Before Wednesday, COVID patients at Austin's St. David's Medical Center were not allowed any visitors as the third surge surpassed case rates from the summer of 2020.
A representative told Austonia that as of Sept. 1, COVID patients are allowed one visitor a day as hospital officials attempt to strike a balance between allowing patients to see their friends and family and curbing the alarming spike.
Last summer proved harrowing as the first surge sent a panic through the nation, with weekly COVID death rates rising to as high as 38 in Austin in the height of the summer. Many patients lost their lives to COVID in solitude as hospitals tightened visitation policies to prevent community spread.
Austin's three major hospital systems, St. David's, Baylor Scott & White and Ascension Seton, had imposed no-visitor policies with some exceptions by mid-June of 2020.
As cases subsided and ICU beds were less in-demand, visitation policies were eased. While all three have alleviated some of their strictest policies, some have reinstated tighter visitation rules in recent weeks.
On Tuesday, July 27, Baylor Scott and White Health reinstated their no-visitor policy on COVID patients.
However, some COVID patients can have one visitor over the age of 16 if they:
- are receiving care from pediatric units or NICU
- in labor or receiving postpartum care
- are undergoing a surgery
- are having difficulty understanding or making decisions
- or are receiving end-of-life care
Other hospitals have implemented similar moves. On July 29, Ascension Seton adjusted their visitations to allow COVID patients one visitor at a time, while non-COVID patients may have as many as two.
Visitors in all healthcare facilities must adhere to strict rules—visitors for COVID patients are not allowed to leave the patient's room or visit common areas and many waiting rooms sit empty and devoid of furniture. Masking is required at all locations, and some require COVID screenings beforehand as well.
As hospitals sit in limbo on their visitation policies, so does the greater Austin area. Austin's weekly death rate rose above the same week last year for the first time on Friday, Aug. 27, as 19 Austin-area residents lost their lives to COVID. On Aug. 13, COVID hospitalizations in Texas surpassed the peak of the first summer surge with 11,261 patients, and Gov. Greg Abbott scrambled to bring healthcare workers and resources in from other states to alleviate overcrowded hospitals and depleting supplies.
But Austin Public Health officials said they are "cautiously optimistic" as cases and hospitalizations in the area begin to dip. As of Tuesday, the seven-day moving average of COVID hospital admissions is 70.3, down from 83.6 on Aug. 11. Under 600 COVID patients are in area hospitals, down from a peak of 653 on Aug. 25, and ICU patients are starting to slightly go down as well.
With the school year underway and 817 cases in Travis County schools, however, hospital officials will likely be tasked with tough visitation policies for weeks to come.
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East Austin restaurant la Barbecue has been robbed a third time in less than three months, according to a post on the restaurant's Instagram.
In the post, the restaurant included photos of what appeared to be a man exiting a minivan from surveillance footage.
"This guy pulled up in a car full of stuff… he ripped our gate open and stole a couple empty kegs," the post said. "The ring system scared him off so he did not venture back into the area. PLEASE EVERYONE ON THE EAST SIDE BE CAREFUL!!! This guy goes back into his car to grab something before he goes in. I am hoping he won’t be back!!"
The robbery comes as many restaurant and food truck owners have been on guard from recent break-ins. East Austin cheesesteak truck R&B's Steak and Fries has also been robbed three times in around three months, according to owner Kris Elliott. Elliot said the truck was last robbed around a month and a half ago.
"When the weather gets cold, it seems like these things start to happen more often," Elliott said. "We're just happy no one got hurt."
Additionally, he said all 5 of the food trucks in their lot have experienced burglaries. The landlord of the space is taking action by investing in alarm and camera systems. "Been very tough dealing with this problem as us small business owners are just trying to survive during the pandemic," Elliott said.
And it's not just in East Austin. North Austin restaurants Eldorado Cafe and Chez Zee Bistro were both broken into and robbed on the weekend of Jan. 8, while over a dozen food truck robberies and break-ins were reported in the latter half of 2021.
Some, like Chez Zee's Deborah Velasco, wonder if the understaffed Austin Police Department's decision to no longer respond to non-emergency calls is part of the problem. Xose Velasco, owner of East Austin's Discada, said owners are keeping their guard up in the wake of the robberies as he was robbed twice within a month of reopening in November 2021.
"We try to keep the lights on," Velasco said. "We're a little bit more careful."
After 12 months, the long-anticipated massive Tesla factory in Southeast Travis County is up and operating and everyone wants a look inside.
Phase 1 of Giga Texas appears to be tied up as production of the Model Y Tesla is underway, the electric car company revealed on Wednesday in its fourth-quarter earnings call. The factory, located on the former Harold Green-turned Tesla Road, sits on more than 2,000 acres of land in southeast Travis County.
Here's a glimpse inside the factory.
Model Ys will be the first Teslas to come out of Giga Texas with an estimated delivery of August. The wait estimate comes after Tesla noted supply chain issues have affected their factories, which have been running below capacity for several quarters. A deep blue metallic like this goes for $1,000 more than a white or silver Model Y, totaling $61,990.
Model Ys began being produced at Giga Texas at the end of 2020. In general assembly at the factory, the Teslas get their major interior components to finish the vehicle.
Workers at Austin's Gigafactory are attaching seats to a structural battery pack. It's been described by some as the biggest difference between Texas-made Model Y's and the current version at the Fremont, California factory. It shouldn't have a major impact on the owner's experience, but Tesla has updated instructions for the jacking procedure, as the lift points are different.
With a sleek, open office setup, workers can take in a view of the factory from their seats. It's a component CEO Elon Musk wanted for what is now the headquarters of Tesla.
On the Austin, Texas public location Snapchat, a photo of inside Giga Texas has appeared. On the left you can see a sneak peek of a Model Y body.pic.twitter.com/N7zliZ5vkL— Sawyer Merritt (@Sawyer Merritt) 1643081462
With Snapchat's maps, anyone can look at everyday activity happening at the factory. To view these geographically-linked stories, click the bottom left "map" icon and search "Tesla Giga Texas." Once you've found it, you can view the Snapchat story of those in and around the facility. While most stories stay up for only 24 hours, Giga Texas is a designated place on Snapchat, allowing users to view a collection of photos and videos from the inside.
Following Model Ys, Texas-made Teslas will include the Cybertruck, Semi and Model 3. But it might be a while before those other models arrive. EV makers have been hit hard by the chip shortage, and it's thought that changing features are contributing to Cybertruck delays as Tesla works to compete in the electric pickup market.
Joe Rogan paid a visit to buddy Elon Musk this week. The two have been seen around town since both moving to Texas. Naturally, Rogan was impressed with the prototype.
If you're dying to get a closer look at this factory, you just might get to. In December, Musk said the factory would have tours available to the community early this year.
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