After a week at the Stage 4 threshold, local health officials have officially made the shift to Stage 4, according to their risk-based guidelines.
At this stage, all residents—including those who are vaccinated—are recommended to wear masks at all times while indoors, and unvaccinated individuals are asked not to gather at all and only to make essential trips.
This is the first time since February of this year Travis County reached Stage 4; local health officials announced the shift to Stage 3 last week. Since July 4, the seven-day moving average for hospitalizations has increased by over 203% from 63 to 202 hospitalizations, according to Austin Public Health data. There were 39 new hospitalizations alone on Thursday.
Earlier this week, University of Texas researchers projected the city could see a 92% drop in hospitalizations if residents comply with Stage 4 recommendations.
Ahead of the official announcement, health officials were asking all residents to mask up as if in Stage 4. Independent businesses, such as Waterloo Records and Book People, have adopted officials' recommendations and asked patrons to wear a mask once more. APH expects with the official shift, others will follow suit. As for bars, they say people should wear masks. APH said its recommendations will not affect large events, such as Austin FC games, from operating.
The recommendation is not legally enforceable due to Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order prohibiting mask mandates in May—which he recently said he wouldn't reverse.
The Delta variant—which is now responsible for most new COVID cases, according to the CDC—has been of particular concern to health officials, as it is more contagious and produces more severe symptoms. There have been four confirmed Delta variant cases in Travis County, but officials say there is likely more that have gone undetected due to testing delays.
The number of COVID patients in area ICUs have increased nearly 242% from 24 people on July 4 to 82 people on Thursday, APH reports. With nearly all of hospitalized patients proven to be unvaccinated, APH is asking residents to get vaccinated to prevent the spread.
The county has yet to reach its goal vaccination rate of 70%—the threshold for herd immunity—and currently sits at 62% of the population over the age of 12 fully vaccinated.
"Each of us has a personal choice to make: Will we do our part to stop disease transmission by getting vaccinated and taking the necessary precautions to protect ourselves and others, or will we be part of its continued spread?" Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said Friday.
For info on how to get vaccinated, click here.
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East Austin restaurant la Barbecue has been robbed a third time in less than three months, according to a post on the restaurant's Instagram.
In the post, the restaurant included photos of what appeared to be a man exiting a minivan from surveillance footage.
"This guy pulled up in a car full of stuff… he ripped our gate open and stole a couple empty kegs," the post said. "The ring system scared him off so he did not venture back into the area. PLEASE EVERYONE ON THE EAST SIDE BE CAREFUL!!! This guy goes back into his car to grab something before he goes in. I am hoping he won’t be back!!"
The robbery comes as many restaurant and food truck owners have been on guard from recent break-ins. East Austin cheesesteak truck R&B's Steak and Fries has also been robbed three times in around three months, according to owner Kris Elliott. Elliot said the truck was last robbed around a month and a half ago.
"When the weather gets cold, it seems like these things start to happen more often," Elliott said. "We're just happy no one got hurt."
Additionally, he said all 5 of the food trucks in their lot have experienced burglaries. The landlord of the space is taking action by investing in alarm and camera systems. "Been very tough dealing with this problem as us small business owners are just trying to survive during the pandemic," Elliott said.
And it's not just in East Austin. North Austin restaurants Eldorado Cafe and Chez Zee Bistro were both broken into and robbed on the weekend of Jan. 8, while over a dozen food truck robberies and break-ins were reported in the latter half of 2021.
Some, like Chez Zee's Deborah Velasco, wonder if the understaffed Austin Police Department's decision to no longer respond to non-emergency calls is part of the problem. Xose Velasco, owner of East Austin's Discada, said owners are keeping their guard up in the wake of the robberies as he was robbed twice within a month of reopening in November 2021.
"We try to keep the lights on," Velasco said. "We're a little bit more careful."
After 12 months, the long-anticipated massive Tesla factory in Southeast Travis County is up and operating and everyone wants a look inside.
Phase 1 of Giga Texas appears to be tied up as production of the Model Y Tesla is underway, the electric car company revealed on Wednesday in its fourth-quarter earnings call. The factory, located on the former Harold Green-turned Tesla Road, sits on more than 2,000 acres of land in southeast Travis County.
Here's a glimpse inside the factory.
Model Ys will be the first Teslas to come out of Giga Texas with an estimated delivery of August. The wait estimate comes after Tesla noted supply chain issues have affected their factories, which have been running below capacity for several quarters. A deep blue metallic like this goes for $1,000 more than a white or silver Model Y, totaling $61,990.
Model Ys began being produced at Giga Texas at the end of 2020. In general assembly at the factory, the Teslas get their major interior components to finish the vehicle.
Workers at Austin's Gigafactory are attaching seats to a structural battery pack. It's been described by some as the biggest difference between Texas-made Model Y's and the current version at the Fremont, California factory. It shouldn't have a major impact on the owner's experience, but Tesla has updated instructions for the jacking procedure, as the lift points are different.
With a sleek, open office setup, workers can take in a view of the factory from their seats. It's a component CEO Elon Musk wanted for what is now the headquarters of Tesla.
On the Austin, Texas public location Snapchat, a photo of inside Giga Texas has appeared. On the left you can see a sneak peek of a Model Y body.pic.twitter.com/N7zliZ5vkL— Sawyer Merritt (@Sawyer Merritt) 1643081462
With Snapchat's maps, anyone can look at everyday activity happening at the factory. To view these geographically-linked stories, click the bottom left "map" icon and search "Tesla Giga Texas." Once you've found it, you can view the Snapchat story of those in and around the facility. While most stories stay up for only 24 hours, Giga Texas is a designated place on Snapchat, allowing users to view a collection of photos and videos from the inside.
Following Model Ys, Texas-made Teslas will include the Cybertruck, Semi and Model 3. But it might be a while before those other models arrive. EV makers have been hit hard by the chip shortage, and it's thought that changing features are contributing to Cybertruck delays as Tesla works to compete in the electric pickup market.
Joe Rogan paid a visit to buddy Elon Musk this week. The two have been seen around town since both moving to Texas. Naturally, Rogan was impressed with the prototype.
If you're dying to get a closer look at this factory, you just might get to. In December, Musk said the factory would have tours available to the community early this year.
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