curve, which bucked the trend of rising caseloads across Texas—and the world.
On Wednesday, the U.S. reported a record-breaking number of new COVID cases—at least 107,000—marking the first time since the pandemic that the country has broken six figures in a single day and prompting fears of a coming surge that will be worse than the one seen this past summer.
El Paso also set a new record on Wednesday, with 3,100 new COVID cases reported, and remains under a countywide shutdown order. Hospitals are at or near capacity, the Texas Tribune reported, and four temporary morgues have been set up.
Across Europe, the U.K. and France have recently reentered lockdown due to similarly swelling caseloads.
"It is important that we … learn what has happened in other cities across our state and in other countries," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said on Monday. "And the lesson learned is that when things start to look better, then we want to celebrate, and we want to change and open things up aggressively."
Most businesses and area schools have reopened, at varying capacity levels, but bars remain closed for at least the next week and a half, per a county order.
"We don't want the reopenings to be short-lived," Escott added.
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Matthew McConaughey is reportedly weighing a run for Texas governor in 2022.
The Austin resident and Oscar winner has been "quietly making calls to influential people in Texas political circles, including a deep-pocketed moderate Republican and energy CEO" as he decides whether to run, according to Politico.
McConaughey said a gubernatorial run is "a true consideration" while on a March episode of Houston's "The Balanced Voice" podcast.
Although most political strategists doubt McConaughey's commitment and viability as a candidate, some are still intrigued by the possibility.
"I find it improbable, but it's not out of the question," Karl Rove, a top Republican strategist with a long history in Austin, told the political news site. He added that the big question is whether McConaughey would run as a Republican, a Democrat or an independent.
Brendan Steinhauser, an Austin-based GOP strategist, told Politico he's surprised McConaughey isn't being taken more seriously. "Celebrity in this country counts for a lot," he said. "It's not like some C-list actor no one likes. He has an appeal."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott plans to run for a third term and remains popular among Republican voters, 77% of whom approve of his performance as of April, according to the Texas Politics Project.
Some strategists believe an independent McConaughey run would benefit Abbott. But a recent poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found that McConaughey would beat Abbott, 45% to 33%, with 22% opting for someone else.
Mimi Swartz, an executive editor at Texas Monthly, mulled a McConaughey run in a recent opinion essay from the New York Times. "Texas may not be ready for a philosopher king as a candidate, much less governor," she wrote. "May the best man win, man."
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Some JuiceLand production facility workers and storefront employees are organizing to demand wage increases, better working conditions (including air conditioning in the warehouse) and pay transparency, among other asks. They are also calling on staff to strike and customers to boycott the Austin-based company until their demands are met.
JuiceLand responded on Saturday. "We are listening," the company wrote on their Instagram story. "JuiceLand crew now makes guaranteed $15 an hour or more companywide."
JuiceLand, which was founded in 2001 by Matt Shook and now has 35 locations in Austin, Houston and Dallas, acknowledged the rising cost of living across Texas and the added stress of the pandemic in an email to employees on Saturday, part of which @juicelandworkersrights shared on social media. "There's no denying that times are tough and financial security means more now than ever," the company wrote.
Organized JuiceLand workers rejected this proposal, according to a recent post on the @juicelandworkersrights Instagram account, and reiterated their demands.
"Cost of living in Austin is rising exponentially and will only continue to get worse with the tech boom," the post read. "$15 is barely a sustainable living."