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After a decade of being called the country's fastest-growing metro, Austin is about to learn early next year if the trend continues when census counts are released.
In anticipation, The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce revisited the latest U.S. Census migration insights in its latest economic report. Migration patterns help reveal where new Austin residents moved from and how that growth compares nationally.
Based on 2018-19 population estimates outlined in the report, Austin is now growing at 168 net new residents per day, mostly thanks to people who relocate here.
Here are three notable takeaways from the report:
1. Austin really is a 'Hotel California'
The cliche that Californians are flocking to the city has merit, based on the report takeaways.
California residents make up 8% of all migration to the Austin metropolitan area, according to 2014-18 U.S. Census survey data compiled by the chamber. That is significantly more than the next five states:
- California (8%)
- New York (3.3%)
- Florida (3.1%)
- Illinois (2.3%)
- Arizona (2.1%)
- Colorado (2.0)
But more than half (51.3%) of new Austin residents actually come from elsewhere in Texas, according to census survey data.
In total, 119,146 people migrated to Austin between 2014-18, a net gain of 25,769 residents. Most of these newcomers come from other Texas cities like Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, as well as from New York City and Los Angeles.
Ironically, California is also the top destination for Austin residents who relocate permanently, followed by Florida and Colorado.
2. No other city grew faster this decade
The percentage of Austin's population growth from 2010-19 exceeded every other metro area in America, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
In fact, Austin grew at a 10% faster rate than any other Texas city despite The Lone Star State making up four of the nation's six fastest-growing cities this decade:
- Austin (29.8%)
- Raleigh (23%)
- Orlando (22.2%)
- Houston (19.4%)
- San Antonio (19.1%)
- Dallas (19%)
Austin's consistent growth the past 10 years comes from various factors. Census data shows about 32,000 people move within the U.S. per year and another 6,850 relocate internationally annually. An additional 16,200 people per year come from natural increase (births minus deaths).
Raleigh is the only city to have a higher percentage (6.8%) than Austin (6.6%) of overall residents who relocated within the past year.
3. Relocations skyrocketed in 2019
The majority of the city's annual population increase comes from domestic migration, or people moving to Austin from other parts of the U.S. Between 2011-18, Austin gained 30,798 residents, on average, who relocated here.
But that number ballooned to 41,334 new residents in 2019, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. That helped Austin reach a net population increase of 60,000 for the first time this decade.
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After reaching Stage 4 last week of Austin Public Health's risk-based guidelines, Austin-Travis County is now at the Stage 5 threshold with a seven-day average of 50 hospitalizations and dwindling ICU capacity.
While unenforceable under Gov. Greg's Abbott order against local mandates, vaccinated individuals are asked to choose drive-through and curbside options, outdoor activities, social interactions with limited group sizes, as well as social distance and wearing masks indoors. Partially or unvaccinated individuals are asked to avoid gatherings, travel, dining and shopping, choose curbside and delivery options, as well as wear a mask on essential trips.
Flashing back to early-pandemic times, hospitals are at critical capacity—the 11 county Trauma Service Region of 2.3 million people is fluctuating at 16 staffed beds, according to APH.
In a statement on behalf of Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David's Healthcare, a spokesperson said that hospitals are asking residents to "help us and each other" by getting vaccinated and continuing to utilize safety practices to slow the spread of the virus.
According to the statement, a "longstanding" nurse staffing challenge combined with the recent COVID-19 spike is putting "extraordinary pressure" on hospital systems.
Along with the unmitigated spread of the virus in unvaccinated, the more contagious Delta variant is also to blame for the spike in cases. The seven-day moving average of COVID hospitalizations in the Austin area reached the Stage 5 threshold of 50 on Friday, triggering local health officials to ask residents to take action.
Local hospitals have a "surge plan" that includes utilization of "all available patient care space and employees within our hospitals and in other settings" that will go into effect when capacity is hit, according to the statement.
The hospitals are working on sourcing supplemental staff and emphasized that emergency care will still be available but it may involve patient transfers "in order to provide the most appropriate care."
Healthcare systems have hit this threshold previously during the pandemic: the city held an alternate care site at the Austin Convention Center from January to March of this year.
"Our responsibility during this pandemic continues to be balancing our readiness to care for patients with COVID-19, while making sure patients who depend on our hospitals receive needed and timely care," the statement said. "We do not want to see necessary non-COVID care delayed as it was during the early stages of the pandemic."
This story has been updated to after publication to include that Austin has reached the Stage 5 threshold.
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Austin legend Willie Nelson will perform at the Texas Capitol today, his first large performance since the pandemic began, closing out a four-day long march across Central Texas to build support for federal voting protections.
Organized by The Poor People's Campaign, the march began in Georgetown on Wednesday and will end with a 10 a.m. rally at the Capitol featuring appearances from former U.S. Congressman Beto O'Rourke and Rev. Dr. William Barber.
Willie Nelson (with Charlie Sexton & friends) will play a free concert at the Poor People's Campaign march for democracy & justice in Austin this Saturday! https://t.co/zZSA0BpbWA
Sign up to join us and see Willie at 10am Saturday: https://t.co/KrDPIFIvST
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) July 29, 2021
The rally calls on Congress to "stop attacks on democracy" by ending the filibuster, pass all provisions of the For the People Act, restore the 1965 Voting Rights Act, raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour and pass permanent protections for all 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Nelson denounced election law proposals gaining traction in red states, such as Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3 in Texas, which 55 House Democrats foiled by fleeing to Washington, D.C., on July 12.
The bills would require additional ID verifications for mail-in ballots, allow partisan poll watchers "free movement" and prohibit elections officials from sending absentee ballot applications to voters who didn't request one.
"Laws making it more difficult for people to vote are unAmerican and are intended to punish people of color, the elderly and disabled," Nelson said. "If you can't win by playing the rules, then it's you and your platform–not everyone else's ability to vote."
The march is in the spirit of the Selma to Montgomery March of 1965, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which protested the blocking of Black Americans' right to vote by Jim Crow laws.