Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott ordered all public and private schools within Austin and Travis County not to reopen for on-campus, face-to-face instruction until after Sept. 7. Virtual instruction is allowed.
"This order includes appropriate control measures based on the higher risk for spread of COVID-19 in schools due to the necessity of large groups gathering in indoor spaces and the difficulty for children to follow social distancing and hygiene guidelines," Dr. Escott said in a press release issued Tuesday.
Schools are also required to develop and submit reopening plans to Dr. Escott—and make them public—at least two weeks before resuming any in-person activities.
Dr. Escott said continuity will be a challenge for schools as faculty and staff get sick with COVID-19, "as we see every year with influenza."
Austin City Council approved an ordinance last week granting the health authority the right to adopt rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through Nov. 12.
The order arrived shortly after Austin ISD announced it would suspend in-person education for the first three weeks of the upcoming school year—or until Sept. 7—due to the pandemic.
Other school districts, including Round Rock ISD and San Antonio ISD, did the same.
Even though the case fatality rate among children is very low, there still is a risk of death, Dr. Escott told Travis County commissioners on Tuesday. He estimated between 40 and 1,370 children aged 10 to 19 could die from COVID-19 across Travis County's five public school districts.
Additionally, teachers and staff are at a much higher risk of contracting and dying from the virus.
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.
- Austin ISD to offer classes entirely in-person or online - austonia ›
- Austin ISD delays in-person school for 3 weeks - austonia ›
- Texas students will return to public schools this fall, governor says ... ›
- Austin public school teachers, staff union pushes for delay - austonia ›
- TEA will allow schools eight weeks of virtual instruction - austonia ›
- Austin schools may consider staged reopening due to COVID - austonia ›
- Austin teens face unique challenges in high school decision - austonia ›
- Paxton says local health authorities can't shut down schools - austonia ›
- Abbott: Local school officials "know best" whether schools should reopen - austonia ›
- Mask requirement, ban on large gatherings extended through December in Travis County - austonia ›
- Austin health authority says schools should reopen in phases - austonia ›
- Flu season: Austin health officials are focused on vaccines - austonia ›
- Texas will start posting coronavirus case data from public schools - austonia ›
- Lake Travis ISD board extends virtual learning due to COVID - austonia ›
- Austin public health authority appointment extended, unpaid - austonia ›
- AISD considers temporary remote learning amid holiday surge - austonia ›
The Texas Senate Democratic Caucus is urging Gov. Greg Abbott to call an emergency special legislative session to consider a variety of gun restrictions and safety measures in the wake of a mass school shooting in Uvalde that left 19 children and two adults dead this week.
In a letter released Saturday morning, all 13 Senate Democrats demanded lawmakers pass legislation that raises the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21 years old. The Uvalde gunman was 18 and had purchased two AR-style rifles which he used in the attack.
The caucus is also calling for universal background checks for all firearm sales, “red flag” laws that allow a judge to temporarily remove firearms from people who are considered an imminent threat to themselves or others, a “cooling off period” for the purchase of a firearm and regulations on high capacity magazines for citizens.
“Texas has suffered more mass shootings over the past decade than any other state. In Sutherland Springs, 26 people died. At Santa Fe High School outside Houston, 10 people died. In El Paso, 23 people died at a Walmart. Seven people died in Midland-Odessa,” the letter reads. “After each of these mass killings, you have held press conferences and roundtables promising things would change. After the slaughter of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, those broken promises have never rung more hollow. The time to take real action is now.”
Such laws are unlikely to gain traction in the Republican-controlled Legislature, which has a track record of favoring legislation that loosens gun restrictions. Only the governor has the power to call lawmakers back into a special session for emergency work.
Asked about a special session at a Friday press conference in Uvalde, Abbott said “all options are on the table” adding that he believed laws would ultimately be passed to address this week’s horrors. However, he suggested laws would be more tailored toward addressing mental health, rather than gun control.
“You can expect robust discussion and my hope is laws are passed, that I will sign, addressing health care in this state,” he said, “That status quo is unacceptable. This crime is unacceptable. We’re not going to be here and do nothing about it.”
He resisted the idea of increasing the age to purchase a firearm, saying that since Texas became a state, 18-year-olds have been able to buy a gun.
He also dismissed universal background checks saying existing background check policies did not prevent the Santa Fe and Sutherland Springs shootings, which both happened while he has been in office.
“If everyone wants to seize upon a particular strategy and say that’s the golden strategy right there, look at what happened in the Santa Fe shooting,” he said. “A background check had no relevance because the shooter took the gun from his parents…Anyone who suggests we should focus on background checks as opposed to mental health, I suggest is mistaken.”
Since the massacre at Robb Elementary School, the governor’s comments about potential solutions have centered around increasing mental health services, rather than restricting access to firearms.
This story has been edited for length.
- Help for Uvalde: Aid for families after the school shooting - austonia ›
- Manor, Georgetown, Round Rock schools face threats following ... ›
- Uvalde Shooting - austonia ›
- PHOTOS: Community mourns Uvalde shooting victims in vigil at ... ›
- Beto O'Rourke confronts Texas Gov. Greg Abbott at Uvalde press ... ›
- 14 elementary school students, 1 teacher killed in Uvalde shooting ... ›
- Uvalde native Matthew McConaughey calls for action following ... ›
- Police charge 15 year old in 6th Street mass shooting - austonia ›
Designs for stations along Project Connect’s Blue Line were presented this week, giving a detailed look at what part of the rail system extending from downtown to the airport could look like.
The planned stations that have gotten the latest focus include Waterfront, Travis Heights and Lakeshore stations past Lady Bird Lake.
At the Waterfront station, the preliminary design aims to prevent visual obstructions and save on costs. This is accomplished by a transit guideway that will lower from the bridge to a level station.
Heading onto East Riverside Drive, the light rail faces a curve requiring a slow down to about 10 miles per hour.
The Travis Heights station could involve relocating a pedestrian crosswalk zone at Alameda Drive to Blunn Creek. Since light rails can't effectively operate on a steep grade, this allows the transit guideway to avoid that.
From there, the rail will extend to the Norwood Park area, and though it will reach along the right-of-way zone, the park will be able to remain open.
A view of the Blue Line by Lady Bird Lake. (Project Connect)
The line involves some coordination with the Texas Department of Transportation. That's because the department is working on an intersection that will have to be built before the phasing of the section of the Blue Line involving an I-35 crossing.
When it comes to the safety of cyclists and walkers, design ideas include a pedestrian hybrid beacon by East Bouldin Creek that would provide a protected signal to cross. And for the intersection TxDOT is carrying out, Project Connect is working with them on pedestrian access across the intersection. It could involve shared use paths along the street and crossings beneath it.
This summer, the public can expect 30% of design and cost estimates to be released. Though the project was $7.1 billion when voters approved it in November 2020, the latest estimates factoring in inflation and supply chain constraints show it could ultimately be upwards of $10 billion.
- Austin faces rocky road in hiking taxes for Project Connect - austonia ›
- City launches $65M in Project Connect anti-displacement plan ... ›
- CapMetro CEO switches to role in D.C. as Project Connect moves ... ›
- Project Connect doubles cost of Orange, Blue lines - austonia ›
- With Project Connect in the works, what place do EVs serve ... ›
- 5 ways Project Connect is moving forward in Austin - austonia ›
- Federal Transit Administration awards $750K for Project Connect ... ›
- Project Connect begins scoping phase, officially hitting the road ... ›
- Austonia answers: How feasible is the $7.1B Project Connect price ... ›
- The pros and cons of Austin's $7.1B transit plan Project Connect ›