Before the Thanksgiving holiday, Austin Public Health sent thanks to the Austin community for masking and getting vaccinated but also warned of another possible surge if COVID precautions are not taken this holiday season.
In a press conference on Tuesday, health leaders urged Austinites to get tested if they've engaged with people that they aren't sure are vaccinated or are sick before visiting other households; to wear a mask when there is high community transmission; and to get the vaccine or booster shot.
Health officials said they are focusing on the community transmission rate, which is the way the virus is spreading, heading into the holidays since transmission is seen before hospitalizations. At a current rate of 60 cases per 100,000 residents, Austin Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said transmission is substantial and everyone is recommended to mask indoors and in public places.
Walkes pointed to other cities, like El Paso, that is seeing an uptick in their transmission rate heading into Thanksgiving.
"We came off Halloween and we pretty much kept cases at bay, but we want to maintain a flattened curve as we enter into the holiday... cold and flu season," chief epidemiologist Janet Pichette said. "It's going to be all the more crucial to make sure you have vaccine on board in the coming months as you get ready for the Christmas and other holidays, and to make sure you are doing those preventative measures that we always ask you to do."
The department said it is already seeing a 33% increase in the number of new cases from two weeks ago to last week.
The seven-day moving average of hospital admissions has continued to stay in the Stage 2 threshold of APH's risk-based guidelines, although it has not transitioned out of Stage 3 officially to avoid the community easing off precautions that could lead to another surge. Austin recently came off a summer surge due to the Delta variant, which carries two times the virus, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
APH is encouraging residents to wear a mask when transmission could be high, such as in an indoor setting, and to get extra protection from booster shots, which are now available to everyone over 18 years of age. Those who received their vaccine before May are recommended to get a booster.
"The only thing you should be bringing to the Thanksgiving table is fixins', not COVID," Walkes said.
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Come later tonight, Texans will officially know who will be on the ballot for the November general election.
In Texas, candidates must win at least 50% of the vote to be elected. In the March primaries where the top candidate only received a plurality of votes, a runoff is being held. Voters will decide on the candidates to represent their party in the November general election. Just like the March primaries, voters will choose which party they'd like to vote in. Then based on location, each ballot will show which races are in a runoff.
Here's everything you need to know before heading to the polls.
Know before you go
The registration period for this election has passed; check if you're registered to vote here.
The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. As long as you're in line by 7 p.m., you can vote.
You'll need a valid photo ID to present once you're at a polling location.
Here is where you can vote in Travis County.
View wait times at polling locations here.
Races to watch in Travis County:
- Republican: Incumbent Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick won his primary in March.
- Democratic: Mike Collier and Michelle Beckley are vying to be the Democrat candidate on the ballot.
- Republican: Incumbent AG Ken Paxton is fighting for his seat against George P. Bush.
- Democratic: Rochelle Garza and Joe Jaworski will face off to be the Democratic candidate in this race.
View all the statewide races on the ballot here.
U.S. House of Representatives
View the district you live in here.
- Republican: Incumbent Chip Roy won his primary in March.
- Democratic: Claudia Andreana Zapata and Ricardo Villarreal are hoping to secure this vote.
- Republican: Dan McQueen and Michael Rodriguez are going head to head to be the Republican candidate in this race.
- Democratic: Former Austin council member Greg Casar won this race in March.
- Republican: Ellen Troxclair and Justin Berry are vying to be the Republican candidate in this race.
- Democratic: Pam Baggett won her primary in March.
A big-money bird has been stolen from a northwest Austin pet store.
Kelsey Fernandez, the owner of a $6,000 sulphur and citron-crested cockatoo named Lemon Grab, said the emotional support animal was taken from the Gallery of Pets store, around closing time on Sunday.
"I've struggled with mental illness my entire life, and ever since I got him I've been doing so much better," Fernandez told Austonia.
The $6k cockatoo is young and will starve unless he is fed by hand, Fernandez said.
In a surveillance video, a man appears to have something under his shirt as he and two others exit the business around the same time the store believes that Lemon Grab was stolen.
Fernandez said a report has been filed with the Austin Police Department with an $1,000 reward for his return.
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