Hospitalizations declining, Mu variant, vaccine hesitancy: 5 things to know about COVID-19 in Austin
Waning off a summer surge, Austin is seeing declining hospital admissions in the wake of a high number of deaths and as the new Mu variant is in town.
Here's what you need to know to be caught up with the COVID-19 situation in Austin.
In the past several weeks, hospital admissions for COVID have been on a week-on-week decline for all age groups, Austin Health Authority Desmar Walkes said at a Tuesday special joint meeting between the Travis County Commissioners Court and Austin City Council.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the most hospitalized age group has been those in the 50-69 age group.
Pediatric cases continue to be a concern to health officials as there are 133 kids hospitalized with 15 admissions on just Monday. None of the hospitalized children were vaccinated, although only those 12 and older are eligible.
Deaths peaked this month with a record 23 COVID-related fatalities on Sept. 8. Since the start of the year until Sept. 10, there has been a total of 447 deaths.
The rise in deaths is being attributed to those unvaccinated and the Delta variant, according to Walkes; 7.3% of vaccinated people have died of COVID between Jan. 1 to Sept. 10.
Of the deaths, 50% have been Hispanic and 58% have been male.
Mu vs. Delta
The Delta variant continues to be the predominant variant in the community at 99% of cases.
The Mu variant, discovered in Colombia back in January, has spread across the U.S. Research suggests it is more transmissible and vaccine-resistant than the Delta variant. However, it currently makes up .1% of lab-confirmed cases in Travis County.
Austin health officials continue to encourage the community to get vaccinated to have protection against variants. Research shared by Austin Public Health shows those vaccinated were 5 times less to contract the Delta variant, 10 times less likely to be hospitalized and more than 10 times less likely to die from it.
Of the 750,000-plus that are fully-vaccinated in the county, 5,964 have had breakthrough cases. APH's disease surveillance team interviewed 1,378 of those with breakthrough cases and found only 59 were hospitalized, or 1%. Thirty two of those cases resulted in death from ages 17-98.Those hospitiziiled as a breakthrough cases ranged from ages 19-96. Here's the breakdown of what vaccine they had:
- 13 Johnson & Johnson
- 18 Moderna
- 28 Pfizer
Why some are vaccine hesitant
APH conducted a survey in Austin-Travis County among those unvaccinated and found that 68% of survey respondents were vaccine-hesitant.
Of that number, the top reason for hesitancy was not sure if safe (55%), followed by not sure if effective (49%).
APH is continuing with outreach efforts to reach the herd immunity threshold.
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Republic Square Park has turned into a Ford-themed fiesta for its Built to Connect pop-up experience, complete with test drives, off-roading and an inside look at the Tesla-rivaling electric vehicles that the motor vehicle company is planning to integrate over the next decade.
The outdoor driving event is free, open to the public and will stay in the park from now until Oct. 24, offering rides on Bronco Mountain, a 0-40 mph zip in the 2022 all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning and a chance to win an original Ford Bronco.
The event kicked off with a panel of speakers, including Austin Director of Transportation Rob Spillar, Ford General Manager Darren Palmer and engineering specialists discussing Ford's goals to make it so that 50% of the vehicles on the road are electric by 2030.
As an eco-conscious city, Spillar said that around 4,000 vehicles, or 22% of the Texas electric vehicle market, as well as over 15,000 plugins lie in Austin, meaning driving electric just got accessible.
"Austin, as you know, is a fast-growing modern city that is committed to protecting the long term health and viability of our communities and strategies that reduce greenhouse gases, mitigate the effects of climate change and improve the drone quality of life here in Central Texas for all of our residents," Spillar said.
And Ford's electric vehicles are putting up some steep competition for newly-Austin-based company Tesla. The new electric Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lighting offer amenities that used to be exclusive to Musk's brand, such as the BlueCruise self-driving network. The cars also boast a 300-mile range on a single charge, assisted reverse technology and access to the biggest charging network outside of the home.
Plus, Ford's got affordability on its side. The F-150 Lightning starts at $39,974 and the Mustang Mach-E starts at $42,895, while the cheapest Tesla model, the Model 3, starts at $41,990 and averages 262 miles on a single charge.
Speaking of price, the numbers on the electric vehicles may look like a little more than you'd like to pay for your transport, but Palmer promises it will pay off. In addition to a $7,500 tax credit you can earn for your sustainability, you'll never have to buy a pricey tank of gas again.
"Personally, I have not found one customer ever, who would go back to gas so that says something," Palmer said. "I realized, at $51,000, that car outruns every childhood hero car I ever had."
Texas buyers: take note. The Ford Lightning can power your house for three to 10 days, just in case the statewide power grid fails. You can take it glamping with you, so you don't have to leave the comfort of modern life behind, and in a pinch, Palmer said he's even seen a wedding party powered by the truck.
Ford is investing $30 billion into the U.S. market to meet demand by 2025 and the new electric truck already has over 150,000 reservations.
"I think they're going to take off much faster than you expect—they're going to be extremely, extremely popular next year," Palmer said. "With the incentives that are available today, this is starting to become more mainstream and viable for more and more families. We couldn't have done that before, we didn't have the technology, or the technology at that price."
The event is ongoing through next weekend from 12-9 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.- 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
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The Austin Police Department is searching for a man who is believed to be behind a series of robberies that is "sexual in nature and is escalating."
Three robbery cases that took place in North Austin within a 30-day period are being investigated by police, who report the victims all had similar descriptions for suspects in the case. The suspect is described as a 20-25-year-old Spanish-speaking Hispanic man, approximately 5'3, thin build, recently shaved with black hair. Police say he is known to typically wear athletic clothing and used a knife on each of the victims.
Here's a breakdown of the cases:
1. At 7:56 a.m. on Sept. 22 at the 1600 block of Rutland Drive, a woman was walking alone and returning from her child's school when a suspect walking by inappropriately touched her. The suspect then grabbed her by the arm, threatened her with a knife and demanded "her property."
2. At 8:10 a.m. on Oct. 11 at 1700 block of Colony Creek Drive, a woman was walking to her child's school when a man approached her with a knife and then demanded her personal items. The suspect then said he would return the items in return for sex.
3. At 11:03 a.m. on Oct. 13 at the 9300 block of Northgate Boulevard, a woman was with her child in the laundry room of an apartment complex when a man walked in performing a sexual act. The suspect demanded personal items from the victim, threatening to hurt the victim and take her child.
Police cautioned the public to walk without earbuds, stay alert and report suspicious activity to the police.
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