Not only is southeast Texas home to the Piney Woods and Big Thicket National Preserve, but now COVID-19 vaccines have been added to its list of tourist attractions. And, vaccine-takers have been escaping Travis County's lottery-style vaccine process by traveling upwards of four or five hours, carting home kolaches, beef jerky, and even more kolaches as a bonus.
Once COVID-19 cases hit Texas, the state's eastern counties—Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Newton and Orange—banded together to form an emergency management system for coordinating pandemic efforts. By orders of their judges, some of those counties recently opened up vaccination qualifications to include all individuals, no matter the phase of vaccine distribution currently in use.
So, where can Texas residents get a vaccine if they don't fall within the current state vaccination phase? The following sites are accepting all individuals over the ages of 16 or 18 years old (depending on whether the vaccine is produced by Pfizer or Moderna):
- Hardin County: Sign up at https://vaccine.beaumonttexas.gov/ or call 409-550-2536. The drive time is just over four hours from Austin. The county has only received Moderna vaccines to date.
- Jasper County: Sign up at https://vaccine.beaumonttexas.gov/ or call 409-550-2536. The drive time is about four hours and 25 minutes from Austin. The county has only received Moderna vaccines to date.
- Newton County: Sign up at https://vaccine.beaumonttexas.gov/ or call 409-550-2536. The drive time is about five hours from Austin.
- Orange County: Sign up at https://vaccine.beaumonttexas.gov/ or call 409-550-2536. The drive time is about four hours and 20 minutes from Austin. The county has only received Moderna vaccines to date.
- Midland County (Northwest Texas): Sign up through Midland Health at https://www.midlandhealth.org/main/covid-19-vaccine-pre-registration-form or call 432-221-4829. The drive time is just over five hours from Austin.
- Big Bend Regional Health Center, Alpine: Sign up through www.bbrhc.com or call 432-837-0430. The clinic has extra doses from time to time, including last week. The drive time is just over six hours from Austin.
Behind the decision to open up vaccinations to everyone
According to state guidelines, as of March 15, individuals permitted to be vaccinated include first responders; healthcare workers; those with underlying medical conditions such as heart disease or cancer; teachers and childcare providers; and people who are at least 50 years old.
Hardin and Orange counties—the first counties in East Texas to open up their vaccine candidate requirements—share a health department and each county receives 3,000 doses per week from the state, including 1,500 first doses and 1,500 second doses, for a total of 6,000 doses, said Hardin's Health Director Sharon Whitley. After partnering with a local pharmacy to vaccinate first responders and seniors, she said appointment slots stopped filling up. As a result, vaccine appointments in Hardin County, followed by those in Orange County, were made available to the greater public.
Whitley stressed her department's top priority is to vaccinate those candidates within the phases dictated by the state, including the elderly. As of last week, Hardin and Orange counties had vaccinated a little over 14,000 individuals total, she said. The population of Hardin and Orange counties is about 56,000 and 84,000 residents, respectively.
"If we have extra vaccines, we're not going to leave them in the freezer," Whitley said. "We're going to put them in arms."
Similarly, Jasper County Judge Mark Allen opened up his shot slots because local residents weren't using up the county's vaccine allotments. The move was timely.
With many teens and college students on Spring Break, Allen said those celebrations may be in large groups and unmasked, possibly bringing the virus back home to parents and grandparents.
"It is also important to stop the infection from spreading among the young, too, because they are going to be in contact with people all over," he said. "By working on both ends, that's going to be much more successful than saying, 'we're only going to concentrate on a small portion (of the population).'"
And in the northwestern part of the state, Midland County, has also relaxed its vaccination qualifications.
Since we started working at Austonia, the editorial team has visited more than 40 coffee shops across the city to work in. We have a few favorites but the shops that transition from work to play are some of the best.
The ideal day-to-night coffee shops, according to us, are open by noon and stay open late, have both coffee drinks and alcoholic libations and are suitable both for a day of work or a night out.
Whether the conversation is just too good to pause, you need to blow off steam after a long day of work or want to mix up your midday pick-me-up, we recommend these businesses around town.
Ani’s Day and Night | 7107 E Riverside Dr.
Inside the house of the late Aniceta “Cheta” Limon, a businesswoman extraordinaire and lifelong Austinite, Ani’s Day and Night is an intimate choice to spend some time. With creative coffee drinks, like the espresso-chai “Let’s Choco-bout It” or dreamy blue “Pea Tea A,” similarly whimsical cocktails, natural wine and beer selection, there is something for any time of the day and night. You can catch bites from a food truck on site.
Better Half Coffee and Cocktails | 406 Walsh St.
Come for Better Half’s exquisite rosemary lavender latte, stay for the pineapple-y “La Llorona” or gin-based “Frozemary’s Baby” cocktails. From the minds behind Bad Larry’s Burger Club, Better Half slings classics with a personal twist, like the cauliflower tots, $6 happy hour “cheeseburgs,” or Sichuan hot chicken sandwich. The adjoining Hold Out Brewing has you covered on the artisan beer front, complete with a sprawling outdoor patio for those warm summer evenings.
Cherrywood Coffeehouse | 1400 E 38th 1/2 St.
With a homey interior, full menu of breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch foods (delicious, if we do say so ourselves), and gigantic backyard with picnic tables galore, Cherrywood Coffeehouse is comfy enough to spend the whole day in. We enjoyed the breakfast quesadillas, sunset lane smoothie and more than 20 beers on tap.
Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden | 121 Pickle Rd.
Just off South Congress, Cosmic is one of Austin’s most popular spots to spend a Friday afternoon. With a huge serene garden to explore and enjoy, famous food trucks like Tommy Want Wingy and Pueblo Viejo just steps away and an impressive array of coffee and cocktails on the menu, Cosmic exemplifies the Austin vibe. We like the frozen matcha painkiller, the yuzu lime Rickey and Cosmic’s Paloma.
Plaza Colombian Coffee | 3842 S Congress Ave.
This Colombian food paradise goes from a cozy tropical work environment to a colorful outdoor tiki bar experience. Plaza Colombian’s exquisite take on a London Fog is great for a daytime visit but the Tiki drinks come out once the sun goes down. As far as food goes, start with the plantain chip pataconcitos, arepas of your choice and don’t leave without an order of bocaditos, or puff pastry tossed in coffee cinnamon sugar.
Radio Coffee & Beer | 4204 Menchaca Rd.
On top of hosting acclaimed local food trucks—like Veracruz All Natural—offering morning brews and local booze, Radio is also an avid events venue. Live music, comedy shows and weekend markets are common occurrences, plus its hours can accommodate both the early bird and the night owl. Try one of the many local beers on tap or your pick of flavored margaritas.
Simona’s Coffee + Cocktails | 2510 S Congress Ave.
Bougie and Instagram-worthy, Simona’s at The Colton House Hotel is the complete package: Both indoor and outdoor seating, ample outlets for working, light bites, coffee, tea and a variety of themed cocktails. Head upstairs to the library nook for some decorative surprises and lowkey photo opportunities while you sip on a spicy “Hell or Highwater” cocktail with Ghost Tequila.
A Union Pacific cargo train hit a man in his 40s, killing him Thursday morning, Austin police said.
The train's driver called the police after the train hit the man at around 12:45 a.m. in the 300 block of Orchard Street, near Fifth Street and Lamar Boulevard.
Police have not released the identity of the man.