100% Austin news, info, and entertainment, straight to your inbox at 6 a.m. every morning.
In five minutes, you're fully informed and ready to start another great day in our city.
Local officials are asking Austinites to mask up—again—regardless of vaccination status.
Just days after local officials announced a shift to Stage 3, COVID hospitalizations and case numbers crossed the Stage 4 threshold for the first time since February, according to Austin Public Health's risk-based guidelines.
Health officials have not yet announced a formal shift to Stage 4, which they said is imminent, but they did ramp up their recommendations, including asking everyone to resume masking indoors.
"We're at the precipice of a new stage if that continues," Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes told city council members and county commissioners on Tuesday. "To stop the spread right now, everyone needs to wear a mask."
Despite these recommendations, local officials lack the ability to enforce such guidance after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting mask mandates in May.
Walkes attributed the sharp uptick in new confirmed cases and related hospitalizations to the Delta variant, which is more contagious. She pointed to a larger percentage of young adults and children being hospitalized with COVID-19 in recent days as a particular concern, especially as families prepare for the upcoming school year.
APH encourages unvaccinated children to wear masks and is working to reach a vaccination rate of 70% by Labor Day, which Walkes said is important given the return to school.
Worried about the mess that happens when TX schools resume in a few weeks without the ability to require masks. Earliest prospect of vaccinations for the little ones is “midwinter” I gather. Yikes. 😬 😧— Andrei Lubomudrov (@lubomudrov) July 20, 2021
This resurgence of #COVID19, masks, requests for people to distance, restaurants & businesses being forced to, yet again, choose between the health of their business & the health of their employees—it’s all avoidable now. Get your vaccine & make sure your friends & family do too.— Nathan Ryan (@nthnryn) July 18, 2021
In addition to masking, officials implored unvaccinated Austinites to make an appointment to get the COVID vaccine. Although breakthrough cases are possible among vaccinated individuals, the vaccine is extremely effective at preventing hospitalization and death. It also helps protect those individuals who are not yet eligible for a vaccine.
"It is our civic responsibility to be vaccinated," District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool said. "We must protect the medically vulnerable and the children under age 12 who are not able to be vaccinated."
This story has been updated to include details from the joint Austin City Council and Travis County Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday morning as well as a press release sent out by APH on Tuesday afternoon.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced a record-setting second quarter during an earnings call broadcasted from the Giga Texas construction site in Southeast Travis County on Monday.
The electric carmaker reported more than $1 billion in quarterly net income and the production of more than 200,000 vehicles for the first time despite challenges such as a global semiconductor shortage.
"It … seems that public sentiment towards electric vehicles is at an inflection point, and at this point, I think, almost everyone agrees electric vehicles are the only way forward," Musk said.
Exterior shots taken just a while ago of Giga Texas (while @elonmusk is reportedly at the Gigafactory!) during today's earnings call!
Hope @peterdog15 got to catch the technoking in his video! #fastestinhistory #Tesla pic.twitter.com/WqeDlb5wU3
— Austin Tesla Club (@AustinTeslaClub) July 26, 2021
Despite rising consumer demand and adequate factory capacity, Tesla faces what Musk described as a "quite serious" global semiconductor shortage, which will determine the company's growth rate for the rest of the year.
With increased revenue and production, Tesla is investing in new factories, Chief Financial Officer Zachary Kirkhorn said. These include Giga Texas, the $1.1 billion manufacturing plant that broke ground last summer and is slated to open later this year.
The Giga Texas factory in Southeast Travis County has rapidly increased in size since ground broke last August. (Tesla)
Musk commended the construction team for "incredible progress," transforming what was basically a vacant site into "a mostly complete large factory a year later."
I was at Giga Texas yesterday. Team is making excellent progress. Building will be almost a mile long when complete.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 25, 2021
Giga Texas will produce the highly anticipated Cybertruck, along with other models, but Musk said scaling its production will be difficult, especially given the supply chain delays caused by the pandemic. "It's going to move as fast as the slowest of its up to 10,000 unique parts," he said.
