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.
Looking for love has always come with obstacles, and they've only been magnified by COVID-19. Nevertheless, many Austinites continue to navigate these uncharted waters. We'll be sharing their stories every week right here.
"There weren't many things to distract us"
When Mariana Gonzalez got out of a relationship at the beginning of April, she thought to herself, "I'm probably not going to meet anybody all pandemic. Who knows how long it's gonna last?"
She was wrong.
Bored and mildly heartsick, Gonzalez got on Tinder a few weeks later. It didn't take long for her to hit it off with Bri Cheairs. After a successful, hours-long FaceTime date, they met in person on May 15, with the understanding that they were both looking to keep things casual and find somebody to spend time with during the pandemic.
"It was kind of weird because we kind of jumped into that part of a relationship—even though we weren't in a relationship—where you're just comfortable being around the house with each other, because it was really the only option," Gonzalez says.
Gonzalez and Cheairs kept seeing each other throughout the next month. They had an unintentional "first date" in mid-June when they walked to Planet K at 37th and Guadalupe, picked up a pizza from the neighboring Domino's and ate it at a desolate Central Park.
Despite their noblest intentions, they were both catching feelings for each other.
"I think obviously with the pandemic going on, there was less possibility for me to go on half-assed dates," Gonzalez says. "There weren't many things to distract us or pull us away from each other."
On July 11, Gonzalez and Cheairs made their relationship official. In reality, they just put a label to the activities they had already been enjoying together for nearly two months, like watching vintage horror movies at the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In Theatre and hiking isolated trails around Austin. (They attempted one ill-fated trip to a packed Barton Creek, which Gonzalez describes as a "lawless place.")
"It's been going great so far, and we both are kind of still navigating this world and this landscape," says Gonzalez, who credits the pandemic for accelerating her and Cheairs' emotional connection. "I don't know if I would have ended up in a relationship like this outside of what's going on in society."
They're both looking forward to visiting museums and aquariums when life returns to relative normalcy, and hopefully taking advantage of the flights Gonzalez booked to Cancún for early 2021. Gonzalez is also excited to introduce Cheairs to her friends, though the prospect of going out in a post-social distancing age raises one minor concern for both of them.
"When we first started dating, [Cheairs] said something like, 'How are you supposed to date somebody if you don't even know if they can dance yet?'" Gonzalez jokes. "We're gonna be like six months into this relationship, realizing the other person can't dance."
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.
- dating - austonia ›
- Pandemic dating: An exercise in empathy for Austin singles - austonia ›
- Pandemic dating is no walk in the park, Austin residents say - austonia ›
- Keeping it casual: New romance takes on new meaning in pandemic - austonia ›
- Via 313 takes Pizzeria of the Year - austonia ›
- Report: Austin-based dating app Bumble may offer IPO in 2021 - austonia ›
- Austinites are getting back into in-person dating in 2021 - austonia ›
- Bumble: 2 out of 3 people say you can fall in love before meeting - austonia ›
After reaching Stage 4 last week of Austin Public Health's risk-based guidelines, Austin-Travis County is now at the Stage 5 threshold with a seven-day average of 50 hospitalizations and dwindling ICU capacity.
While unenforceable under Gov. Greg's Abbott order against local mandates, vaccinated individuals are asked to choose drive-through and curbside options, outdoor activities, social interactions with limited group sizes, as well as social distance and wearing masks indoors. Partially or unvaccinated individuals are asked to avoid gatherings, travel, dining and shopping, choose curbside and delivery options, as well as wear a mask on essential trips.
Flashing back to early-pandemic times, hospitals are at critical capacity—the 11 county Trauma Service Region of 2.3 million people is fluctuating at 16 staffed beds, according to APH.
In a statement on behalf of Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David's Healthcare, a spokesperson said that hospitals are asking residents to "help us and each other" by getting vaccinated and continuing to utilize safety practices to slow the spread of the virus.
According to the statement, a "longstanding" nurse staffing challenge combined with the recent COVID-19 spike is putting "extraordinary pressure" on hospital systems.
Along with the unmitigated spread of the virus in unvaccinated, the more contagious Delta variant is also to blame for the spike in cases. The seven-day moving average of COVID hospitalizations in the Austin area reached the Stage 5 threshold of 50 on Friday, triggering local health officials to ask residents to take action.
Local hospitals have a "surge plan" that includes utilization of "all available patient care space and employees within our hospitals and in other settings" that will go into effect when capacity is hit, according to the statement.
The hospitals are working on sourcing supplemental staff and emphasized that emergency care will still be available but it may involve patient transfers "in order to provide the most appropriate care."
Healthcare systems have hit this threshold previously during the pandemic: the city held an alternate care site at the Austin Convention Center from January to March of this year.
"Our responsibility during this pandemic continues to be balancing our readiness to care for patients with COVID-19, while making sure patients who depend on our hospitals receive needed and timely care," the statement said. "We do not want to see necessary non-COVID care delayed as it was during the early stages of the pandemic."
This story has been updated to after publication to include that Austin has reached the Stage 5 threshold.
- Everything you need to know about breakthrough cases in Austin ... ›
- Vaccine demand follows Austin ZIP codes with most COVID cases ›
- Delta variant, unvaccinated fuel rise of Austin COVID cases - austonia ›
- Austin bars, restaurants respond to Abbott's reopening order - austonia ›
- 1 1/12 oz sweet pepper-infused Tito's Handmade Vodka
- 3 oz soda water
- 1 oz grapefruit juice
- 1/2 oz lime juice
- 1/4 oz simple syrup
Austin legend Willie Nelson will perform at the Texas Capitol today, his first large performance since the pandemic began, closing out a four-day long march across Central Texas to build support for federal voting protections.
Organized by The Poor People's Campaign, the march began in Georgetown on Wednesday and will end with a 10 a.m. rally at the Capitol featuring appearances from former U.S. Congressman Beto O'Rourke and Rev. Dr. William Barber.
Willie Nelson (with Charlie Sexton & friends) will play a free concert at the Poor People's Campaign march for democracy & justice in Austin this Saturday! https://t.co/zZSA0BpbWA
Sign up to join us and see Willie at 10am Saturday: https://t.co/KrDPIFIvST
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) July 29, 2021
The rally calls on Congress to "stop attacks on democracy" by ending the filibuster, pass all provisions of the For the People Act, restore the 1965 Voting Rights Act, raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour and pass permanent protections for all 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Nelson denounced election law proposals gaining traction in red states, such as Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3 in Texas, which 55 House Democrats foiled by fleeing to Washington, D.C., on July 12.
The bills would require additional ID verifications for mail-in ballots, allow partisan poll watchers "free movement" and prohibit elections officials from sending absentee ballot applications to voters who didn't request one.
"Laws making it more difficult for people to vote are unAmerican and are intended to punish people of color, the elderly and disabled," Nelson said. "If you can't win by playing the rules, then it's you and your platform–not everyone else's ability to vote."
The march is in the spirit of the Selma to Montgomery March of 1965, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which protested the blocking of Black Americans' right to vote by Jim Crow laws.