After raising concerns of a second surge last month, local health officials reported that the spread of COVID-19 in Austin is relatively flat—for now.
"Last week we were in about the same position we're in this week," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said on Monday.
The seven-day moving average number of daily new COVID cases reported in Travis County is around 96, as of Sunday evening, and has remained steady since mid-October.
The seven-day moving average number of daily new hospital admissions reported in the Austin metro is 17.4, down from 22.6 on Oct. 17, which was the highest it had been since late August.
"We saw a substantial increase for a while," Escott said. "That has dropped back down, and now we're holding steady."
Researchers at the COVID-19 Modeling Consortium at the University of Texas at Austin estimate there is a 45% chance the pandemic is growing locally.
Although the projections have improved significantly from last week, when researchers projected as many as 700 hospital beds would be needed for COVID patients by Thanksgiving, the model still suggests a slight surge in COVID hospitalizations later this month, with around 150 new daily admissions by Nov. 30.
(COVID-19 Modeling Consortium at the University of Texas at Austin)
Escott attributed the drop to continued vigilance among Austines and encouraged residents to keep up with protective behaviors, such as masking, social distancing and hand washing.
This trend bears out in campus environments, such as at the University of Texas at Austin.
"Like the number of cases in Austin, the numbers on campus are almost unchanged," according to a Faculty Council update on Monday.
However, given the worsening projections outside of Austin and the ongoing wait for a vaccine, the council announced that the university will not increase density on campus and in the classroom until fall 2021, at the earliest.
Fall 2021 is the earliest @UTAustin will increase density on campus and in the classroom given the current progress… https://t.co/hgyI1uCzJt— Andrew Zhang (@Andrew Zhang) 1604339976.0
Bars stay closed
Escott also responded to a query from Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty about the prospect of reopening bars, amid the rosier forecast.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced last month that bars could reopen at 50% capacity in counties that choose to opt in and where COVID patients account for no more than 15% of hospitalizations.
Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe chose to keep bars closed for at least two weeks, given the COVID trends at the time and the increasing number of Austin students returning to schools. On Tuesday, he announced a two-week extension.
Escott is hopeful this may change, if current trends continue, but pointed to cautionary tales in other jurisdictions, such as El Paso, where hospitals are at capacity, and in European countries, such as France and the U.K., which recently reentered lockdown due to rising case numbers.
"It is important that we … learn what has happened in other cities across our state and in other countries," he told Daugherty. "And the lesson learned is that when things start to look better, then we want to celebrate, and we want to change and open things up aggressively."
If bars are allowed to reopen in Travis County, then they will be required to make modifications to ensure the safety of their staff and customers, Escott added.
"We don't want the reopenings to be short-lived," he said.
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(Editor's note: this is part two of a two part Austonia series tracking the Dateline NBC investigation of Moriah Wilson's murder. Read part one here.)
After pro gravel biker Moriah "Mo" Wilson is gunned down in South Austin on May 11, police investigators develop a "person of interest," Austin's Kaitlin Armstrong, 34, a real estate agent, yoga teacher, amateur cyclist, and longtime girlfriend of Austin cyclist Colin Strickland.
Originally from Michigan, where a childhood friend described her as "fun loving" and "smart," Armstrong finished college and traveled the world studying yoga, in places like Iceland, Bali, and Mexico. She ended up in Austin where she met Colin Strickland. The two were business partners in a vintage trailer business, along with her own venture flipping houses. "Business partners and life partners," NBC said.
According to NBC's evaluation of a police report, a friend of Wilson's, who remains anonymous, said that despite Strickland's relationship with Kaitlin Armstrong, Mo Wilson and Strickland had been seeing each other since their "fling" in Austin months before. NBC reports this friend told police that before she died, Wilson had received a number of calls from Kaitlin Armstrong warning her to stay away from Armstrong's boyfriend, Colin Strickland.
A second tipster claimed to have been present when Armstrong first learned that Wilson and Strickland had been seeing each other. The tipster said Armstrong became "enraged" and threatened to kill Moriah Wilson.
Police found an outstanding warrant for Armstrong for an unpaid botox bill, and brought her in for questioning. She was largely unresponsive to their inquiries. Then police discovered a typo in the warrant and were forced to release her.
Six days after Wilson's death, a police ballistics analysis pointed toward a 9mm weapon owned by Kaitlin Armstrong. In his police interview, Strickland had told police he had previously purchased two 9mm handguns, one for him and one for Armstrong.
Police obtained a warrant to arrest Kaitlin Armstrong for first degree murder, but when they went to arrest her, she was gone.
Austin police asked the U.S. Marshals to find her. The Marshals believed Armstrong was hiding in Austin, until 14 days after the murder when they discovered video from ABIA showing Armstrong, masked and carrying a yoga mat, about to board a plane 3 days after the murder. From Austin, Armstrong had flown to Houston and on to New York's LaGuardia, where the trail went cold.
The Marshals posted a reward, $5,000, asking the public for help. Help came with a tip that Armstrong had been seen in upstate New York a few days after arriving at LaGuardia. Investigators knew that Kaitlin's sister lived there, and went to investigate, but did not find any trace of Armstrong.
Another tip came that Kaitlin had been seen next at Newark International Airport on May 18. But, as before, there was no trail to follow.
But how could she travel without using her identification documents? And how could she survive without using her credit cards and bank account?
Back in Austin, police found her Jeep at a CarMax dealership, where she had sold it weeks before for $12,200.
Meanwhile, in the small, end-of-the-road surfing town of Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, Kaitlin Armstrong had quietly arrived in town and was working for a local hostel, Don Jon's, checking in guests and teaching yoga.
She befriended a local man who described Santa Teresa to NBC as "a really good place to hide out....it's the land of the unwanted, and the 'wanted.'"
At night, Armstrong became a regular at the town's one bar. She called herself "Ari," but didn't say much about past.
She dyed her hair dark and cut it shorter. She traveled to the capital, San Jose, where she may have had plastic surgery to change the appearance of her nose. Armstrong was later identified by an employee of the surgical center, but if that was her, she used a different name to register for the procedure.
Armstrong told people in Santa Teresa that she had had a surfing accident and needed treatment.
Summing it all up, Austin American-Statesman reporter Ryan Autullo said she "lacked the discipline, frankly, to not get caught." She did some things to conceal herself, but she also wanted to "have fun and live it up at the beach."
Around this time, working off the yoga mat clue, U.S. investigators were contacting police in "yoga destinations" around the world and circulating Armstrong's description. An officer in Costa Rica made inquiries, and was told about a "new yogi" in Santa Teresa.
43 days after Armstrong disappeared, police walked into Don Jon's and arrested her.
In the aftermath, a customer discovered Armstrong's documents, which he photographed before turning over to police. They included her sister's passport, and Armstrong's own passport, American Express Platinum Card, and her social security card.
Armstrong was extradited to the United States, returned to Austin, indicted for murder, and placed in jail with a $3.5 million dollar bail.
She pleaded not guilty, hiring Austin criminal attorney Rick Cofer to defend her.
Cofer, a former prosecutor, was interviewed by NBC. He explained away every point of Armstrong's disappearance and apparent flight to a skeptical interviewer.
He identifies what he says are some weak points in the prosecution's case. Then he perhaps implies that he knows something prosecutors don't. "Kaitlin Armstrong is not guilty, Cofer said. "Evidence will come out that Kaitlin Armstrong was nowhere near the scene of Miss Wilson's murder."
A trial date was set for October 19, but a Travis County judge said in a ruling that an October trial is "highly unlikely."
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.
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Amenities and Activities
Camp Fimfo Waco
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