In other news, Musk said Monday's earnings call would likely be his last regular appearance, only jumping on future quarterly calls when big announcements warrant it.
Tesla Solar recently made news when it announced plans to build the nation's most sustainable residential community in Southeast Austin earlier this month. The newly built homes will feature Tesla solar roof tiles and Powerwall battery storage as well as electric vehicle charging stations.
- How Elon Musk has spent the last 10 days since turning 50 - austonia ›
- Tesla's Elon Musk says Austin factory could hire 10k jobs - austonia ›
- Elon Musk announces Austin Gigafactory will open in 2021 - austonia ›
The city of Austin released a shortlist of seven candidates for the police chief position left vacant when Brian Manley retired in March.
City Manager Spencer Cronk hopes to announce an appointment by the end of August, which will require City Council approval.
The finalists, chosen from a field of 46 applicants, include:
- APD Interim Chief Joseph Chacon, who previously served as an assistant chief in the department for almost five years
- Anne Kirkpatrick, former police chief in Oakland, California, who was fired last year after a federal monitor criticized her handling of a fatal 2018 police shooting of a homeless man
- Dallas Police Department Assistant Chief Avery L. Moore, who is a 30-year veteran of the department
- Atlanta Police Department Deputy Chief Celeste Murphy, who manages the department's community services division
- Dekalb County Police Chief Mirtha V. Ramos, who previously served as division chief in the Miami-Dade Police Department
- Wichita Police Department Chief Gordon Ramsay, who is a former president of the Minnesota Police Chief's Association as well as one of the first police chiefs of a major U.S. City to call George Floyd's death a murder, as reported by the Wichita Eagle
- Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Emada E. Tingirides, who is also commanding officer of the department's newly formed Community Safety Partnership Bureau, which serves L.A.'s underserved communities
City staff will interview the finalists in the coming weeks, with several community input opportunities to come, according to a Monday press release.
The city conducted a public survey in March and hosted community input meetings in April to learn more about what residents are looking for in their next police chief, which helped shape the selection criteria for the position.
"They want to see the Chief be reform-minded and transparent and have a track record of fostering community involvement and accountability," Cronk said in the release. "The candidates selected show these characteristics in various ways."
- Police Chief Brian Manley stepping down amid police protest ... ›
- Austin city manager names interim police chief, starts search ... ›
- Austin searches for new police chief amid reform process - austonia ›
Days after Austin began once again recommending masks in public spaces, Austin ISD announced Monday that kindergarten through sixth-grade classes will have virtual options this fall.
The district will discuss the move in a special board meeting Monday evening starting at 5 p.m., while full details will be released Friday.
Teachers will not have to fret about the new option—no educators will have to juggle both virtual and in-person learning. Instead, certain teachers will specialize in virtual education, according to a press release.
The news comes after a recent spike in COVID cases in Travis County and across the nation. Children typically suffer fewer symptoms of COVID when contracted, but they are now catching the virus more often than their older counterparts without a vaccine available to them and as the more contagious Delta variant is quickly being spread.
While local health officials are recommending everyone wear masks, public school districts are unable to mandate masks due to an executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott in May.
Parents have expressed concern about classrooms with masks unenforceable and children under the age of 12 ineligible for a vaccine. Some have even said they would look for alternative schooling if AISD did not offer a virtual option for students.
- Austin ISD reports enrollment drop due to virtual learning - austonia ›
- Austin ISD goes fully in-person for 2021-22 school year - austonia ›
- Austin ISD receives COVID-19 vaccine for eligible staff - austonia ›
- AISD considers temporary remote learning amid holiday surge ... ›
- Austin ISD sees enrollment fall amid COVID, raising funding ... ›
- Austin private schools see continued COVID enrollment bump ... ›
- Austin ISD enrollment decline may lead to layoffs amid COVID ... ›