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Days before Texans lost power, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas assured state leaders that they were "ready for the cold temperatures coming our way," Gov. Greg Abbott said during a press conference to discuss statewide response to the aftermath of the winter storm. However, negligence and ill-preparedness on behalf of ERCOT left millions in the dark for days, not knowing when—or if—it would return, and the governor is taking action.
As electricity restoration has reached nearly 100%, ERCOT, which maintains about 90% of the state's electric grid, is no longer mandating controlled outages and those still left without power are likely facing a local issue, like a downed power line.
Abbott said the state received a notice and an assessment from ERCOT explicitly stating power plants were winterized properly and there would definitely be enough power to match the storm. Abbott said ERCOT's failure to meet demands is what triggered his order to launch an investigation on the nonprofit.
"ERCOT fell short on all ... promises they made, which is exactly why I have ordered the state legislature to investigate exactly why ERCOT fell short here and to make sure this never happens again," Abbott said. "We know that you folks at home have faced struggles by going without power. We want to make sure that whatever happened in ERCOT falling short never happens again."
After five days of Austinites and other Texans alike struggling to meet basic needs—electricity, water, food and heat—Abbott laid out a recovery plan to get the state back on its feet.
With millions of dollars in projected damage, Abbott said President Joe Biden told him he would approve the major disaster declaration the state submitted last night. Once the declaration is approved, it will allow Texans to request funding to help cover damages not covered by private insurance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"We cannot emphasize this enough about homeowners and renters being prepared to deal with the consequences of busted water pipes," Abbott said. "The major disaster declaration, when approved by the Biden administration, will assist this process."
Abbott encouraged homeowners to get in touch with insurance providers as soon as possible to mitigate damage. The city plans to launch a damage survey tool so residents can report issues.
Abbott said 10,000-20,000 electric restorations are made each hour; from 4.5 million down to about 165,000 homes still without power across the state, the biggest problems Texas now faces are restoring water, repairing damages and getting residents access to food.
Now with more than 14 million Texans affected by the water crisis, Abbott said the state has partnered with mobile testing labs and testing labs in Arkansas to tackle water purity. Since plumbers are in very high demand, the Texas Board of Plumbing Examiners is coordinating with out-of-state agencies to bring more plumbers to the state.
"There will be great demand for plumbers today, tomorrow, this weekend and in the coming days," Abbott said. "We want to make sure that we do everything we possibly can to help you gain access to the plumbers that you need to solve your plumbing and leakage problems."
Food and water are still being delivered to Texas and has so far received more than 1.7 million bottles of water. An additional 331 warming centers have opened, ambulances are being imported in-state and Abbott said with roads improving, resources like gasoline and food will start to be delivered much quicker.
"We brought in all of these additional resources to make sure that the turnaround will be quicker," Abbott said. "I want to reassure you, that we're using every single tool at our disposal to make sure that your needs are going to be met."
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17 years and three medals later, Osterman's last ride with USA softball is over. What's next for Cat?
Nearly two decades after her debut with the University of Texas and 17 years after her first Olympic gold, softball icon Cat Osterman stepped off the Olympic pitcher's mound for the last time with a silver medal to take back home.
Osterman, a three-time Olympian who has been called the "Michael Jordan of softball," will officially retire from the international realm at 38 after a decorated career that included Olympic golds, years of retirement and plenty of adversity—from a worldwide pandemic to dashed gold-medal dreams.
Osterman and her crew left Tokyo on a bittersweet note on Tuesday with a silver medal in hand.
Osterman with Team USA in 2008. (Antoni Majewski/Twitter)
Osterman in the final in 2021. (Antoni Majewski/Twitter)
After a year of sparse in-person training and over a decadelong hiatus, Team USA and Osterman flew to the finals. In five games, the team beat Italy (2-0), Canada (1-0), Mexico (2-0), Australia (2-1), and Japan (2-1).
Deja vu struck in the final match. On one side, Osterman and fellow 2008 Olympic teammate Monica Abbott took the mound; on the other was the 39-year-old Yukiko Ueno, a familiar foe who helped the team beat Team USA last go-round.
"Just like 13 years ago," Ueno said in a press conference, "we were facing each other in the final."
Ueno, who had lost hopes at gold to Osterman in '04, outpitched her longtime opponent with six scoreless innings as Team USA was held to just three hits. The same team that squandered their gold-medal hopes 13 years before had done it once again.
