All are racing for a vaccine with data showing younger Austinites receiving more shots than those 65+
Richard Kane, 40, received his first COVID-19 vaccine shot last week at a CVS in Temple, a little more than an hour's drive north of Austin.
The Austin Country Club tennis coach is a Type 1 diabetic and eligible for the vaccine under group 1B, which includes people 65 and older, as well as those with a medical condition.
Despite being in a high-risk category, Kane was initially more concerned about making appointments for his father and mother-in-law. When his wife was able to secure appointments for all three of them, he was mostly on board.
"I thought I would feel funny if I was there waiting in a long line, and I'm 40, and there's a bunch of people in their 60s and 70s behind me," he told Austonia.
But Kane's fears were unfounded. Now partially vaccinated, with a second appointment scheduled, Kane feels more secure, especially considering that he returned to work last May—and does not have the option to work remotely. "It definitely makes me feel more comfortable, both for myself and the other people," he said.
Three months into the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, there are some signs of widening access thanks to increased weekly allocations, the FDA's approval of Johnson & Johnson's single-shot candidate and expanded eligibility criteria, which now includes educators and child care staff. Although older residents still report trouble making an appointment, younger Austinites like Kane are increasingly in on the action.
Austin Public Health administered 26,645 doses of the vaccine last week. Of those, more than 65% went to people under 65 years old. This is a new development. Until last week, the majority of APH's doses had been administered to people 60 and older, according to the Austin-Travis County vaccine distribution dashboard.
Austin Public Health has been prioritizing older residents in its vaccine distribution process since they are the most at-risk of severe illness. Department officials have even said that other 1B qualified individuals should consider giving up their place in line.
Securing a spot in line
So how are young people securing a dose? There are plenty of younger Texans who are eligible for the vaccine under priority group 1B. In addition to healthcare workers, long-term care employees, and education and child care personnel, there are an estimated 311,477 Travis County residents aged 16 to 64 who have a medical condition and therefore qualify, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. This is roughly a quarter of the county population.
Dana, who asked to use a pseudonym for privacy reasons, lives in San Marcos and received her second vaccine dose in late February from Hays County. The 27-year-old was eligible under group 1B because of pandemic weight gain; obesity is one of many health conditions that increases risk of severe COVID illness, according to DSHS.
"I did have my reservations," she said, adding that she worried people might think of weight gain as a personal choice rather than legitimate eligibility criteria. "There's always someone less healthy than you."
But ultimately she opted to make an appointment, citing well-documented links between obesity and more severe COVID outcomes. "The more people who get jabs the better," she said.
Another way to secure the vaccine is to jump the line, as reported by the Texas Tribune. Because state health guidelines do not allow vaccine providers to require recipients to provide proof of a medical condition, some residents have successfully made an appointment citing membership of group 1B, despite not meeting the current eligibility criteria.
Vaccines for volunteers
Amanda Sheppard, 41, is a service coordinator for Family Eldercare, a local nonprofit that serves seniors and adults with disabilities. Because of her job, she has qualified for a vaccine since very early on in the rollout. "I had actually tried to get an appointment on the Austin Public Health website, but I wasn't able to get one," she said.
When APH hosted a vaccine clinic at the public housing community where she works on Tuesday, Sheppard volunteered—and received her first dose. "I just felt like I needed to get the vaccine because I'm going to continue to work with this population," she said.
Amanda Sheppard received her first vaccine dose on Tuesday after volunteering at a distribution event. (Amanda Sheppard)
As vaccine supply increases, so too do the number of large-scale vaccine distribution events. Central TX VACCS, a joint effort by the city of Austin and Travis County, notes on its website that volunteering at a vaccine distribution site "does NOT mean you'll receive a vaccine." But for some younger Austinites this is one way to get a vaccine before it is rolled out to the general public.
Volunteer shift at a covid vaccine center done. The 25K steps I racked up running filled syringes to docs/nurses was VERY worth it. I'm healthy but being a single mom made me nervous to get sick. An amazing, emotional day y'all. pic.twitter.com/me1n1Nr80i
— Ande Wall (@AndeWall) March 6, 2021
Woke up at 6:30, drove an hour to volunteer with helping people get vaccinated, stood for 8 hours straight on hot tarmac, and got so sunburnt I have mask tan lines.
BUT I GOT MY FIRST ROUND OF THE VACCINE 🎉🎉🎉 pic.twitter.com/ryGOilyomQ
— tyler (@spacedtyler) March 5, 2021
Those still waiting may find the wait shorter than anticipated. State officials are expected to release details on the 1C priority group, which will likely include essential workers, this month. APH Assistant Director Cassandra DeLeon urged members of the general public to start preparing a vaccine plan during a press conference on Friday.
"As we look ahead into next week, we are anticipating having additional vaccine," she said. "And so we encourage everyone to continue to work toward getting access to a vaccine and ... thinking through and talking with your healthcare provider about which vaccine you'd like to receive—¸and, when it becomes your turn to get a vaccine, continue to try to get one."
