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The economic injury disaster loan, for which Dr. Desai applied, initially promised up to $2 million in assistance but now has an apparent cap of $15,000, which she said would barely cover Swish Dental's rent.
"We're not exactly sure we're going to receive it, how much we're going to receive. And it just seems like [the Small Business Administration has] tons of applications," she said.
Across Austin, private practices have seen a sharp drop in business because of a state-mandated moratorium on non-essential procedures and surgeries. According to the healthcare data firm Infinedi Analytics, patient visits are down 68% in Travis County, compared to 47% nationally.
"The problem … is a lot of the routine care and elective surgeries are pretty much on hold right now as we gear up and get ready for whenever this surge of patients is going to happen," said Dr. Jack Myers, a Temple-based physician and board member of the Texas chapter of the American College of Physicians.
The American Academy of Family Physicians, which represents 134,600 members, lobbied Congress to account for private practices in its $2 trillion stimulus package.
"If there is a private practice out there in the United States of America that is still seeing their full complement of patients, they're in violation of the federal and state mandates," AAFP President Gary LeRoy said. "So I don't know anyone who's not been touched by this."
On March 26, President Donald Trump signed into law the Cares Act, bipartisan emergency legislation that included $377 billion for small businesses. Last Friday, applications opened for a relief program included in the act—the Paycheck Protection Program—which allows small businesses like Swish Dental to apply for up to $10 million in forgivable loans so long as they don't lay off any employees or they rehire those who had been already.
Local private practices are waiting for this money to be disbursed, and some have questioned if the stimulus will be enough to prevent these businesses from going under.
Consulting firm Gist Healthcare reported April 1 that 61% of primary care clinicians are uncertain about their ability to remain open in four weeks and 19% are unsure if they will be forced to close permanently.
Some practices are already reducing costs.
"We are hearing about nurse practitioners who are losing jobs or being furloughed across the state," Texas Nurse Practitioners Board President Christy Blanco said.
Last week, dozens of professional organizations and state medical societies—including the American College of Physicians, the American Medical Association and the Texas Medical Association—wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar requesting additional relief for private practices, beyond what was included in the Cares Act.
Specifically, the signatories asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide one month of revenue to physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants caring for patients covered by Medicare or Medicaid "to account for financial losses and non-reimbursable expenses."
Some physicians are incurring expenses—such as staying in hotel rooms or renting apartments to avoid exposing their families to the coronavirus—that do not qualify for federal assistance under the Cares Act, per the letter.
"Who's going to recoup those expenses?" Dr. Myers asked.
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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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