Your Tokyo 2020 Olympic Silver Medalists 🇺🇸#TokyoOlympics | @TeamUSA pic.twitter.com/MOMNOedHUd
— USA Softball Women's National Team 🇺🇸 (@USASoftballWNT) July 27, 2021
"There's a little bit of disappointment in not bringing home the gold since that's the eye on the prize when you go over there and you know you have a shot at it," Osterman told Austonia. "But more than anything, I'm very proud of the way our team handled everything that was part of this journey and not just the six games."
It's that very loss at the 2008 Olympics that partially motivated Osterman to get back on the mound. She officially put down the glove in 2015 after six seasons with the USSSA Pride, took time with family and began coaching at Texas State University.
Osterman helped ace Randi Rupp to greatness while a coach at Texas State University. (Active Voice Health/Twitter)
She thought her Olympic endeavors were well over—until talks of reinstating softball into the Games reentered the conversation.
"It wasn't until 2016 or 2017, that it ever crossed my mind to possibly put the USA uniform on again," Osterman said. "After the World Championships in 2010, I walked away, and I thought that my career on the international stage was done. So this was a pleasant kind of new opportunity."
Three years after facing any competition, Osterman was on the field once more with world-class athletes. Some, like Osterman and Abbott, had been playing together long enough to form a formidable "Fire and Ice" duo on the mound. Others had just graduated college.
Osterman said playing with a younger generation of athletes was one of the most rewarding aspects of this year's Games.
"It can be very different when you have 24- and 38-year-olds on the same field," Osterman said. "The adversity put us in some challenging positions and we came through with flying colors. And this group will forever be special just because what we had to go through is so different."
While on the mound, Osterman's job was to give the team a calm start. Off of the field, she felt her role had much of the same effect: she knew that new Olympic feeling, and she served as a deep breath to her first-time teammates.
"There's no words to explain how nervous and excited you get knowing that the whole world can be watching," Osterman. "I think using those emotions and figuring out how to get all our butterflies lined up and going in the right direction, so that way we were all moving together, was kind of my role outside of pitching."
We've heard her retire once before, but this time Osterman said she's gone for good—even from coaching. After her final time with Team USA on Sept. 27, she plans on returning to Austin, where she'll look to work for a nonprofit.
A gold and two silvers will have to do for one of the most decorated athletes in U.S. softball history.
"To be able to say you're a three-time Olympic medalist is a pretty special deal, right?" Osterman. "I played for a long time. But those are the pinnacle, in my mind, and kind of what elicits the dream to keep playing."
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Hospitals are facing a "significant" increase in admissions of pregnant women due to COVID-19 complications, Austin-Travis County health officials say, revealing what could be a long-term side effect of the virus.
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes met with three maternal medicine specialists on Monday morning to warn of yet another COVID-19 Delta variant concern: severe cases of the disease affecting unvaccinated mothers-to-be.
The doctors said unvaccinated pregnant women face an increased risk of preterm births, long-term effects, preeclampsia, ICU stays, stillbirths, being put on life support and even death if they are unvaccinated.
"We are really concerned that we are not getting that population of folks to hear this message of the safety of vaccines, so today we're assembled, one and all to say, wear a mask and please get vaccinated," Walkes said. "Vaccinations are the way to prevent severe disease and hospitalizations and death."
Medical Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at St. David's Women's Center of Texas Dr. Kimberly DeStefano said 95% of pregnant women admitted with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, stressing that all pregnant and lactating women should get the vaccine not only to protect themselves but to protect their babies from infection, which can be passed through breastmilk or birth.
"We know that the earlier in pregnancy you are vaccinated, the more antibodies are present at the time of birth for the infant," DeStefano said. "This is something that's very important, both during the pregnancy and postpartum."
Catching COVID-19 while pregnant can cause adverse effects on the baby, particularly because it increases the risk of preterm births. Baylor Scott & White Maternal Obstetrics Chief of Maternal Medicine Dr. Jessica Ehrig, said that preterm births are one of the "biggest impacts" on childhood development.
"We know that (preterm births) can have long-term effects depending on how early a baby's born," Ehrig said. "It increases the risk for long term respiratory issues, for blindness sometimes (and) for neurologic development delays."
Since mid-July, COVID-19 hospitalizations have been on a steep rise that sent the city back to recommending Stage 4 guidelines. As the seven-day rolling average of hospitalizations surpassed 50 admissions, Stage 5 guidelines could be on the horizon. The city reported 54 new admissions and 546 total new cases on Friday.
Delta is more contagious than chickenpox, Walkes said, and even vaccinated individuals can catch and spread the virus without symptoms. The group of doctors asked everyone, especially pregnant women, to mask while in public as local hospitals pass the Stage 5 threshold.
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