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Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on three charges—second- and third-degree murder as well as manslaughter—in the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man whose final moments were recorded by onlookers, sparking a global protest movement over police violence and racial injustice. He faces up to 40 years in prison.
Jurors deliberated for 10 hours over two days after an intense, three-week trial before reaching a verdict Tuesday afternoon, four days shy of the first anniversary of the Austin police killing of Mike Ramos, an unarmed, 42-year-old Black and Hispanic man whose name became a rallying cry—along with Floyd's—for Austin protestors, who marched en masse last summer, prompting some police reforms.
Austin Police Department Officer Christopher Taylor was charged with first-degree murder—an unprecedented charge in Travis County—in the case of Ramos' death on March 10. But Warren Burkley, community outreach director for the Austin Justice Coalition, was measured in his response to the Chauvin verdict. "It's highly visible accountability, so it will give people hope in the system," he told Austonia. "But it's just one innocent life taken. And even in this city, this happens regularly, and it doesn't make national news."
Local elected officials, community leaders and residents also responded to the news as APD officers spent their second day on tactical alert, prepared to respond to any protests or demonstrations, and City Council heard recommendations from a task force on how to reimagine public safety.
Chauvin guilty on three charges!!!!
— Chas Moore (@iGiveYouMoore) April 20, 2021
Full justice would mean that George Floyd was still with us. But today's guilty verdict represents a historic step toward justice and for his family. So important now for the Senate to approve the House George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.https://t.co/9zUOgZYg4L
— Lloyd Doggett (@RepLloydDoggett) April 20, 2021
For the first time we saw accountability in the courts for the murder of an innocent Black person.
Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd on camera.
This prosecution is historic. People are feeling temporary relief. This is more than Justice, this is #AccountabilityforGeorgeFloyd. https://t.co/HlBqW7sScx
— Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (@EddieforTexas) April 20, 2021
Many of us have been afraid for days that Derek Chauvin would be found not guilty, despite what the video so clearly showed in broad daylight. The guilty verdict today provides important accountability, but it does not provide real justice. (1/5) ⬇️
— Gregorio Casar (@GregCasar) April 20, 2021
George Floyd's murder led to national protests and calls for the enactment of policing and social justice reforms, including here in Austin. We have made a commitment here to holding police officers accountable and to implementing social justice and policing reforms.
— Mayor Adler | 😷wear a mask. (@MayorAdler) April 20, 2021
Derek Chauvin's conviction is only one step towards providing healing/justice for George Floyd's family + for our nation as a whole. It's up to us to honor Mr. Floyd + the many others lost to police violence by transforming public safety and making our communities safe for all. https://t.co/RVgQmcAf6I pic.twitter.com/hCHLibYjoy
— Council Member Alison Alter (@ALTERforATX) April 20, 2021
No person should be above the law. If you transgress the law you should be held accountability.
Derek Chauvin- GUILTY
— Emmanuel Acho (@EmmanuelAcho) April 20, 2021
George Floyd's murder heightened the long-overdue national conversation on systemic racism. Derek Chauvin has been found guilty, but this is just one step on a long road towards racial equity. We must enact significant systemic changes in order to achieve justice.
— Every Texan (@EveryTxn) April 20, 2021
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Californians love Texas, and Austin—with its liberal politics, relatively affordable housing and job opportunities—is particularly adored. In fact, the Lone Star State was the main recipient of departing Californians in 2019, according to the latest available U.S. Census Bureau data.
But other states, including Florida, are seeing increased interest. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has made a name for himself on Twitter recruiting techies and hyping up his city, which has a lot in common with Austin—with the added benefit of a beach and sans the "Don't California my Texas" attitude.
California expats and industry experts say Austin remains the bigger draw for Californians, especially those in the tech sector, but warn that this advantage could shift to Miami if the city doesn't address the policy challenges that prompted the migration in the first place: housing affordability.
"If Austin doesn't accommodate this influx, I think all the talent will come to Miami," said Peter Yared, a tech entrepreneur who moved to Miami from San Francisco in September. "I think Miami's going to be the one that sucks it all up."
Both Texas and Florida promise business-friendly state tax policies, and their governors tout the relocations of companies such as Tesla and Oracle from California. But Darien Shanske, a law professor at the University of California Davis whose specialties include taxation, said this is a red herring because corporate taxes are based on where sales occur rather than headquarter locations.
This is not to say other state policies are irrelevant. "The area in which California regulatory policy has been, in my opinion, not a complete failure but problematic … is housing policy," Shanske said. Austin and Miami can offer "not cheap, just cheaper" housing than what is available in Silicon Valley. Plus, both cities are developing a critical mass of talent, which further draws Californians in. "If you're a software engineer, you want to live near other software engineers," he added.
