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As temperatures drop below 100 degrees, fall and winter holidays are on the mind. However, with COVID-19 still rearing its head, the question remains: is it safe to gather for the holidays this year?
Planning the event
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement that Yom Kippur, Halloween, Día de Los Muertos, Navratri, Diwali and Thanksgiving "will likely need to be different this fall to prevent the spread of the virus." The CDC stated considerations on its website are meant to supplement, not replace, local laws.
According to the CDC, there are a variety of factors that come into play when planning for a holiday event, such as location and duration of the event, number of guests, where the guests are coming from and behaviors of guests prior to and during the event.
It is recommended to host events in an open, well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors. Guests must be limited to 10 people in Austin and masks must be worn anytime people are indoors, though it is recommended to wear them anytime you are in contact with people.
If you have been diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19, you should not participate in any in-person events or gatherings, per the CDC.
Traditional Halloween activities like trick-or-treating, attending indoor costume parties and haunted houses, where people are typically crowded and screaming, are considered "high risk" activities, per the CDC. However, there are still safe ways to enjoy spooky season.
To enjoy a low-risk Halloween, the CDC recommends virtual costume party events, carving pumpkins with family or a small group of friends, or a Halloween movie marathon with the people you live with.
If you feel safe enough to do so, visiting an outdoor costume party or haunted house is considered "moderate risk" as long as social distancing and mask guidelines are enforced.
Dìa de los Muertos
Celebrating the Day of the Dead this year may look a bit different, but there are plenty of safe ways to celebrate your loved ones on Nov. 1.
For low-risk activities, the CDC recommends creating an altar for your deceased loved ones in your home, playing music they enjoyed and celebrating the way you normally would but from home.
If you can't imagine celebrating without people around you, it is safest to be around others in an outdoor space with a limited number of people. The CDC recommends a small, socially-distanced parade outdoors, visiting gravesites or hosting a small dinner for close friends and family.
To avoid the most risk, it is best to refrain from shopping on Thanksgiving or Black Friday (hey, there's always Cyber Monday). The same goes for parades or sporting events—they are best to avoid.
If you normally celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with just immediate family members, feel free to continue as planned. It is also safe to hold a virtual Thanksgiving or to carefully celebrate with a small number of people you feel safe and acquainted with.
After the celebration
In order to minimize the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible, it is important to stay home as much as possible for two weeks; limit interactions with people, especially those who are of increased risk; and consider getting tested for the virus.
Symptoms can appear within two days to two weeks of coming into contact with the virus.
However you choose to celebrate, enjoy a safe, thoughtful and happy holiday season.
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Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced a record-setting second quarter during an earnings call broadcasted from the Giga Texas construction site in Southeast Travis County on Monday.
The electric carmaker reported more than $1 billion in quarterly net income and the production of more than 200,000 vehicles for the first time despite challenges such as a global semiconductor shortage.
"It … seems that public sentiment towards electric vehicles is at an inflection point, and at this point, I think, almost everyone agrees electric vehicles are the only way forward," Musk said.
Exterior shots taken just a while ago of Giga Texas (while @elonmusk is reportedly at the Gigafactory!) during today's earnings call!
Hope @peterdog15 got to catch the technoking in his video! #fastestinhistory #Tesla pic.twitter.com/WqeDlb5wU3
— Austin Tesla Club (@AustinTeslaClub) July 26, 2021
Despite rising consumer demand and adequate factory capacity, Tesla faces what Musk described as a "quite serious" global semiconductor shortage, which will determine the company's growth rate for the rest of the year.
With increased revenue and production, Tesla is investing in new factories, Chief Financial Officer Zachary Kirkhorn said. These include Giga Texas, the $1.1 billion manufacturing plant that broke ground last summer and is slated to open later this year.
The Giga Texas factory in Southeast Travis County has rapidly increased in size since ground broke last August. (Tesla)
Musk commended the construction team for "incredible progress," transforming what was basically a vacant site into "a mostly complete large factory a year later."
I was at Giga Texas yesterday. Team is making excellent progress. Building will be almost a mile long when complete.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 25, 2021
Giga Texas will produce the highly anticipated Cybertruck, along with other models, but Musk said scaling its production will be difficult, especially given the supply chain delays caused by the pandemic. "It's going to move as fast as the slowest of its up to 10,000 unique parts," he said.
In other news, Musk said Monday's earnings call would likely be his last regular appearance, only jumping on future quarterly calls when big announcements warrant it.
Tesla Solar recently made news when it announced plans to build the nation's most sustainable residential community in Southeast Austin earlier this month. The newly built homes will feature Tesla solar roof tiles and Powerwall battery storage as well as electric vehicle charging stations.
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The city of Austin released a shortlist of seven candidates for the police chief position left vacant when Brian Manley retired in March.
City Manager Spencer Cronk hopes to announce an appointment by the end of August, which will require City Council approval.
The finalists, chosen from a field of 46 applicants, include:
- APD Interim Chief Joseph Chacon, who previously served as an assistant chief in the department for almost five years
- Anne Kirkpatrick, former police chief in Oakland, California, who was fired last year after a federal monitor criticized her handling of a fatal 2018 police shooting of a homeless man
- Dallas Police Department Assistant Chief Avery L. Moore, who is a 30-year veteran of the department
- Atlanta Police Department Deputy Chief Celeste Murphy, who manages the department's community services division
- Dekalb County Police Chief Mirtha V. Ramos, who previously served as division chief in the Miami-Dade Police Department
- Wichita Police Department Chief Gordon Ramsay, who is a former president of the Minnesota Police Chief's Association as well as one of the first police chiefs of a major U.S. City to call George Floyd's death a murder, as reported by the Wichita Eagle
- Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Emada E. Tingirides, who is also commanding officer of the department's newly formed Community Safety Partnership Bureau, which serves L.A.'s underserved communities
City staff will interview the finalists in the coming weeks, with several community input opportunities to come, according to a Monday press release.
The city conducted a public survey in March and hosted community input meetings in April to learn more about what residents are looking for in their next police chief, which helped shape the selection criteria for the position.
"They want to see the Chief be reform-minded and transparent and have a track record of fostering community involvement and accountability," Cronk said in the release. "The candidates selected show these characteristics in various ways."
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Days after Austin began once again recommending masks in public spaces, Austin ISD announced Monday that kindergarten through sixth-grade classes will have virtual options this fall.
The district will discuss the move in a special board meeting Monday evening starting at 5 p.m., while full details will be released Friday.
Teachers will not have to fret about the new option—no educators will have to juggle both virtual and in-person learning. Instead, certain teachers will specialize in virtual education, according to a press release.
The news comes after a recent spike in COVID cases in Travis County and across the nation. Children typically suffer fewer symptoms of COVID when contracted, but they are now catching the virus more often than their older counterparts without a vaccine available to them and as the more contagious Delta variant is quickly being spread.
While local health officials are recommending everyone wear masks, public school districts are unable to mandate masks due to an executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott in May.
Parents have expressed concern about classrooms with masks unenforceable and children under the age of 12 ineligible for a vaccine. Some have even said they would look for alternative schooling if AISD did not offer a virtual option for students.
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