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Free PPE distribution events aim to slow COVID spread in Austin hot spots
(Austin Latino Coalition, Del Valle Community Coalition)

More than 1,700 families attended a PPE distribution event on Aug. 29 hosted by the Austin Latino Coalition and Del Valle Community Coalition.

Face coverings and hand sanitizers may not seem like the rare commodities they were back in the spring when many stores and online vendors had sold out of their stock. But for many Ausitnites, these resources remain out of reach.


"Now more than five months into the COVID-19 pandemic there is an assumption that everyone has access to [personal protective equipment], but the reality is that there are people in our community who have to make the tough choice of buying food versus buying a mask and hand sanitizer," said Paul Saldaña, coordinator of the Austin Latino Coalition.

The coalition co-hosted a PPE distribution event on Aug. 29 with the Del Valle Community Coalition. Volunteers distributed 15,00 disposable masks, 200 boxes of gloves, 5,000 reusable adult masks, 400 reusable children's masks and 500 bottles of hand sanitizers to 1,700 families. There was also voter registration and census stations set up.

"People were in line at Del Valle High School more than two hours before we began distribution," Saldaña said. "One elderly woman who was at the front of the line arrived at 5:30 a.m., with her oxygen tank. There are seniors, veterans, teachers, construction and grocery workers, among others, who are all in need."


Volunteers distributed thousands of masks at the most recent distribution event. (Austin Latino Coalition, Del Valle Community Coalition)


The Austin Latin Coalition began in 2013 and is organized by 30 volunteers. Private sector partnerships—with H-E-B, Lowe's and Tito's Vodka, among others—help fund its initiatives.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the coalition saw that the needs of the local Latino community were being inadequately addressed by local governments.

"Information about the virus was not easily accessible, and not culturally relevant and difficult to find in Spanish," Saldaña said. "With over 20 subcultures in our Latino community, the Spanish translation doesn't always resonate [with everyone]."

It also became clear that Latino Austinites were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Despite making up around a third of the Travis County population, they account for more than half of confirmed COVID cases and hospitalizations and nearly half—49%—of deaths.


Latino residents are overrepresented when it comes to COVID cases, hospitalizations and outcomes. (Austin Public Health)


Although the number of new confirmed daily cases has been on the decline in recent weeks, transmission remains most concentrated on the city's east side. The highest number of confirmed cases is found in the 78744 ZIP code, where a majority of residents are Latino.

Austin's confirmed COVID cases are more concentrated on its east side, with the highest number of cases in the 78744 ZIP code, where a majority of residents are Latino. (Rational Anarchy/Reddit)

"The southeastern ZIP codes and portions of Austin [and] Travis County continue to be among the communities with the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases and positivity rates," Del Valle Community Coalition President Susanna Woody said.

Saldaña has criticized elements of the city's response to the pandemic, arguing that they could do more to address disparate outcomes.

The city's health department provided and packaged PPE and other informational materials for the distribution event last weekend. On Wednesday it also announced it would co-host, along with CommUnity Care and Central Health, nine PPE distribution events this month in areas with high COVID positivity rates, such as Pflugerville and Dove Springs.

"It is important to [Austin Public Health] to ensure that the most vulnerable in our community are protected from COVID-19," a spokesperson said. "Additionally, we are continually re-evaluating our epidemiological data and burden of disease on our community to ensure that we are meeting the community's needs during this time."

However long the pandemic lasts, ALC and its partners plan to continue offering barrier-free testing, PPE and education resources to the Latino community.

"Many won't come to the local government coordinated testing sites out of fear for a variety of reasons, so we host these events where those in our community feel safe," Saldaña said. "While our focus is the Latino community, all are welcome to come."

The U.S. Hispanic Contractors Association of Austin, a member of the ALC, is hosting a free COVID testing event this Saturday at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Northeast Austin, near the Little Walnut Creek Greenbelt, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"This is about being a good citizen to our neighbors and fellow Austinites," Saldaña said.

