Nancy Barnidge loved to ride her Masi road bicycle on Austin's Veloway, safely circling the paved, three-mile loop with her husband outside the threat of cars and motorized traffic.
Her beloved $1,200 bicycle fit her small frame like a glove, and she'd been riding it on the Veloway regularly for some 15 years to stay in shape.
Then one day, someone lifted it off its vehicle rack in the busy Veloway parking lot while she was stretching a few feet away.
"It was stolen right off the back of my car," Barnidge said.
An experienced rider who has hung onto the same bike for 17 years, Barnridge was shocked to find out that replacing it wasn't as easy as a quick trip to the bike store—even in Austin, where bike shops are in nearly every neighborhood.
After searching Austin, she finally found one that fit her in Waco.
"There were just no bikes for me anywhere," she said.
High demand by furloughed workers and out-of-school kids, coupled with pandemic-related manufacturing and shipping delays, have major bike companies warning that new bikes won't begin showing back up in the U.S until next spring.
The resulting boom and shortage in the bicycle world—across the nation and across the world—has made headlines throughout the summer, but is felt particularly hard in Austin, where bike culture was huge long before the pandemic forced people into fresh air with new hobbies and low gas funds.
The shortage is landing hard on Austin bike shops, some of whom report historically low inventories—mainly in moderately priced bicycles—as a result of the delays.
At The Peddler Bike Shops in Austin and Cedar Park, inventory trickles in sometimes, thanks to proactive efforts early in the season, but it sells quickly—particularly for the consumer-level bikes, said shop manager Christa French.
High-end bikes over $4,000 stay in the shop a little longer, she said.
"We're all handling it mostly through pre-orders for the customers right now," French said.
The situation is similar at Mellow Johnny's downtown, where a sales manager told Austonia that high-end bikes are still in stock, but consumer-level bikes are way down.
Hybrid bikes, or "commuter bikes," are often the choice of newer riders and those who use it as their main mode of transportation, because they can handle roads as well as trails. They're down to 10% of their normal stock at Mellow Johnny's, he said.
"For the main vendors, I have less than 20 bikes remaining, and we're typically a store that keeps hundreds," said shop owner Frank Prior.
East Side Pedal Pushers saw an immediate drop in bike tires and tubes right after the pandemic started, which several riders—including Barnidge—say are still hard to find.
"Those were really popular when people were pulling them out of their garages to get serviced," said Lee Greshman, who has owned his shop for 17 years.
At Pedal Pushers, which repairs all types of bikes and specializes in Jamis and Surly sales, inventory on new bikes is down to four total in the store. He's looking for a new shipment around November.
But even though inventory is low, Gresham said, the shop will survive the downturn.
"I'm not worried," he said. "We're doing enough repairs that we've still got revenue."
At Bike Farm, higher end inventory and cheap bikes are still in stock but the mid-priced road bikes and mountain bikes—around the $500 to $700 range—get sold nearly as quickly as they come in, said Jake Lavender, a salesperson at the shop.
The shop got in 12 of them Saturday morning. They sold out within two hours after the store posted them on its Instagram.
"Trying to get your size, your budget and the style that you want, all three of those are hard to do right now," Lavender said. "So if anybody sees anything close to what they want, they grab it. A lot of these people have been waiting months on a reasonably priced bike."
Want to read more stories like this one? Start every day with a quick look at what's happening in Austin. Sign up for Austonia.com's free daily morning email.