But not every Californian is motivated to move. "San Francisco is a fantastic place to live if you can afford it," said Brandy Aven, a professor of entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business. As a result, it's more common for what she called the labor—engineers, programmers and even company founders—to relocate to cities such as Austin and Miami than the monied venture capitalists. Burgeoning tech cities may find that they need to develop homegrown investor networks to support local ventures in the absence of Californian transplants, but she believes this is doable.
Paul O'Brien, CEO of the Austin-based MediaTech Ventures and a startup veteran, moved to Austin from California in 2009, during the Great Recession. "I'm a firm believer that the world has been seeking an alternative to Silicon Valley for a long time," he said, pointing to Austin as the natural heir for myriad reasons.
Austin has regional appeal as the epicenter of three of the country's largest cities—Houston, Dallas and San Antonio—and their respective industry niches. Tech entrepreneurs could cater to the local consumer goods industry or Houston's oil and gas sector. Plus the city has cultural appeal, thanks to the Red River District and South by Southwest, which made it attractive to job seekers. "The whole reason everyone moved to Silicon Valley is opportunity," O'Brien said. "The whole reason people are now looking beyond Silicon Valley to somewhere else is opportunity."
It's less clear what Miami's key industries are, O'Brien said, but the city offers other selling points, including the mayor's buy-in and "a tremendous depth of wealth" to support a technology and startup ecosystem.
Although Yared didn't consider moving to Austin, he is aware of its appeal to engineers, especially now that their hero, Elon Musk, has moved there, shunning California. "Austin has a lock on tech," he said, but Miami draws a different crowd, including financiers from New York. This parallel migration, coupled with the city's more outwardly pro-growth building policies, gives him hope that Miami could supplant Austin in the coming years. "In the end, communities get to choose what they want," he said.
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In the days after Austin FC's inaugural match against LAFC on Saturday, Head Coach Josh Wolff says he's watched the game "a number of times, to say the least."
In the match, Wolff and over 500,000 other viewers looked on as Austin FC took to the pitch for the first time, held their own in the first half against LAFC and eventually fell 2-0 to a team that's sometimes regarded as the best in the league.
Austin FC had the largest television audience of any soccer match in the U.S. over the weekend, surpassing even the USWNT. In a showcase of the club's dedicated fan base, dozens of Los Verdes fans were spotted in green and black around the stadium—even with the match limited to 20% capacity.
Salute the support. 👏
It's only the beginning for @AustinFC. pic.twitter.com/TduorqYr2y
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 18, 2021
While the team lost their first-ever match, they didn't make it as easy as some expected.
Wolff said that the team did relatively well offensively, holding possession for 48% of the match and keeping a solid passing game. Once they got to the box, however, Wolff said they could use some work on creating scoring opportunities.
"We saw a lot of good connections, good spacing (and) good speed of passing," Wolff said. "I think we can obviously have more presence centrally to have more numbers in between lines. I just want us to create more chances. There's a lot on both sides of the ball that we still need to work on."
LA pulled some dramatics and slowly gained more possession throughout the half, but ATXFC's defense wasn't initially as shaky as it seemed in preseason. Later on, however, the team gave up some goals and seemed to struggle with endurance. Wolff said the backline did "okay" and that the club, including young center back Jhohan Romana, are still getting conditioned to play a full match.
"It's a lot of information for a young player," Wolff said. "I think as he fatigues then the decision making, as with most players, becomes a little bit more cloudy and then thus the execution becomes cloudy."
An honor to represent this city and y'all. We're just getting started. 💚🖤 pic.twitter.com/tmOqCfbXvs
— Austin FC (@AustinFC) April 18, 2021
Goalkeeper Brad Stuver had his work cut out for him, fending off 24 shot attempts, 11 of which were on goal.
Going into the match, Stuver and fellow goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell were neck-and-neck, with both labeled potential starters. However, it was Stuver, who many thought signed as a backup, that wore the goalkeeper's jersey on the field for the first time.
"I think both Andrew and Brad did relatively well in preseason, but we decided with Brad just based on how we felt preseason went," Wolff said. "I thought he performed pretty well to be honest. I think he and Andrew are similar in some aspects... it's being mindful of where their strengths and weaknesses are."
Five starters made their MLS debut in the match, including midfielder Daniel Pereira and forward Rodney Redes. While Wolff said Pereira held his own in the match, he saw a weak spot in the team's right side, making it difficult for Redes to make offensive plays.
"For Pereira, I think it was a solid day for a young kid coming in his first MLS game against that opponent," Wolff said. "Obviously there's there's a different physicality to MLS and I think those are things that all these guys are going to acclimatize to.
Now, the club looks to put the ball in the back of the net for the first time as they head to Colorado. Austin FC will face the Colorado Rapids at 8 p.m.on Saturday. The match will stream on the Austin FC app and be broadcast on the CW Austin. Austonia will keep an eye out for potential weekend watch parties.
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