Austin Public Health is downgrading to Stage 3 of its COVID risk-based guidelines as of Tuesday, attributing the shift to declining COVID hospital admissions and more vaccinations in the community.
At Stage 3, APH recommends those vaccinated continue to mask up indoors only in private settings and are free to go without a mask when outdoors, dining or shopping. Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated individuals are asked to mask up both indoors and outdoors when not able to socially distance. Additionally, high-risk individuals are advised to avoid crowded indoor venues and unessential travel.
COVID hospitalizations have been in the Stage 3 threshold since the start of the month with a moving average of new hospitalizations at 19.4 as of Monday. Austin Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said almost all hospitalized are unvaccinated in Austin.
"Now is not the time to let our guard down. While our numbers are dramatically better than they were at the peak of this surge, we need to remain committed with the widespread, highly transmissible Delta variant," Walkes said.
COVID cases have been on a steady decline since the end of August after a summer surge that impacted hospitals. The positivity rate of COVID has dropped 60% from 14.8% to 5.9% from its peak in early August.
Hospitals are seeing relief with local ICU patients decreasing over 62% from 237 patients on Aug. 22 to 90 on Oct. 11. Pediatric cases continue to be a concern with eight kids admitted to hospitals Monday and two going to PICU.
Health officials are urging residents to wear a mask to continue showing less COVID risk in the community and to get vaccinated. Of those eligible for the vaccine, 71% are fully vaccinated.
"When we work together to wear masks, get vaccinated, and stay home when we are sick, we can protect our community, our hospitals, our healthcare workers, and drive COVID cases down," APH Health Director Adrienne Sturrup said.
Samsung might soon be making more moves in the Austin metro.
The tech giant, which made waves as it announced plans to build a $17 billion chip plant in Taylor in late 2021, might be looking to expand in the Northeast Austin area, according to an Austin Business Journal report.
ABJ said the South Korean company is seeking more tax breaks from nearby Taylor and Manor school districts. The company filed documents requesting Chapter 313 incentives related to the breaks Saturday, and ABJ said each district will review the requests separately on Tuesday.
"While we do not have specific plans to build at this time, the Chapter 313 application process is part of our long-term planning to evaluate the viability of potentially building additional fabrication plants in the U.S.," Samsung Austin Semiconductor LLC.'s director of communications, Michele Glaze, told the ABJ.
But Samsung has made headlines for more than just the $17 billion plant: In early 2022, the company caught heat for two separate spills of millions of gallons of wastewater into tributaries near its semiconductor plant.
While no expansion is promised, ABJ speculates that expansions could occur at the 1,200 acre planned Taylor factory or near the chipmaking factory on Austin's East Parmer Lane. Both expansions could bring even more revenue and job opportunities to Samsung's Texas home.
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A first minute error gave Austin FC an early setback, but with the help of two red cards and two second-half goals, the Verde and Black still forced a last-minute tie in a messy home battle against Orlando City SC Sunday night.
With the 2-2 draw, Austin dropped from No. 1 in the MLS West conference but still earned a point in the standings thanks to a penalty kick goal from Sebastian Driussi and a breakthrough shot from striker Moussa Djitte, who scored his first goal with the club in the final minute of play.
Here are the top three takeaways from the match:
A fateful mistake
Just days after his highlight reel-worthy LAFC performance, Austin keeper Brad Stuver scratched heads as he gave away a goal seconds into the game. Stuver's fateful pass went straight to Orlando's Junior Urco, who was already in the box and tapped a quick pass to Ercan Kara to score the first goal of the match.
The mistake forced Austin to chase a tie for the rest of the match, especially as center back Ruben Gabrielsen benched himself in the 20th minute. The team later said Gabrielsen has come down with something similar to a stomach bug.
Orlando would score two minutes later, and Austin FC left the first half looking like the opposite of its "Best in the MLS" self from just days prior.
The two red cards
By the 60th minute of the match, however, the tides had turned. Orlando's Rodrigo Schlegel, who had already racked up a yellow card on a handball, was ousted from the game two minutes later for yet another handball, this time in the penalty box.
Austin's main man Sebastian Driussi took the kick and sent it in for his eighth goal of the season to make it 2-1.
And just over five minutes later, Orlando's Cesar Araujo was the second man in purple kicked out of the match after he kicked Alex Ring on a slide tackle near the box. Austin was left with just over 20 minutes, and just nine opponents left, to try and tie it up.
The 'Mouss' is loose!
As the whistle blew and regulation time ran out, Orlando seemed to have won the match. The team had withstood many, many close calls—including two shots off the post from Austin FC's Diego Fagundez and Maxi Urruti—as Austin FC flooded the box with 22 cracks at a goal.
But thanks to the chaotic nature of the game, Austin FC was given nine extra minutes to tie it up. Moussa Djitte was the one who finally broke through five minutes into stoppage time, earning his first goal in Verde to put a 2-2 cap on the wild home match.
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