- Austin closes Barton Springs and Deep Eddy - austonia ›
- 3. We're a great city for bikes - austonia ›
- Manley meets with Mellow Johnny's staff at Lance Armstrong's request ›
To help make sense of all the information emerging about COVID-19 in Austin, we're answering a few big questions:
Is the COVID situation improving?<p>Not quite.</p> <p>Local health officials have identified hospital admissions as a key metric because it is not affected by reporting delays or testing shortages.</p> <p>"It's a good predictor of actual case burden in the community," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said Tuesday.</p> <p>The number of COVID-related hospitalizations in the Austin metro has held steady for the last 10 days. </p> <p>"The trend has been relatively flat," Escott said. </p><p><br>Since the start of the month, the average number of hospitalized COVID patients has declined 44%, from 146.8 on Sept. 1 to 82 on Sept. 29. </p> <p>But the average number of new cases reported each day has increased 42%—from 78 to 111.1—over that same time period. </p> <p>Escott has attributed these diverging trend lines to the increasing number of cases among young people, who are much less likely to require hospitalization than older patients. </p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ1MTI3Ni9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMTk4MDI4NH0.XxvY7wkBOfT-BtHF8JhtIGX0Dv8apitlsV-JZMb53pA/img.png?width=980" id="f2149" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e69fc96d61833754a62b5ea7a5e9cb3e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
What is a "twindemic"?<p>It's time to add another word to your pandemic vocabulary.</p><p>Health experts have raised concerns of a "twindemic," when the COVID pandemic inevitably overlaps with the annual flu season, which begins in October.</p><p>Last year's flu season was particularly bad, Escott said last week, and local ICUs hit capacity from flu patients alone.</p><p>"Our hospitals cannot handle surges of both," he said. "We're going to have to ration care."</p><p>Escott has encouraged Austinites to <a href="https://austonia.com/flu-season-austin" target="_self"><u>get vaccinated</u></a> before the flu season intensifies this winter. </p><div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="187ed35bc13596eb1d0e6e1e0ba084ea"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/austinpublichealth/posts/3992955670717819"></div></div>
What is going on with schools?<p>Austin ISD is preparing to reopen <a href="https://austonia.com/austin-school-reopening" target="_self"><u>for in-person learning</u></a> next week, following in the footsteps of other area districts, including Eanes ISD and Round Rock ISD.</p><p>Escott is supportive of AISD's reopening plan, which follows Austin Public Health guidelines to start capacity limits at 25%. He said there is no evidence that disease transmission is occurring in classrooms or <a href="https://twitter.com/AustinISD/status/1310716756374237186" target="_blank">while students are passing in hallways</a>.</p><p>"For those who are concerned about putting teachers at risk, I'm married to an educator, and she went into school today," Escott told the AISD board of trustees on Monday. </p><p>He added that the risk of transmission appears to be limited to extracurricular and social activities, where students may not be wearing masks or adhering to social distancing guidelines. </p><p>In total, local primary and secondary schools that have already reopened have reported 24 COVID cases among students and 21 among staff since mid-August, according to APH data shared Tuesday. An additional 116 people have been identified as "close contacts" of impacted students and staff. </p><p>The University of Texas at Austin <a href="https://austonia.com/ut-austin-spring-semester" target="_self"><u>announced this week</u></a> that it is planning on a spring semester structured "in much the same way" as the current term. </p><p>In a community-wide email sent on Monday, President Jay Hartzell commended students for making adjustments, which he wrote have helped keep the university's COVID numbers "as low as possible."</p><p>Since the current semester began on Aug. 26, the university has reported more than 700 cases among students and fallen short of its stated goal to test 5,000 asymptomatic community members a week. </p><p>Hartzell said the university is working out "some kinks" in its proactive testing program, including not requiring a second confirmatory test for students' whose rapid tests return positive results, allowing for walk-up testing without an appointment and debuting a new incentive program, details of which are forthcoming.</p>
