In light of new state and federal COVID-19 policies, Austin Public Health will debut a new School Saturdays vaccine program this weekend, focused on vaccinating school staff and childcare providers. Department officials also continued to stress the importance of masking and distancing given new variants, the low overall vaccine rate and the prospect of a third surge following spring break and the Easter holiday.
"It is effectively a moral imperative that people wear masks," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said during a press conference Friday.
The Texas Department of State Health Services announced Wednesday that school and child care staff are now eligible for COVID vaccines after receiving a letter from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services directing states to expand priority groups to include these workers. President Joe Biden called on states to prioritize vaccinating teachers earlier this week as part of a renewed effort to reopen schools.
APH plans to focus vaccine distribution efforts to teachers, bus drivers, Head Start employees and other newly eligible residents during School Saturdays, starting tomorrow. Current outreach is focused on the more than 10,000 educators who have already signed up for APH's waitlist. "Education is definitely our priority," Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard said.
The expansion of vaccine eligibility to include teachers has raised concerns given the well-documented supply shortage and tech issues that have plagued the rollout so far. "I think one of the big failures of public health across the country has been its investment in information technology," Escott said. "We're still working from fax machines … to receive some cases. We have systems that don't talk to one another."
Although the department is making improvements, including a recently implemented queuing system, many eligible residents still report not being able to make an appointment and overall glitchiness. These problems could be compounded by additional demand—and the possibility that the state will further open up eligibility to include a group 1C of essential workers in the next couple of weeks. "It's an evolving system," APH Assistant Director Cassandra DeLeon said, adding that as more vaccine supply becomes available she anticipates the system will run more smoothly–similar to what happened during the testing rollout last year.
With more than 218,000 eligible residents currently registered with APH and a standing weekly allocation of 12,000 doses from DSHS, the department is only able to schedule around 5.5% of users for appointments each week. This rate may improve, however, now that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is part of the mix. A state health department spokesperson told Austonia earlier this week that more than 200,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is expected to be allocated next week.
Some residents may be concerned about the vaccine, which was found to be less effective in clinical trials than the Pfizer and Moderna candidates. But Escott said "it is an excellent vaccine," with a higher efficacy rate than flu vaccines in recent years and the potential to benefit many more people because it only requires one dose. "The vaccine that you can get is better than the vaccine that you can't get," he added.
With new confirmed COVID cases and related hospitalizations trending downwards in recent weeks, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that he would lift business capacity restrictions and the statewide masking mandate next week, opening Texas 100%.
(Austin Public Health)
Since a peak in mid-January, the average number of new COVID cases confirmed each day in Travis County has plummeted from nearly 702 to 183. Hospitalizations have followed a similar trajectory, dropping from an average of 94 in early January to 27 on Thursday.
But local public health officials are still concerned about the possibility of a third surge, citing new variants and events such as spring break and Easter, which APH Chief Epidemiologist Janet Pichette called "opportune times for people to gather and have festivities."
With businesses reopening, including possibly bars, and the chance that residents may abandon masks, this could spell trouble for the local healthcare system. "I think it's reckless for bars to be open in the first place," Escott said. "Those individuals who frequent bars are those same individuals who have close to zero vaccinations."
Despite the governor's green light, Escott and local elected officials have asked Austin businesses to follow the local risk-based guidelines, which currently recommend a maximum capacity of 50%.
"I feel like our business owners understand the importance of masking, understand the importance of social distancing," Escott said. "And I think our business owners understand that if people don't feel safe in a space they will not come."
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It's not on the level of LeBron signing with the Spurs, but who knows, maybe you'll see him at Guero's one day, having a Rob's Especial marg and a No. 1 dinner?
LeBron James, Draymond Green, Kevin Love, LeBron's business partner Maverick Carter, and a bunch of other sports-related investors are buying a Major League Pickleball expansion franchise.
Oddly, MLP teams aren't associated with places, so at this point it's just "an expansion team."
But Major League Pickelball is based in Austin, created, according to the Austin Business Journal, by Dreamland and Richard's Rainwater owner Steve Kuhn.
League investors include familiar Austin names like C3 Presents founders Charles Attal and Charlie Walker, Parsley Energy founder and partial Austin FC owner Brian Sheffield, Silicon Labs Chairman Nav Sooch, and pickleball enthusiast Brené Brown.
Camp Fimfo Waco, a brand new camping resort, is kicking off football and fall camping season in style! With top-notch amenities, premium accommodations, and 10 weekends of fall fun, there’s no better place to have a fall camping getaway, especially if you’re a Baylor football fan!
Fall promises to be a one-of-a-kind camping experience. From Sept. 16 to Nov. 24, weekends will be packed with fall-themed activities, including special Halloween weekends in October. Campers can enjoy activities like fall crafts, campground trick-or-treating, costume contests, site decorating, outdoor movie nights, and more!
Packages and Ways to Stay
Camp Fimfo Waco
Located just 5 miles from McLane Stadium, Camp Fimfo Waco is the perfect place to stay during home game weekends. Skip the stuffy hotel room and embrace the great outdoors before cheering on the Baylor Bears! Campers can purchase a Baylor Tailgating Package that includes a pre-game meal from Executive Chef Sean Kelley and transportation to and from the game! Chef Kelley will also be cooking up delicious, elevated tailgating meals near the stadium so make sure to check out The Plaid Plate food truck before the game.
Stay in style and comfort, no matter your camping preference! At Camp Fimfo Waco, there are multiple ways to stay. Red Carpet RV sites come with a concrete pad and patio, full hook-ups, cable hook-up, a charcoal grill, fire ring and fire pit. Back-in or pull-thru options are available, as well as coveted spots tucked along the Bosque River!
Don’t have an RV? Not a problem, Camp Fimfo Waco has cabins too! Book a Riverview Firewheel Cabin if you’re looking for an air-conditioned oasis for the whole family. Complete with a kitchen and private bathroom, this cabin can fit up to 10 people. Elevate your stay by adding on a golf cart or snag a private cabana by the pool for guaranteed shade. With wifi available throughout the park, you can stay connected during your stay!
Amenities and Activities
Camp Fimfo Waco
Camp Fimfo Waco features lots of amenities to fill your days with fun, whether you’re a kid or kid at heart. After challenging your friends to a game of pickleball, basketball, or mini golf, go for a dip in the resort-style, heated pool - open daily through October! Stay on the weekends through October to enjoy the interactive splash playground. With plenty of ways to burn off energy, like the jumping pillow or playground, you can be sure to end the day with a peaceful night around the campfire!
Right now, you can get the fourth night FREE when you book three nights with the promo code BONUS! Check out the Offers page for full details and more promo codes!