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Pediatric COVID cases spike, Austin Public Health says, causing a 'domino effect' in hospitals and schools

Pediatric cases are on the rise in Austin as Austin Public Health urges children to get vaccinated. (Pixabay)

Pediatric COVID cases have surged to their highest daily levels yet during the omicron surge, causing a "domino effect" on schools and hospitals, Austin Public Health said in a press conference Friday.

Austin is currently at Stage 5, the highest level of COVID risk-based guidelines, as the community transmission rate remains at an alarming level with 1,896 cases per 100,000 residents in the past seven days. At this level of risk, the CDC recommends canceling school or moving extracurricular activities online, and per APH recommendations, K-12 schools are requiring masking as some schools briefly shut down due to the surge and current wintry weather.

The department urged residents to vaccinate their children as 91% of children who have been hospitalized due to COVID in the past two weeks are unvaccinated.

Of the 28 children in hospitals for COVID, none are vaccinated—a trend the area has been reporting for weeks, APH guest and Executive Director at Capital Area of Texas Regional Advisory Council Douglas Havron said.

"Tis the season for respiratory illnesses" in pediatric populations, APH Interim Director Adrienne Stirrup said, and more children at hospitals are being diagnosed with combinations of COVID, the flu and the common cold when they arrive.

While variants of the past have usually had little effect on children, APH said the omicron variant has posed a new threat on the youngest portion of the population in recent weeks because of low vaccination rates and rapid spread at schools. At Delta's peak, the city saw 36 new pediatric cases in a day, but Havron said 46 new cases were reported Thursday.

For parents that may have been apprehensive about getting their young children vaccinated, Stirrup said that studies have shown that the vaccine can safely protect children from risk of severe illness and hospitalization from COVID.

"We've now delivered millions of doses of vaccine to children in a safe way, and we know that we are seeing 90% protection from hospitalization and severe illness in children who are vaccinated," Stirrup said.

Chief epidemiologist Janet Pichette said the department is hopeful that Austin will see a dip in omicron numbers as a result of proper masking, testing and vaccinations,

"I like to think that we're close to the peak of where we are and that things will get better over the next week or so," Pichette said. "That's what the projections seem to show... hospitals are still continuing to be impacted, so when I start seeing numbers that tend to flatten out, I'll be a little bit more optimistic that we're on the downhill side."


With deposition and trial looming, Elon Musk has offered $44B for Twitter, again

Elon Musk has proposed once again to buy Twitter for $54.20 a share.

The news that Musk is offering to carry on with the $44 billion buyout was first reported by Bloomberg. Now, a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission shows Musk made the proposal in a letter to the tech giant on Monday.

The New York Stock Exchange temporarily halted trading in Twitter stock twice Tuesday, first because of a big price move and the second time for a news event, presumably the announcement of Musk's renewed offer.

While the per share offer price on this latest proposal remains the same as the original offer, it’s unclear if Musk has made other term changes or if Twitter would reject it. According to other reports, a deal could be reached this week.

The stock closed at $52.00/share Tuesday, indicating market uncertainty around the $54.20 offer.

After Musk informed Twitter of plans to terminate the original agreement in July, Twitter sued. A trial has been expected in Delaware Chancery Court on Oct. 17.

With the proposition of a buyout on the table again, it revives the question of whether Musk might move Twitter from San Francisco to Central Texas.

He’s done so with some of his other companies. Tesla’s headquarters in southeast Travis County had its grand opening earlier this year and tunneling business The Boring Company moved to Pflugerville. At least two other Musk companies, SpaceX and Neuralink, have a Central Texas presence without being headquartered here.

Technology journalist Nilay Patel this afternoon voiced concerns that owning Twitter and Tesla together could be problematic for Musk, as his Tesla manufacturing facilities in Germany and China are both in countries that have disputes with Twitter over content moderation and censorship.

Telsa shares fell after the Twitter news became public, before rallying to close up, at $249.44.

Austin rents nearly double in a year and are now in the top 5 nationwide

While searching for a place to live, Austin renters will face monthly rates of nearly $3,000, a recent guide from rental marketplace Dwellsy shows.

The median rent in August this year was $2,930, a more than 86% increase since August 2021. That’s $820 more than the nationwide median asking rent in August and puts Austin just below the Bay Area, Boston and New York for large cities with the most expensive asking rent.

“Within this group, Austin, TX stands out for the highest increases in asking rent, which has nearly doubled since this time last year,” the study notes.

Outside of those large cities, however, others are seeing even higher rent spikes. Metro areas that ranked above Austin in one-year increases include those like Kansas City, MO with a 112% change in rent since last August and Tucson, AZ with a 124% change.

The data reflects large apartment communities, single-family homes and 2-6 unit buildings.