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Claiming the interest of the mental health of the Austin community, local art, dance and yoga hall, Indra's Awarehouse said it is operating business the old-fashioned way: masks optional.
In a lengthy Facebook post, Indra's Awarehouse stated that it was open, hosting gatherings of various sizes and that "masks are encouraged and optional" and "social distancing is encouraged for those desiring a greater degree of safety."
For safety, Indra's Awarehouse said it would check temperatures at the door for special events or larger gatherings.
A city of Austin spokesperson said the city has received two complaints about Indra's Awarehouse: one on May 28, where police found no violation, and one on Dec. 13, which ended up being called off.
Angel Robinson, who made the initial post on Indra's Awarehouse's Facebook page, said she doesn't believe Indra's Awarehouse is violating any laws. She said she doesn't view Indra's Awarehouse as a business but instead as owner Randi Southard's home, in which Southard may have several people inside at a time. Robinson said groups usually range around 20 people.
"My understanding is that Indra's house is not subject to any sort of mask mandates," Robinson said. "I have spoken to the city about the laws. With respect, there are recommendations and then there are laws. And I spoke to the city with respect to recommendations and laws. We are following exactly the same laws and guidelines as other yoga studios in the area."
According to Austin Public Health, masks are mandated for everyone in public through the end of 2020, with the exception of sitting at a table while eating and drinking.
"The likelihood is that it's probably not following (health guidelines) but we can't for certain make that determination without actually observing the violation," the city spokesperson said. "Every business, every individual is entitled to due process so we don't want to make an assumption based on social media posts or video or anything like that, even if it is from the business itself."
Indra's Awarehouse stated in its Facebook post that it hoped to operate a space where everyone was welcome, but added that the community it provides "isn't for everyone" and encouraged those who are at higher risk of COVID-19 or experiencing a "high amount of fear in relation to connecting with other humans" to stay home.
The Facebook post erupted with almost 800 comments, ranging from praising Southard for supporting the community during a hard time to condemning the business for downplaying the pandemic.
"I believe you are genuinely caring about people's well-being while recognizing their autonomy and capacity for personal responsibility at the same time," Daniel Treiman responded.
Many people, however, felt the post was irresponsible.
"Masks and social distancing being optional hurts," Liz Green commented. "Almost all of us know several people that have gotten sick, and many of us have actually lost people from the virus. It seems like Indra's people value their own emotional and spiritual health more than the safety of everyone."
The business closed the post by saying it respects "your right to make health decisions for yourself."
"I spend my time with people who are in awareness of what is happening, who are taking ownership of the level of risk that they want to take on to themselves, and who are consenting adults about that level of risk," Robinson said. "This is a paradigm-shifting world where we're now having that at the fore of our conscious."
With cases on the rise in Austin, the city is under Stage 4 guidance. Many health professionals, including Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott, have said that, during this time, people shouldn't take their masks off when around people outside of their own household.
"The risk is when we take our masks off in front of other people," Escott said. "It is safe for individuals to go to a restaurant and have a meal with their family members and take their masks off while they're eating. The risk is when people are outside of their household and that mask comes off."
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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