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Grant Weddle, 23, isn't totally sure how he contracted COVID-19.
A friend of his went out to the bars one night in early December, and after spending time with her, they had both developed symptoms.
Now that Weddle has recovered from COVID, he feels differently. "I don't feel as at risk as before," he said.
Others feel similarly.
Lynn, a 23-year-old server who works in North Austin and asked to be identified by her middle name, tested positive for COVID in late December after experiencing mild, allergy-like symptoms. Since then, she has noticed an attitude shift. "It sounds bad to say but I feel kind of invincible," she said. "In my head, I should be free from COVID at least through March."
The 20- to 29-age group is less at risk for hospitalization and death due to COVID, accounting for 26% of the confirmed cases in Travis County but only 8% of hospitalizations and 1% of deaths. But local public health officials have stressed that they can easily spread the virus to others and should observe precautions to avoid doing so.
This concern became especially acute in the wake of the Christmas and New Year's holidays when nearly half of the new cases confirmed in Travis County were in the 20-29 and 30-39 age groups, which officials attributed to social gatherings and travel. They also criticized state-level loopholes that allow some bars "masquerading as restaurants" to remain open.
There is still confusion about how long a person who has recovered from COVID may be immune to it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Weddle knows this. "I'm not naive in thinking that I'm home free, and I'll never get (COVID) again," he said, adding that he continues to take precautions—such as masking while in public—to avoid acting as a carrier.
Still, having COVID has changed his outlook.
Weddle, who works as an essential worker and asked that his exact job title not be used, said he has taken the pandemic seriously since it began in March. Because his job puts him in contact with strangers every day, he traded out nights on Sixth Street for board game nights at home.
But it's not that easy for someone in their early twenties to avoid socializing—especially those who have recovered from COVID and now feel the chances of getting it a second time are almost nonexistent.
Weddle went out to the bars for New Year's Eve, which he acknowledged was risky. "I guess being locked inside for as long as I was (with COVID), I was cooped up and I needed a release," he said.
Weddle feels comfortable talking to his friends and posting on social media about his experience with COVID because he contracted the disease despite doing his best to adhere to local public health recommendations. "I got it because someone else went out and gave it to me," he said. "It's not my fault."
Lynn, who is also an essential worker, feels similarly. She said her social media feeds are full of people who appear to be taking fewer precautions than she is. "Not necessarily in shoulder-to-shoulder bars but going out to eat, getting brunch with a friend, on Sixth Street," she said. "Because my friend group is just as lax as I am, I'm not necessarily worried about how I'll be received."
Despite feeling invincible and taking some risks, Lynn feels like she is taking adequate precautions to prevent spreading the virus to other people should she be exposed to it again. When visiting her mom, who lives outside of Fort Worth and works in the medical field, she avoids going out the week or two prior. She is also comforted by the fact that her mom has received the first dose of the vaccine and is regularly screened for COVID at work. "She has way more access to testing than anyone else that I know, so I feel more chill," she said.
Still, Lynn is eager for more people to get vaccinated, including her. She said wants the vaccine so she can feel more secure working and going out. "As soon as the vaccine is readily available, I will be first in line," she said.
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17 years and three medals later, Osterman's last ride with USA softball is over. What's next for Cat?
Nearly two decades after her debut with the University of Texas and 17 years after her first Olympic gold, softball icon Cat Osterman stepped off the Olympic pitcher's mound for the last time with a silver medal to take back home.
Osterman, a three-time Olympian who has been called the "Michael Jordan of softball," will officially retire from the international realm at 38 after a decorated career that included Olympic golds, years of retirement and plenty of adversity—from a worldwide pandemic to dashed gold-medal dreams.
Osterman and her crew left Tokyo on a bittersweet note on Tuesday with a silver medal in hand.
Osterman with Team USA in 2008. (Antoni Majewski/Twitter)
Osterman in the final in 2021. (Antoni Majewski/Twitter)
After a year of sparse in-person training and over a decadelong hiatus, Team USA and Osterman flew to the finals. In five games, the team beat Italy (2-0), Canada (1-0), Mexico (2-0), Australia (2-1), and Japan (2-1).
Deja vu struck in the final match. On one side, Osterman and fellow 2008 Olympic teammate Monica Abbott took the mound; on the other was the 39-year-old Yukiko Ueno, a familiar foe who helped the team beat Team USA last go-round.
"Just like 13 years ago," Ueno said in a press conference, "we were facing each other in the final."
Ueno, who had lost hopes at gold to Osterman in '04, outpitched her longtime opponent with six scoreless innings as Team USA was held to just three hits. The same team that squandered their gold-medal hopes 13 years before had done it once again.
