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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Nicklaus Pereksta says he loves photographing enthusiastic people, and it’s why his latest gig offering pictures to people out on Lady Bird Lake’s hike and bike trail is going smoothly. He sets up his gear on the Pfluger pedestrian bridge and puts out a sign: Photos, $10.
“Overwhelmingly, this has been a really positive experience,” Pereksta said. “I get excited when I wake up in the morning and I can't wait to go to work.”
Bikers and joggers are excited about it too. On the pedestrian bridge leading to downtown Thursday morning, a man on an e-bike rode up and posed, wanting more photos.
“I posted the last pictures on Instagram and people loved it. They asked, ‘where is this guy?’” the biker told Pereksta. Bashfully, Pereksta, who also photographs landscapes and at weddings and other events, said he was happy to hear that.
Pereksta started these photos about a month ago, after the strenuous runs required in his valet job started causing pain in his legs. And though he has a passion for photography, he wasn’t so sure when he started working independently if it would work out.
He felt uncertain about the demand for it and was also worried about having lots of expensive equipment out in the open.
“Then like the first day was nothing but high praise and people are like, this is so awesome. This is great. I've never seen anything like this before. I was like, Wow, this was really good, like positive turnout. So I got encouraged.”
Now, he wants to expand and is thinking of contacting the Mueller Farmers Market about how to become a vendor. Still, he'll carry a connection to photographing on the bridge since the word bridge is related to his last name.
“It's a name my great, great, great grandfather came up with when he was marrying somebody. It's actually quite a romantic name. It means a joining of two bridges," Pereksta said. "So, I thought it was ironic that I'm set up on a bridge. I'm kind of representing my last name right now.”
Austonia talked to Pereksta about life in Austin, where he’s lived for eight years after living in Boston doing band photography.
What was your first experience with Austin?
I came here to visit some friends and they took me to Barbarella. So we went to Barbarella and I was like, ‘wow, this place is great.’ And then the restaurants and the food and going to Barton Springs. I was like, ‘this is amazing.’ Because there's nothing like that in Boston. If you want to go to a natural spring, you got to go to New Hampshire. There's no pools in the city at all. So there's lots of swimming out here.
What do you like best about Austin?
You go to any little quiet bar and there's a band playing that should be like onstage for a sold out show. Yeah, they're playing to 10 people, right? Like, one of the best bands ever and they're playing for 10 people, right? And just little magic moments like that are pretty fun. You just run into little random weird things.
What do you think makes Austin different from other places?
There’s no fall.
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