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‘Like speed dating of cats’ at Purr-fecto Cat Lounge
Purr-fecto Cat Lounge

Lina Martinez with her newly adopted cat, Emmanuel, who she renamed Sullivan.

Timmy and Tommy are ready to play.

As the 2-month-old white-and-tabby brothers swat feather wands, chase toys and generally hold court inside Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, a half-dozen potential adoptive parents look on lovingly, trying to get their attention.

“This is kind of like the speed dating of cats,” said Lupita Foster, owner of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge. “I intentionally didn’t put in any tables. That’s why we call it a lounge instead of a cat café because we have these lounge areas where you can sit and relax and cuddle.”

Foster, who has owned a cleaning company, Enviromaids, for 18 years, was inspired to open Purr-fecto Cat Lounge after adopting her own cat, Romeo, from a local shelter.

“When you want to adopt a cat, you have to spend a lot of time with them to get their personality,” Foster said. “I wanted to do something to help the community and something that makes me feel good, that warms my heart. A business with a purpose. This was a perfect idea.”

Actually, a purr-fect idea.

Inspired in part by a cat lounge she visited in Los Angeles, Foster began laying the groundwork for the business in late 2021 and officially opened the doors of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., in July 2022. Since then, she’s worked with rescue organizations such as Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue and Sunshine Fund Cat Rescue to facilitate nearly 100 cat adoptions.

At any given time, there are 10-15 cats living in the space, which features an ideal blend of calm, cool corners and adorably Instagrammable backdrops with phrases such as “I want to spend all my 9 lives with you.”

Lina Martinez, 32, learned about Purr-fecto Cat Lounge from a friend’s Instagram post and made an appointment to visit two days later.

“My first impression was, ‘AWW!’” Martinez said. “The kittens were to die for. I felt happy and at peace – just what I needed.”

Visitors to the cat lounge pay $15 for a 30-minute CATXperience session or $30 for a 70-minute session that is spent getting to know the personalities of each cat. Foster said the first thing she typically sees from visitors to the lounge is a smile.

“Everybody that enters the door is smiling,” she said. “And we’ve seen people who have cried because they can’t have kids and they decide to go and adopt a cat instead.”

Foster said she loves bringing in cats who might not have a chance to be adopted at traditional shelters. She told the story of one cat named Izzy, who was partially blind, who was adopted by a family that had a deaf cat at home.

“Izzy was not going to get adopted anywhere else, but she’s extremely beautiful,” she said. “If she was in a cage in a rescue and you tell people she’s blind, she was probably going to be overlooked. But visiting our space, she doesn’t seem like she’s blind. She knows her way around. She moves around perfectly.”

Although Martinez, who had been casually looking for a pet to adopt since moving to Austin nearly four years ago, was interested in a cat named Ruby that she had seen on Purr-fecto’s social media, at the lounge she instead found herself drawn to 5-month-old mixed breed Tuxedo cat.

“I thought he was a star,” she said. “He worked the room and introduced himself to everyone. When I laid down to pet Ruby, he ran from the other side of the room and cuddled with me. It was game over. He got me.”

And she, of course, got him, complete with a commemorative photo that read “My Furrever Family” the day she took him home. Although his original name was Emmanuel, she renamed him Sullivan after her favorite DJ.

“Purr-fecto is special because of the amount of effort and love they put into taking care of the cats,” Martinez said, “and finding them good homes and making possible adopters feel at home.”

Foster, who spent a recent Thursday hosting a group of teenagers in foster care at the lounge, several of whom expressed interest in working there, said the best part about her new endeavor is that her heart is always full.

“I just feel complete,” she said. “I always felt as an entrepreneur that I was missing something. I knew I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I was missing a little connection with the community. Now I’m creating connections between humans and pets and that’s amazing. I’m creating family bonds. It’s just about love, you know. And we need that.”

Austin's 7 Best Indian Restaurants

We all have those cravings for an amazing butter chicken or some authentic dosas with coconut chutney, but when I was thinking about where I wanted to go to satisfy my taste buds I realized that my list of great Indian food around Austin was surprisingly short. After doing some research and asking around, here is your list of the best Indian restaurants around town.

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