Local officials are pleading with residents to continue COVID-19 safety precautions as businesses reopen and more people return to work.
"We sense that the frog is being boiled slowly and folks are starting to lose the narrative of how serious the pandemic is," Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said at a Commissioners Court meeting Tuesday morning.
Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott continued to urge residents to make "good decisions"—such as social distancing, maintaining personal hygiene and wearing masks while in public—to avoid a second surge of COVID cases and another shutdown.
"To me, the least that we can do when we go out in public at this stage is put a covering on your face," Dr. Escott said at the same meeting. "That doesn't limit people's civil liberties at all. It's not infringing on them at all."
The time it takes for the COVID-19 caseload in Travis County to double has drawn out to 23 days, and Austin Public Health now has the capacity to test 2,000 people weekly at free drive-thru sites, which outpaces demand. In the last two weeks, the department has connected 1,766 people to free testing through its enrollment form. But challenges remain.
"We're not out of the woods," Dr. Escott said, citing clusters at more than a dozen area nursing homes and racial disparities that have emerged in the case data.
As of this week, 392 COVID-19 cases have been reported across 16 long-term care facilities, up 60 from last week. Of those, 38 people have died. "Once COVID-19 takes hold of a facility, it's very, very difficult to stop it," Dr. Escott told commissioners.
Initially, the state provided two strike force teams to Travis County, but it has since redeployed them to other areas of Texas where similar clusters have emerged. As a result, county commissioners have approved five contracts with area staffing agencies to deploy supplemental personnel—including nurses, cooks and certified medication aides—to affected facilities.
Austonia has asked the county to confirm how much it, in conjunction with the city, has spent for strike force staffing.
"We are taking on responsibilities of the state," Eckhardt said, adding that the state regulates such facilities.
In addition to nursing home clusters, another concern is the overrepresentation of Hispanic residents among COVID-19 hospitalizations. Despite making up about a third of the local population, they account for nearly two-thirds of those hospitalized.
Austin Public Health is developing outreach materials to inform residents about how they can minimize their risk and access free testing, with plans to air the messaging on Spanish-language media channels. The department, in conjunction with Dr. Escott, is also developing a color-coded warning system that will communicate the local threat level.
In the meantime, Commissioner Margaret Gomez said she is concerned that residents are letting down their guards and congregating for birthdays and other events.
"The fact that the word got out that we can now go to work has just messed everything up because they think it's safe," she said. "It's not a normal time. Not yet. And it won't be for a long, long time."
So you want to buy a house?
To anyone trying to get on the "housing ladder," it's been a discouraging couple of years as prices skyrocketed in a market crowded with buyers bidding against each other for just about any available home.
Things may be calming down, with the Austin Board of REALTORS reporting fewer sales and more available homes this summer.
Mortgage rates have more than doubled in the last year, from around 3% to well over 6% on a 30-year fixed rate loan, getting even more of a bump this week after the Federal Reserve raised bank rates on Wednesday.
So how affordable are homes right now? That, of course, depends on what you want and how much you're able or willing to pay, but here are some rough estimates of what a typical buyer would pay to buy a $650,000 home, which would be considered "mid-price" in today's market.
Mortgage banker Chris Holland (NMLS 211033) of Austin's Sente Mortgage ran some numbers for Austonia to illustrate a typical purchase.
Holland says that while the 30-year fixed rate mortgage is often mentioned in the media, the most popular loan that he's seeing now is a 7/1 adjustable rate mortgage, which has a fixed rate for 7 years and then adjusts every year based on market rates, with a limit on how much it can increase each year. The interest is amortized over a 30-year period. Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) offer lower rates than fixed rate loans.
Here are the numbers, which are examples. In practice, exact numbers vary with a buyer's credit rating and overall financial situation, and with the rate, which can move up or down at any time.
- $650,000 home purchase price
- 7/1 ARM at 5.875%
- 5% down payment, equals $32,500
- 95% financed, equals $617,500
- $4,990 payment, including principle and interest (P&I), insurance, and property tax
- Typically, a borrower's debt to income ratio needs to be at or below 45%. So for this mortgage, a borrower, or borrowers, would need income of roughly $11,100/month, or $133,200/year. That number could be higher, depending on the buyer's outstanding credit balances on things like credit cards and car loans.
Holland says he's had a lot of clients approved for loans who were house hunting but have put that on hold, hoping prices come down.
Camp Fimfo Waco, a brand new camping resort, is kicking off football and fall camping season in style! With top-notch amenities, premium accommodations, and 10 weekends of fall fun, there’s no better place to have a fall camping getaway, especially if you’re a Baylor football fan!
Fall promises to be a one-of-a-kind camping experience. From Sept. 16 to Nov. 24, weekends will be packed with fall-themed activities, including special Halloween weekends in October. Campers can enjoy activities like fall crafts, campground trick-or-treating, costume contests, site decorating, outdoor movie nights, and more!
Packages and Ways to Stay
Camp Fimfo Waco
Located just 5 miles from McLane Stadium, Camp Fimfo Waco is the perfect place to stay during home game weekends. Skip the stuffy hotel room and embrace the great outdoors before cheering on the Baylor Bears! Campers can purchase a Baylor Tailgating Package that includes a pre-game meal from Executive Chef Sean Kelley and transportation to and from the game! Chef Kelley will also be cooking up delicious, elevated tailgating meals near the stadium so make sure to check out The Plaid Plate food truck before the game.
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Amenities and Activities
Camp Fimfo Waco
Camp Fimfo Waco features lots of amenities to fill your days with fun, whether you’re a kid or kid at heart. After challenging your friends to a game of pickleball, basketball, or mini golf, go for a dip in the resort-style, heated pool - open daily through October! Stay on the weekends through October to enjoy the interactive splash playground. With plenty of ways to burn off energy, like the jumping pillow or playground, you can be sure to end the day with a peaceful night around the campfire!
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