What metrics would help determine a drop to a Stage 2 level of risk?<p>The number of new COVID hospitalizations each day would need to fall below 10, on average, and the local positivity rate would need to drop to 3% or lower for local health officials to recommend a move to Stage 2 of <a href="https://austonia.com/austin-covid-stage-3" target="_blank">their risk-based guidelines</a>, Escott said.</p><p>At this lower level, recommended restrictions would loosen. Social gatherings would be allowed to increase from 10 people to 25, and residents would be allowed to resume non-essential trips and return to work at reopened businesses.</p><p>Travis County is currently reporting 12 new COVID-related hospital admissions each day, on average.</p><p>The overall positivity rate was 4.4% last week, but disparities remain across demographic groups, with Latino residents returning a positivity rate of 8%. </p>
What about testing?<p>Demand for testing has declined post-surge. </p> <p>Escott said last week that testing sites administered by APH are testing about 2,000 people a week despite having the capacity to test more than a thousand people a day.</p> <p>It is important to note, however, that the testing numbers reported by APH do not include the positive results from <a href="https://austonia.com/rapid-covid-test" target="_self"><u>rapid antigen tests</u></a> because of CDC guidance that they be considered "probable" and not "confirmed." </p> <p>Like the genetic, or polymerase chain reaction tests, administered at APH testing sites, rapid antigen tests detect positive infections. They also provide results in about 15 minutes, which is central to their appeal.</p> <p>While they are marginally less accurate, rapid antigen tests are in fairly wide use. Some private testing sites in the Austin area report that <a href="https://austonia.com/coronavirus-test" target="_self"><u>the majority of the tests</u></a> they conduct are rapid due to patient demand. </p> <p>Between Aug. 6 and Sept. 24, a total of 2,174 positive rapid antigen test results were reported in Travis County, according to APH. The department would not release information pertaining to the number of positive antigen tests performed overall. </p> <p>During that same time period, 6,648 COVID cases were confirmed by positive genetic test results in Travis County. </p> <p>If the cases detected by rapid antigen testing were considered "confirmed" rather than "probable," the local caseload between Aug. 6 and Sept. 24 would have increased by about a third. </p>
What is post-COVID syndrome?<p>Nine months into the COVID pandemic, doctors across the world are reporting that the virus has become a chronic condition—post-COVID syndrome—for some patients, known as long-haulers.</p> <p>"As people recover from the initial infection, studies are starting to show that in some patients, it might actually take weeks or even months to return to baseline health," Dr. Esther Melamed, an assistant professor of neurology at Dell Medical School, said in a press release issued Tuesday. </p> <p>Long-hauler symptoms may include difficulty breathing, headaches, memory problems, overwhelming fatigue and persistent loss of taste and smell, as well as worsening of pre-COVID conditions, such as diabetes and mood disorders. </p><video controls id="8e12e" width="100%" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc522351e8e55862283aed7dc73050d" expand="1" feedbacks="true" mime_type="video/mp4" shortcode_id="1601497346135" url="https://roar-assets-auto.rbl.ms/runner%2F19818-Melamed-Post-COVID-Syndrome---Media.mp4" videoControls="true"> <source src="https://roar-assets-auto.rbl.ms/runner%2F19818-Melamed-Post-COVID-Syndrome---Media.mp4" type="video/mp4"> Your browser does not support the video tag. </video>
What is the status of federal coronavirus relief funding?<p>Local and state governments must spend all of the federal coronavirus relief dollars they received through the CARES Act by the end of the calendar year, despite the ongoing nature of the pandemic and <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/29/pelosi-mnuchin-set-to-talk-as-.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><u>the absence of additional relief packages</u></a> passed by Congress. </p> <p>"We must continue to provide testing and contact tracing," APH Director Stephanie Hayden told Austin City Council on Tuesday. "Those efforts have really helped us as a city and a county… We have to just flag it for you all that federal funding is slated to end this December."</p> <p>Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Friday that the state will allocate $171 million of CARES Act funding to help renters <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2020/09/25/texas-rent-help-evictions/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><u>avoid eviction</u></a>.</p> <p>The Travis County Commissioners Court discussed last week how best to meet the December deadline. As of mid-September, the county has spent less than one-fifth of the federal relief dollars it received through the CARES Act, although the remainder has been allocated.</p>
