Students at Austin public colleges and charter schools, including Austin Community College, will now need to add masks to their school supplies after Austin and Travis County added public colleges to their latest mask mandate.
The rule now requires students, staff and visitors over the age of two to wear a face-covering at all public schools, including charter schools and charter colleges, within the city.
The ACC Board of Trustees responded to the mandate with a unanimous decision to institute a mask mandate for those ages 2 and older starting August 20, while a city official told reporters Friday that the University of Texas may be exempt from the rule due to its existence on state property. The city's mandate goes into effect immediately.
All visitors and staff are also required to wear a mask while on all city or county property as per rules laid out by the city's risk-based guidelines.
City officials went against Gov. Greg Abbott's ruling in reinstating mask mandates on Wednesday after the metro's available ICU beds shrunk to just two. The seven-day average of COVID-related hospitalizations rose to 84 as Austin switched to Stage 5, the highest level of risk-related recommendations.
Texas metros are following a similar route, with Dallas and Bexar counties securing a temporary restraining order to block Abbott's ban and require masking in schools. Alongside Florida, the state accounts for nearly 40% of new cases in the U.S. as the nation encounters its worst spike since late winter.
Abbott is still backing his March ban on masking, advocating for face coverings as a "personal choice." Both Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the filing of a petition to "strike down" such mask mandates.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler said that going against the governor's wishes was a tough decision, but not one they hadn't done before—in March, the city maintained a mask mandate for weeks after Abbott's reversal and was subject to a lawsuit by Paxton. The district judge's decision went in Austin's favor.
"These are necessary yet difficult decisions, but those guided by the data and doctors will remain our North Star," Adler said. "We've already been in court twice with the governor," he told KXAN. "The district court the last two times has upheld our ability to issue these kinds of orders locally."
The decision comes after UT sent out an email Monday that all students will be required to take a viral COVID-19 test before arriving in Austin or 72 hours before moving on campus if they are already in the city.
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After months of speculation, a new report says political personality Beto O'Rourke is mulling a run for Texas governor that he will announce later this year.
Sources tell Axios the former congressman is preparing his campaign for the 2022 election, where he will likely vie for the position against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott. The only other candidate that has announced he will take on Abbott for governor is former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West—no Democrats have announced they are running as of yet.
"No decision has been made," Axios reports David Wysong, O'Rourke's former House chief of staff and a longtime adviser, said. "He has been making and receiving calls with people from all over the state."
A new poll from The Dallas Morning News and University of Texas at Tyler shows O'Rourke is narrowing the gap between himself and Abbott's prospects for governor. In the poll, 37% said they'd vote for O'Rourke over Abbott, while 42% said they'd vote for Abbott.
Abbott has been in the hot seat due to his handling of COVID-19 and the signing of landmark legislation into law, including new abortion and voting rights laws; 54% of poll respondents voted they think the state is headed in the "wrong direction." Still, Texas hasn't had a Democrat as governor since the 90s.
O'Rourke's people-focused approach to the 2018 Senator race, which he lost to Sen. Ted Cruz, gave him a widespread following and many hoped he'd throw his hat into the ring since he said he was considering it earlier this year.
"We hope that he's going to run," Gilberto Hinojosa, the state chair of the Democratic Party, told Axios. "We think he'll be our strongest candidate. We think he can beat Abbott because he's vulnerable."
Austin rapper Jordi Esparza may not have won the 2021 Red Bull Batalla, the world's largest Spanish freestyle rap competition, but for a spirited two rounds, the 22-year old Mexican native looked like he had every right to.
On Saturday evening in Los Angeles, the event itself looked like Cobra Kai meets Star Search with graphics adding a very Batman Beyond aesthetic. Over a dozen rappers hoping to represent the U.S. in the international round of the competition took to the stage with in-your-face jabs at accents, sexual orientation and odors, among other things.
This was Esparza's second rodeo; he had placed third at the 2020 National Finals, automatically securing him a spot this year.
However, things were different this year. He was not nervous about the contest. Unlike in 2020, when he made his Red Bull Batalla debut, the anxiety of the event led him to "feeling so bad."
Affecting a casual calm, the locally-based landscaper said he just felt "so relaxed, so happy" and primarily wanted to "enjoy everything."
Choosing his first-round opponent, Esparza, whose stage name is Jordi, elected to go against LA-based Boss.
Esparza freestyled an attack on his opponent's weight and cholo style of dress.
Boss—bracketing his Latin freestyle with English appeals to the crowd—mocked Jordi's lack of education, made fun of how clean Jordi's shoes looked and suggested that Jordi just came back from a Footlocker.
That first round went to Jordi.
But his next opponent Eckonn would prove to be his undoing.
Eckonn compared Jordi to Hannah Montana, while Jordi soulfully explained that he had learned from the best.
Esparza's verbal dexterity is matched by a rattling rhythm and a game face that is as mawkish as it is mockish. The overall effect is that of an underdog with bite.
Eckonn beat Esparza in that round with the overall championship going to Palm Beach-based rapper Reverse.
However, Esparza was just happy to be there. He recently told Austonia going to the finals again was a dream come true—a pinnacle that he said he won't know how to top.
With his nimble jabs and sneaky prowess, honed from pop culture and the swagger of a young working man hungry to be more, Jordi Esparza is just getting started.