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Austin marketing adviser and cyclist Kimberly Jarboe never leaves the house without a bottle of hand sanitizer clipped to her belt loop.

Still, weeks of sheltering in place have worn her down.


And so, like many others aching for some sliver of their pre-pandemic lives, Jarboe has found little ways to let the world back in—while still wearing a mask, sanitizing her hands, playing it safe.

"I do have a very close circle of friends that I've been spending time with and acting fairly normal around," said Jarboe, who used to ride bikes with groups of hundreds of cyclists.

As the pandemic drags on and state leaders relax shutdown orders, even some of the most ardent social distancers in Austin are finding themselves adjusting their own boundaries.

Social media abounds with locals getting together but staying distant: Hair appointments, kayaks on Lady Bird Lake, multi-family picnics under separate trees, sparse backyard gatherings, and cautious date nights at restaurants with masked servers.

"We always ate out a lot and have missed going into restaurants for the full dining experience," said Jeannette Larson, who has restaurant reservations Wednesday for the first time since the shutdown. "I've been impressed by their safety measures, so we are going for it."

"Semi-socially distant" is how local attorney Lenore Shefman describes her occasional visits "with folks I trust."

"We still practice safety like washing hands, and nobody is coughing or sneezing, and we stay outside," Shefman said.

Austin politicians and health officials worry that some locals will take it too far.

"There's more disease in the community now than there has ever been," said Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County interim health authority. "That should be a warning sign to folks that the time for caution is not over."

The safety message still resonates with those who are finding what they say are reasonably safe loopholes.

Tara Hall, a content strategist who has been isolating alone, agreed to a getaway this weekend with a longtime travel companion taking the same precautions.

The two chose a secluded, vacant AirBnB to make contact tracing easier if either of them winds up exposed.

"I'm nervous but willing to take this mental break with one person I trust," she said. "It feels like I've had a two-and-a-half-month-week, in a way, and this will be my weekend. I can't wait to feel clear-headed after this trip, even if it's short-lived."

Jarboe and the others say they are simply coping with the reality that their old lives may not return for a long time.

"Previous to this, my world was pretty much all friends and bike rides," she said. "Having small 'safe' gatherings and bike rides with a handful of my closest friends helps me stay sane and gives me a small taste of what normal life used to be."

(Charlie Harper III)

The Nov. 3 election promises high turnout.

The upcoming Nov. 3 election is set to be a historic one—in Austin and around the country.

The Travis County Clerk's office expects as many as 100,000 voters will apply for a mail-in ballot by the Oct. 23 deadline, and it has already received nearly double the number of applications it did for the 2016 general election.

"It is most definitely COVID," County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir told Austonia earlier this month. "People are afraid to come inside."

Ahead of Election Day, we've rounded up key dates to remember, a guide to voting by mail and some background on the major races at the local, state and federal levels.

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(Facebook)

Threadgill's owner Eddie Wilson announced in April that he was selling the restaurant, beer joint and music venue, closing the curtain on one of Austin's most iconic businesses.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the United States, many esteemed local businesses have been forced to shut their doors permanently. Austin is no exception, and over the last six months, some of the city's most beloved local establishments have had to say goodbye. This non-comprehensive list includes some of Austin's most iconic businesses that have closed for good due to COVID-19. May they live in the hearts and minds of Austinites forever.

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(Williamson County)

Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody was indicted and arrested on a felony charge for destroying video evidence related to the Javier Ambler case.

This story has been updated to include information from two press conferences on Monday afternoon.

Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody has been indicted and arrested on a felony charge for destroying video evidence related to the death of Javier Ambler, a Black man who died in custody last year, according to local reports.

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(Joe Lanane)

Kevin Russell of Austin band Shinyribs speaks Monday morning outside of Austin City Hall in a rally to support Austin music industry workers. City Council will consider COVID-19 relief measures this week.

Editor's Note 1:45 p.m.: This story has been updated from the previously published preview to the rally to tell what happened at the rally.

Austin music industry members and supporters rallied Monday morning in front of City Hall to remind elected officials of their essential role in the "Live Music Capital of the World."

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(Matt Smith/Shutterstock)

Austinite and former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles returns the field for another win with the Chicago Bears.

Quarterback Nick Foles, an Austin native who attended Westlake High School, is making waves again in a relief role for an NFL team.

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A new report by the COVID-19 Modeling Consortium at the University of Texas at Austin projects how transmission among students could amplify spread in the Austin metro.

The reopening of the University of Texas at Austin could amplify community transmission of COVID-19 in the Austin area, according to a new report published by the COVID-19 Modeling Consortium.

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(Emma Freer)

This November, Austin voters will decide whether to approve Proposition A, which would increase the city's property tax rate to fund and maintain Project Connect.

Austin voters will decide Nov. 3 whether to back Proposition A, which would increase the city's property tax rate to fund and maintain a $7.1 billion, 15-year overhaul of the city's transit system.

If approved, Project Connect will expand Austin's rapid bus system and add two new light rail lines, which will be served by a multi-block underground downtown tunnel.

Here is a closer look at the light rail component of the plan:

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