Your Tokyo 2020 Olympic Silver Medalists 🇺🇸#TokyoOlympics | @TeamUSA pic.twitter.com/MOMNOedHUd
— USA Softball Women's National Team 🇺🇸 (@USASoftballWNT) July 27, 2021
"There's a little bit of disappointment in not bringing home the gold since that's the eye on the prize when you go over there and you know you have a shot at it," Osterman told Austonia. "But more than anything, I'm very proud of the way our team handled everything that was part of this journey and not just the six games."
It's that very loss at the 2008 Olympics that partially motivated Osterman to get back on the mound. She officially put down the glove in 2015 after six seasons with the USSSA Pride, took time with family and began coaching at Texas State University.
Osterman helped ace Randi Rupp to greatness while a coach at Texas State University. (Active Voice Health/Twitter)
She thought her Olympic endeavors were well over—until talks of reinstating softball into the Games reentered the conversation.
"It wasn't until 2016 or 2017, that it ever crossed my mind to possibly put the USA uniform on again," Osterman said. "After the World Championships in 2010, I walked away, and I thought that my career on the international stage was done. So this was a pleasant kind of new opportunity."
Three years after facing any competition, Osterman was on the field once more with world-class athletes. Some, like Osterman and Abbott, had been playing together long enough to form a formidable "Fire and Ice" duo on the mound. Others had just graduated college.
Osterman said playing with a younger generation of athletes was one of the most rewarding aspects of this year's Games.
"It can be very different when you have 24- and 38-year-olds on the same field," Osterman said. "The adversity put us in some challenging positions and we came through with flying colors. And this group will forever be special just because what we had to go through is so different."
While on the mound, Osterman's job was to give the team a calm start. Off of the field, she felt her role had much of the same effect: she knew that new Olympic feeling, and she served as a deep breath to her first-time teammates.
"There's no words to explain how nervous and excited you get knowing that the whole world can be watching," Osterman. "I think using those emotions and figuring out how to get all our butterflies lined up and going in the right direction, so that way we were all moving together, was kind of my role outside of pitching."
We've heard her retire once before, but this time Osterman said she's gone for good—even from coaching. After her final time with Team USA on Sept. 27, she plans on returning to Austin, where she'll look to work for a nonprofit.
A gold and two silvers will have to do for one of the most decorated athletes in U.S. softball history.
"To be able to say you're a three-time Olympic medalist is a pretty special deal, right?" Osterman. "I played for a long time. But those are the pinnacle, in my mind, and kind of what elicits the dream to keep playing."
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Hospitals are facing a "significant" increase in admissions of pregnant women due to COVID-19 complications, Austin-Travis County health officials say, revealing what could be a long-term side effect of the virus.
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes met with three maternal medicine specialists on Monday morning to warn of yet another COVID-19 Delta variant concern: severe cases of the disease affecting unvaccinated mothers-to-be.
The doctors said unvaccinated pregnant women face an increased risk of preterm births, long-term effects, preeclampsia, ICU stays, stillbirths, being put on life support and even death if they are unvaccinated.
"We are really concerned that we are not getting that population of folks to hear this message of the safety of vaccines, so today we're assembled, one and all to say, wear a mask and please get vaccinated," Walkes said. "Vaccinations are the way to prevent severe disease and hospitalizations and death."
Medical Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at St. David's Women's Center of Texas Dr. Kimberly DeStefano said 95% of pregnant women admitted with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, stressing that all pregnant and lactating women should get the vaccine not only to protect themselves but to protect their babies from infection, which can be passed through breastmilk or birth.
"We know that the earlier in pregnancy you are vaccinated, the more antibodies are present at the time of birth for the infant," DeStefano said. "This is something that's very important, both during the pregnancy and postpartum."
Catching COVID-19 while pregnant can cause adverse effects on the baby, particularly because it increases the risk of preterm births. Baylor Scott & White Maternal Obstetrics Chief of Maternal Medicine Dr. Jessica Ehrig, said that preterm births are one of the "biggest impacts" on childhood development.
"We know that (preterm births) can have long-term effects depending on how early a baby's born," Ehrig said. "It increases the risk for long term respiratory issues, for blindness sometimes (and) for neurologic development delays."
Since mid-July, COVID-19 hospitalizations have been on a steep rise that sent the city back to recommending Stage 4 guidelines. As the seven-day rolling average of hospitalizations surpassed 50 admissions, Stage 5 guidelines could be on the horizon. The city reported 54 new admissions and 546 total new cases on Friday.
Delta is more contagious than chickenpox, Walkes said, and even vaccinated individuals can catch and spread the virus without symptoms. The group of doctors asked everyone, especially pregnant women, to mask while in public as local hospitals pass the Stage 5 threshold.
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