- Austin Public Health may raise COVID risk level to Stage 5 - austonia ›
- Austin prepares Convention Center as a COVID field hospital ... ›
- Austin prepares field hospital, changes strategy amid surge - austonia ›
- Austin's COVID surge, Texas' reopening and hospital capacity ... ›
- Austin hospitalizations trigger stage 4 risk - austonia ›
- Austin's COVID surge, Texas' reopening and hospital capacity - austonia ›
- Austin ICUs near capacity amid COVID surge, staff shortage - austonia ›
- Austin's COVID hospitalizations appear to be plateauing - austonia ›
- Austin's COVID hospitalizations appear to be plateauing - austonia ›
- Austin schools may consider staged reopening due to COVID - austonia ›
- Austin COVID cases plateau, but deaths, ventilator use rise - austonia ›
- Austin COVID cases plateau, but deaths, ventilator use rise - austonia ›
- Coronavirus deaths in Texas rise 12% after state changes how fatalities are tallied - austonia ›
- Austin's COVID cases decline after surge, but danger remains - austonia ›
- Austin COVID cases plateau, but deaths, ventilator use rise ›
- Austin's COVID-19 case-fatality rate rises slightly - austonia ›
- Austin sees COVID plateau, more cases among children - austonia ›
- Flu season: Austin health officials are focused on vaccines - austonia ›
- COVID-19 unmasks Austin’s long-standing health inequities—with Latinos bearing the brunt of the pandemic - austonia ›
- Austin-Travis County drops to Stage 3 for COVID risk - austonia ›
- Long-hauler covid patients experience long-term covid-19 - austonia ›
- Austin, Travis County prepare Convention Center for Hurricane Laura evacuees - austonia ›
- Bystander shot to death on Sixth Street during large brawl between hurricane evacuees - police - austonia ›
- Austin COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, deaths dashboard - austonia ›
- 4 Austin schools report COVID clusters as new cases decline - austonia ›
- Texas launches last-minute, $15M census campaign amid COVID - austonia ›
- Austin hosts free PPE distribution events in COVID hot spots - austonia ›
- What's riskier: seeing a movie or air travel? Texas Medical Association chart provides answers - austonia ›
- Austin health officials urge caution this Labor Day amid COVID - austonia ›
- Texas teachers union launches school-level COVID tracking - austonia ›
- Austin sees uptick in new COVID cases among 10-19 age group - austonia ›
By Patrick Svitek
MJ Hegar, the Democratic challenger to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, announced Wednesday that she raised over $13.5 million in the third quarter, a massive improvement over her previous hauls.
- U.S. Sen. John Cornyn faces Round Rock's MJ Hegar for TX seat ... ›
- Texas U.S. senators push back on Trump's call to delay presidential ... ›
- College athletes get Election Day off led by Chris Bosh - austonia ›
- Austin City Council candidate forums planned before election ... ›
- 20 candidates will vie for five Austin City Council seats this November ›
- 11 ways to get your Austin live music fix online - austonia ›
- Austin-based female influencers to follow on Instagram - austonia ›
- Five local businesses selling one-of-a-kind face masks - austonia ›
As temperatures drop below 100 degrees, fall and winter holidays are on the mind. However, with COVID-19 still rearing its head, the question remains: is it safe to gather for the holidays this year?
Austin native and musician Jackie Venson broke 1.5 million live streams during her summer concert series, ranking ninth on Pollstar's Top 50 Livestreamers list for Q3.
- Some Austin live music venues reopen to smaller crowds - austonia ›
- SXSW goes virtual for 2021, possible in-person event - austonia ›
- ACL makes plans to go virtual this year - austonia ›
Just over a month into the fall semester, the University of Texas at Austin announced that it plans to structure the spring semester "in much the same way," according to a community-wide email sent by President Jay Hartzell.
- UT Austin reopening could amplify COVID-19 spread in Austin ... ›
- University of Texas asks students to self-quarantine for 14 days ... ›
- UT custodial staff member dies from COVID-19 - austonia ›
- UT Austin students gathered without masks get blasted on social ... ›
- University of Texas at Austin will require masks in campus buildings ... ›
- This is what would lead to a shutdown at UT-Austin this fall - austonia ›
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.
- Abbott: Local school officials "know best" whether schools should ... ›
- Texas health experts forecast surge in school reopening - austonia ›
- Austin public school teachers, staff union pushes for delay - austonia ›
- Austin health authority says schools should reopen in phases ... ›