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First Austin firefighter dies of COVID-19, prompting increased safety protocols

Rodney "Rod" Kelley served with AFD for 20 years. (Austin Fire Dept.)

After the loss of two police officers due to COVID-19 last week, the Austin Fire Department announced its first death today: 20-year firefighter Rodney Kelley.

Kelley died on Sunday after a long battle with COVID. In a tweet, AFD said it was heartbroken over the "loss of our brother."

According to a recent department survey, 78% of firefighters are vaccinated, though many did not respond to the survey. An earlier April report showed that only 60% of uniformed employees had been vaccinated—a much smaller number than the 95% vaccinated civilian staff.

Texas lawmakers passed a bill in May saying if a firefighter died of COVID-19, it would be presumed the virus was contracted due to the nature of their work.

COVID-19 is ravaging through the police department as well—40 officers and seven civilian employees were out of work with the virus as of Friday—leading to an increase in safety protocols to reduce contact.

For now, the Austin Police Department is suspending non-required training and ride-along programs, non-patrol units will telework, lower priority calls will be handled remotely where possible and enforcement of non-hazardous traffic violations will be at the officer's discretion.

APD does not have a reliable count on vaccinated officers, according to Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon, who said he estimates that around 50-60% of officers have been vaccinated.

Chacon said he is encouraging colleagues to get the vaccine, as well as following guidance on masking, social distancing and driving alone when it's an option.


Tito's releases (not so?) ugly sweater line for the holidays, profits to charity

Tito's Handmade Vodka

Show your love for Tito's and for the community this year with a wide selection of not that ugly, uglyish, ugly, uglier, and ugliest holiday sweaters.

There's lots choose from, and plenty of accessories like scarves and socks, plus gear for your dog, too.

All of the items can be purchased online or at the Love, Tito’s Retail Store in Austin, TX. 100% of all net proceeds from online or in-store purchases go to one of the nonprofits we’ve teamed up with.

Click here to see the entire collection in the Tito's store.

Mac and Cheese Fest and Free Art Exhibit
Waterloo Greenway, Good Vibrations Installation

🗓 All weekend

🎨 Creek Show Art Exhibit

Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities

All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park

✨ Mozart's Light Show

This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.

6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703

🗓 Saturday

🥊 Kickboxing in the Park

This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.

10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park

🛍 The Front Market

Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.

11 a.m - 5 p.m | 📍Ani's Day and Night - 7107 E Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78741

🗓 Sunday

🧀 Mac and Cheese Fest

Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.

11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway