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The Biden administration is asking cities and states to use pandemic relief funds to pay residents $100 to get vaccinated. Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott reaffirmed prohibitions on pandemic protocols in a new executive order issued on Thursday.
The order emphasizes that "the path forward relies on personal responsibility rather than government mandates," according to a press release. It outlaws government entities from requiring employees to be vaccinated or individuals to provide proof of vaccination and upholds previous orders restricting government entities' ability to impose pandemic protocols.
Local public health and elected officials have asked all Austinites to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, and unvaccinated individuals to avoid nonessential trips last week given the rising number of local confirmed cases and related hospitalizations in recent weeks. But it is not enforceable under Abbott's order.
The seven-day moving average of new hospital admissions in the five-county Austin metro has more than quintupled since the beginning of July and is now 47.4. The threshold for Stage 5 is 50, according to Austin Public Health's risk-based guidelines.
Despite these trends, Abbott stands firm in his commitment to avoid new statewide mandates and to prohibit local government entities from issuing any of their own.
"Texans have mastered the safe practices that help to prevent and avoid the spread of COVID-19," he said in a statement. "They have the individual right and responsibility to decide for themselves and their children whether they will wear masks, open their businesses and engage in leisure activities."
Public health officials have attributed the current spike to the more contagious Delta variant and unmitigated spread among unvaccinated individuals. Abbott encouraged Texans to get vaccinated if they haven't already but affirmed that it would never be required by the state in his statement.
An increasing number of Austin-area employers—including Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health, Facebook and the Department of Veterans Affairs—have announced new vaccine requirements in recent days. Austin Mayor Steve Adler asked the city manager to enact a similar requirement on Wednesday, but the city is unable to do so due to an executive order issued by Abbott in April.
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Representatives of the Southeastern Conference voted unanimously (14-0) to formally invite the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma to the prestigious football league.
On Tuesday, UT and Oklahoma requested to join in 2025 after deciding not to continue their media rights with current conference Big 12 in that same year. The two teams are likely to try to join before July 1, 2025, when they were officially invited by the SEC.
Expect the SEC to rekindle that bitter Aggie-Longhorn rivalry, embrace higher-stakes games and rake in even higher television ratings and sponsorship deals. With 16 teams, the SEC will become the NCAA's first superconference. Meanwhile, the Big 12 is likely to drag their feet on the deal and could crumble without their two biggest teams.
While the unanimous vote shows otherwise, a blindsided Texas A&M was not initially happy with rival UT coming into their conference. By BLANK, A&M Athletic Director Ross Bjork said the university had changed its mind. "We're ready," Bjork said.
If the two teams accept the invitation, the burnt orange and maroon will meet for a rivalry game for the first time since 2011.
UT and Oklahoma officials will meet Friday morning to presumably accept the invitation.
Lake Travis is getting a shipment of 10,000 selectively-bred bass fingerlings thanks to a 15-year-old who's 15.32-lb largemouth bass catch in March broke a nearly 30-year record.
The record-breaking fish was one of 23 "Legacy Class" fish caught in the state of Texas in 2021. Lucky anglers who catch a 13-pound or larger fish can loan the live fish to TPWD hatcheries through the Toyota ShareLunker program. In turn, their lakes are filled with thousands of selectively-bred young fish in hopes of bringing higher quality lunkers to Texas' public waters.
Despite a winter storm that devastated the state, this has been a banner season for the 35-year-old program. The program's 23 entries were the most on record for January through March since 1995 and produced over 271,000 selectively-bred fingerlings in TPWD hatcheries.
Back in March, 15-year-old angler Trace Jansen knew he reeled in a big one when he fought to bring the 15.32-lb behemoth up to the water.
"It was crazy," Jansen said. "It's almost unreal. I never thought I would catch a fish that big in my life."
The Buda native helped Lake Travis become one of 10 Texas lakes, including Lake Austin, to receive over 10,000 ShareLunker fingerlings this summer.
In turn, Lake Travis and other ShareLunker hosts become more likely to produce more prize-worthy fish in the future.
Many of the ShareLunker entries this year boast a complicated family history—one fish caught this season was thought to be the granddaughter of a ShareLunker fish caught in a different lake in 2006, while two other 2021 entries are related to each other. O.H. Ivie, which produced 12 Legacy class fish this season, was granted over 70,000 well-bred fish.
Anglers who submitted an entry received more than Legacy Catch status. The winners also earned a catch kit, a decal, VIP access to the Toyota ShareLunker Annual Awards event and a trophy for their spoils in the form of a replica fish to put on their wall.
The Legacy Class just runs from January-March, but those looking for prizes of their own can enter data on any catch greater than 8 lbs or 24 inches and receive a catch kit and decal of their own.