As Austin ISD prepares to join other area school districts in reopening for in-person learning, local health authorities said data shows transmission in school settings is mostly limited to extracurricular activities, such as football, cheerleading and band.
"We don't have any evidence right now of transmission between students and staff," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott told the Austin City Council during his weekly update on Tuesday.
The Austin school districts that have reopened for in-person learning have done a good job so far, Escott said, and capacity limits have allowed faculty time to make modifications as needed.
"Our goal is to avoid substantial, sustained outbreaks in school," he said.
In total, local primary and secondary schools have reported 24 COVID cases among students and 21 among staff since mid-August. An additional 116 people have been identified as "close contacts" of impacted students and staff, according to Austin Public Health data.
As more schools prepare to reopen to students, Escott urged Austinites to continue taking precautions, such as wearing masks, social distancing and screening themselves for symptoms on a regular basis.
"Ultimately success depends on people being engaged and doing that self-screening before leaving their house every day," he said.
AISD plans to return to in-person learning next week, later than other area school districts, including Eanes ISD, Lake Travis ISD and Round Rock ISD. It will start at 25% capacity and increase the number of students on campus as it is safe to do so.
Escott expressed support for AISD's reopening plan during a school board meeting on Monday.
Escott says he has confidence in the AISD reopen plan. "Yes I support the reopen plan." "The situation in the sprin… https://t.co/oJ7wAwEjMQ— Austin ISD (@Austin ISD) 1601334479.0
But Education Austin, a union representing AISD employees, has pushed back against the plan. The organization hosted a caravan protest on Saturday and has called on the district to reopen only when certain metrics are met.
"The district should be focused on data and common sense, not artificial dates," Education Austin posted on its Facebook page on Monday. "Safety first, and reopening second."
The Austin area is currently "solidly in Stage 3," according to APH's risk-based guidelines, Escott said Tuesday. Hospital admission rates have been "relatively flat" for the last 10 days, he added.
At this level, APH recommends schools reopen at no more than 25% and phase in to up to 50% capacity. Escott said he is hopeful that the area can meet the threshold for a Stage 2 level of risk this fall, at which point APH recommends on-campus learning for up to 75% of a school's population.
Austin Public Health issued guidance for a phased-in approach to school reopening in mid-August.(Austin Public Health)
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A Union Pacific cargo train hit a man in his 40s, killing him Thursday morning, Austin police said.
The train's driver called the police after the train hit the man at around 12:45 a.m. in the 300 block of Orchard Street, near Fifth Street and Lamar Boulevard.
Police have not released the identity of the man.
Over a year after they took the stage for the first time in Los Angeles, Austin FC returned to Banc of America Stadium to snatch the No. 1 spot from LAFC in a 2-1 statement win late Wednesday night.
Austin FC, which has flirted with the top spot in the MLS West this season, has now solidly reached the summit just a year after its second-to-last first season finish. The new top dogs are now 7-2-3 overall.
Here's a look at three highlights from the match:
Flashback in LA
For many Austin FC fans and naysayers alike, the match was more than a fight for the MLS West throne: it also served as a symbol of how far the team has come.
The two clubs first met on the Banc of America pitch as Austin FC saw its first game and first loss all at once in a 2-0 battle last April. It was an exciting but shaky start to the club's first season, and the loss seemed to set the tone for the rest of its inaugural year as the club dipped to second to last in the conference.
If Austin's first season was hallmarked by its first match, then its second-year success was foretold by its back-to-back five-goal victories to kick off the season.
Since then, the club has battled its own first-year shadow, claims of "bonus games" and a few unexpected obstacles—both on and off the pitch—but it has almost always come out on top.
That fight to the top was fully realized Wednesday, even as the club played its toughest opponent yet. Even with a man down in the middle due to Daniel Pereira's red card last game, the club kept its cool through even the trickiest moments of the match. Jhojan Valencia, who patched the Pereira hole in midfield, got his first MLS start and first MLS assist as Ruben Gabrielsen scored the first goal of the game.
Gabrielsen came to Austin FC as a potential hero for the team's center back position, but the club's resident Viking has already nabbed two goals in his first season with the team.
"That's center forward material," Austin FC announcer Adrian Healey said as Gabrielsen took control of Valencia's pass, paused to fake out the defense, and calmly tucked the ball into the left corner to complete the first goal of the match.
Even as LAFC dominated possession for much of the match, Austin FC saw another wide-open goal opportunity crumble as midfielder Diego Fagundez's shot hit the corner goalpost in the 23rd minute.
But Fagundez wasn't finished. The midfielder was short on his Verde hair dye but full of surprises as he nimbly sunk a shot over LAFC defense to make it 2-0 with 10 minutes to go.
Fagundez, who has spent more time setting up goals for his teammates (becoming the No. 1 assister in the MLS in the process), finally took the center stage with his second goal this season.
Owen Wolff, head coach Josh Wolff's own son, had a scoring opportunity of his own foiled by the goalpost as he started his first MLS match as one of the youngest starters in the league this season.
But Austin FC wouldn't score again; instead, LAFC powerhouse Carlos Vela made the win a bit trickier in the 86th minute as he got past Austin keeper Brad Stuver to cut the lead in half. The other Wolff quickly subbed in a five-prong defense as the club kept steady for the final 10 painstaking minutes to win the match.
BONUS: Stuver's career-making match
Six saves on the night in LA for Brad Stuver! 🚫 pic.twitter.com/02V6hcUd3Y— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 19, 2022
After two weeks on the bench due to a knee gash, Austin's star keeper Brad Stuver had the Stuver-iest match of all time (yes, we're making it a word) as he pulled off six saves to help his team to No. 1.
Stuver looked like a pinball machine as he pulled off save after save with his feet, hands and body to keep it nearly 100% clean on the back end.
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