Texas climbs to second-highest COVID caseload in U.S., despite ranking on top in vaccine doses administered
After reaching a grim milestone of two million COVID-19 cases on Thursday, Texas became the state with the second-highest number of cases, trailing just behind California, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
At 2,040,751 total cases throughout Texas and a 13.33% positivity rate, California's total case count of 2,843,062 tops the U.S., however its overall positivity is only 7.55% in the state. On top of that, the death count between Texas and California is nearly identical: 31,277 and 31,684 deaths respectively.
Travis County makes up about 2.9% of the overall caseload, with 58,286 cases and a current 16.2% positivity rate. Travis County is currently experiencing its worst surge to date, although still behind other big Texas cities.
Austin officials have been hitting a disconnect on what regulations are best to help quell the surge; Escott has been calling for a stronger lockdown until the virus is under control, while state officials, including Gov. Greg Abbott, are worried about the effect another lockdown will have on businesses.
However, offering a glimmer of hope of the end of the pandemic, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced Thursday that Texas had also become the first state to administer more than one million vaccines, exactly one month and one day after receiving the first doses.
"Texas is leading the way for our nation once again," Abbott said. "This is the biggest vaccination effort we have ever undertaken and it would not be possible without the dedication and tireless efforts of our healthcare workers. We still have a long road ahead of us but Texans continue to prove that we are up to this challenge."
During a press conference yesterday, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said it is imperative that people continue safe practices until they can get the vaccine, which could be a while with a shortage of doses to go around. Ultimately, Escott said, masking and distancing will have to be kept up until the vaccine is more widely available.
"While we're all frustrated about the numbers of vaccines that we have available, we have something else that works very well and it's those protective measures: the masking, the distancing, the handwashing, it prevents disease also," Escott said. "It's going to have to continue until we can get a substantial portion of our population vaccinated."
To help alleviate the strain on hospitals, Austin Public Health officials announced the opening of an alternate care site at the Austin Convention Center that can accept COVID-19 patients to free up ICU beds. Additionally, the city has rolled out infusion sites to treat recently-diagnosed patients without serious symptoms.
Escott said Austin could run out of ICU beds any day now and hospitals are currently seeing the repercussions from holiday celebrations.
"Right now, when we are facing unprecedented surge, unprecedented transmission of disease in our community, which is uncontrolled, we have to work together as a community to drive down the disease spread and flatten the curve again, to put our hospitals in a better situation and buy us time to get more people vaccinated," Escott said.
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A big-money bird has been stolen from a northwest Austin pet store.
Kelsey Fernandez, the owner of a $6,000 sulphur and citron-crested cockatoo named Lemon Grab, said the emotional support animal was taken from the Gallery of Pets store, around closing time on Sunday.
"I've struggled with mental illness my entire life, and ever since I got him I've been doing so much better," Fernandez told Austonia.
The $6k cockatoo is young and will starve unless he is fed by hand, Fernandez said.
In a surveillance video, a man appears to have something under his shirt as he and two others exit the business around the same time the store believes that Lemon Grab was stolen.
Fernandez said a report has been filed with the Austin Police Department with an $1,000 reward for his return.
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Introverts and personal space lovers may not want to make the move to Austin anytime soon: The Texas capital saw a bigger increase in one-bedroom rent prices than almost any other U.S. city in April, according to a Rent.com report.
Austin's one-bedroom rent has more than doubled—a 112% increase—from April 2021 to 2022, the report said. Only Oklahoma City saw a higher year-over-year increase with a 133% jump.
Austin also had the fourth-highest increase in two-bedroom rent, with a 50% increase in the past year. The city joined a nationwide trend where rents were up 8.3% year-over-year across the U.S, a trend exacerbated by a 6.2% increase in inflation in the same time period.
But "not everyone is experiencing inflation the same way," Redfin Deputy Chief Economist Taylor Marr said in the report, and a brunt of the load has gone to cities with more move-ins. While over 90% of state rental markets increased in the last year, that jump was seen most in Sun Belt states, including Texas, Arizona and Florida.
Even with breakneck increases in rent, however, Austin's rent prices still haven't cracked the top 10: the city's one-bedroom apartments are the 12th most expensive in the nation with an average price of $2,918. Meanwhile, its two-bedrooms fall behind Texas cities Frisco, Dallas and Plano and come out 34th on the list with a $2,302 average monthly rent.
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