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Six months into vaccine rollout, Travis County still seeing wide racial disparities compared to state
More than 55% of Travis County residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated, compared to less than 45% of Texas residents 12 and older, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Despite outperforming the state in terms of overall vaccination rates, the county is reporting starker disparities across its demographic groups.
Black residents, who make up nearly 9% of the Travis County population, account for only 3.6% of Travis County residents who are fully vaccinated. Black residents make up 12.9% of the Texas population and 7.55% of fully vaccinated Texans.
Latino residents, who make up around one-third of the Travis County population, account for only one-fifth of Travis County residents who are fully vaccinated. The difference is less stark statewide: Latino residents make up 39.7% of the Texas population and 30.94% of fully vaccinated Texans.
Asian residents make up roughly equal shares of the county population and those vaccinated: 7.4% and 8%, respectively. The same is true for white residents, who make up 49% of the county population and 46% of those vaccinated.
Community leaders in the Black and Latino communities have been advocating for more equitable access to vaccines since before the rollout began last December. Austin Public Health has been offering pop-up community vaccine clinics and working with local business partners to make sure the hardest-hit communities can get time off to go get vaccinated.
But still, it's been a lasting issue. "We were 1st to be infected & last to receive equitable access to vaccines," Austin Latino Coalition member Paul Saldaña tweeted Tuesday in reference to the county's disparate vaccine rates. He has criticized Austin Public Health and local elected officials for not doing enough throughout the pandemic to address these inequities.
Similar issues arose during the testing rollout earlier in the pandemic, and Black and Latino residents have been disproportionately likely to be hospitalized with or die from COVID, according to Austin Public Health data.
"At this point in the fight against COVID we are using a very intentional outreach strategy to make sure that our communities of color, who have been hardest hit by this disease, but still have the lowest rates of vaccine uptake, are not only getting equitable access to vaccine … but also we are working in a way that supports and incentivizes them to get vaccine," Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said during a press conference last week.
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The Continental Club has been key to keeping Austin entertained since 1955, evolving and changing over time from a supper club to the city's first burlesque club to, finally, one of the most forward-facing live music venues. Its stage has been shared by world-renowned musicians like Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Replacements and countless local favorites.
After weathering one of the harshest years on the entertainment industry, The Continental Club opened its South Congress Avenue doors for the first time since the pandemic began, with a Friday night show from 30-year regulars The Blues Specialists.
There wasn't a mask in sight as people of all ages gathered in front of the Red Velvet stage to dance to The Blues Specialists, Greyhounds and Barfield the Tyrant well into the night. In fact, the scene was one straight out of the before times.
Now that The Continental Club has returned, the Blues Specialists will be back on stage every Friday at 6:30 p.m.
In case you missed Greyhounds and Barfield the Tyrant, the bands will play again Saturday at 10 p.m. and 12 a.m. respectively.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed its guidance for summer camps, saying vaccinated adolescents do not need to wear masks at summer camps and younger children who are not yet eligible for the vaccine can usually go without masks when outside.
The updated guidelines, which were released on Friday, take into account the CDC's recent announcement that masks are rarely needed outdoors and that fully vaccinated individuals can forego them in most situations. Earlier this month, Austin ISD announced that it wouldn't require students to wear masks during outdoor physical activities.
Camp providers may still find it challenging to establish policies in response to the updated guidance given the fact that children under 12 remain ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Thinkery, which hosts a series of summer camps, continues to require masks for all staff and visitors older than 2. Other local camp providers say they will follow CDC and local public health guidelines, which allows for more flexibility as guidance evolves.
More than 64% of the Travis County population 12 and older is partially vaccinated, and nearly 52% are fully vaccinated, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
ARC Clinical Research, the research division of Austin Regional Clinic, announced Friday that it will enroll children 6 months to 11 years old in the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine trial starting June 7. ARC anticipates that demand will far exceed the study limit of 85 pediatric participants, according to a press release. Interested parents can find more information about the study here.
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'A short-term inconvenience for long-term freedom:' Matthew McConaughey talks masking, running for Texas governor
"I'm not believing you're really scared of this little cotton thing," McConaughey said. "Let's all take one for the team here."
McConaughey's rare take on the political divide during the pandemic comes as the actor continues to tease the possibility of running for Texas governor.
"I think I've got some gifts as a leader, I've got some gifts as a learner, and a listener, and a teacher," McConaughey said. "What's my category, though? Where am I most useful?"
McConaughey expounded on the topic more during his Carlos Watson Show interview, when he said long-term results are more important than "putting a bunch of Band-Aids on that are gonna be ripped off as soon as I'm out (of office)."
McConaughey remained coy about whether politics is the right arena for him. "We try to teach our kids delayed gratification, but we don't like to think about further than tomorrow — we need immediate results," McConaughey said. "I'm interested in building something that can last, and I'm measuring what category that is. I don't know if that's politics."
McConaughey has addressed running for governor before—several times, actually—but the jack-of-all-trades has never committed to his latest public venture. His dabbles in sports (see Austin FC ownership), movies and philanthropy have made him a Texas icon through the years, and a recent poll conducted by the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found that McConaughey would beat Abbott 45% to 33%.
Still, many argue that McConaughey would not be "alright, alright, alright" in the governor's office, citing his lack of experience and unclear political leanings.
His latest comments on masking are among the most political he's made in recent months, however, and could put him on track to win more votes come November 2022.
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