After a bumpy September, Austin is seeing a decline in new COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations even as schools and other facilities, including restaurants and public pools, continue to reopen.
"We had a period of increase through September," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott told Travis County Commissioners on Tuesday. "We flattened out a little bit, and now we've been decreasing over the past week in terms of new cases."
The seven-day moving average of daily new confirmed COVID cases in Travis County is 73, as of Monday evening, which is comparable to the rate a month ago and down from 128 on Sept. 16, according to Austin Public Health data.
The seven-day moving average of new hospital admissions is also improving. It is now 13, down from 18 on Sept. 1.
Escott described this current rate as a sweet spot, or "a place where we can live for some time where we have cases going on but we can keep them at a minimum … and we can open businesses and our schools and be safe."
But he also added that the Austin metro has been unable to push past a daily average of around a dozen new COVID hospitalizations.
"Twelve to 13 seems to be a roadblock for us," he said.
The threshold for a Stage 2 level of risk, according to APH's risk-based guidelines, is a daily average of 10 new hospitalizations. At that level, recommended restrictions would loosen.
Despite the hospitalization roadblock, there are other signs of progress.
Last week, Travis County testing sites reported their lowest positivity rate—3.8%— since the pandemic began. The positivity rate among Latino residents is improving, although at 6.3% still remains higher than the average. There has also been a substantial decrease in the positivity rate among members of the 10-19 age group who have been tested recently.
The COVID-19 positivity rate in Travis County hit an all-time low last week, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said. (Austin Public Health)
Over the last week, APH monitored 25 cases among primary and secondary school students, faculty and staff, Escott said, adding that although there are "pockets of transmission"—mostly attributable to extracurricular activities—so far "explosions of cases" have been avoided.
Austin ISD began in-person learning on Monday, following in the footsteps of most other local public school districts. Despite pushback from some parents and teachers, Escott sanctioned AISD's reopening plan and seems optimistic about the weeks to come—so long as Ausinites continue to observe certain precautions.
"If we continue to screen ourselves every day before we leave the house, and screen our children … we can really continue to impact the spread of this disease in Austin, and we can continue to be an example to other cities across Texas," he said.
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Someday, electric vehicles could go distances fit for road trips across Texas.
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, who have previously made strides in the lithium-ion battery industry, have developed a new electrode for such batteries that could draw greater power and allow faster charging.
So far, the research has looked at just a single type of battery electrode and is in its early stages. But it offers exciting potential as some buyers consider driving range an important factor when making the switch to an EV or picking one.
Tesla’s Model Y being produced out of Giga Texas, for example, offers an estimated 330-mile range, which is lower than what many have become accustomed to in gas-powered vehicles.
So UT professor Guihua Yu, along with other researchers, had their findings on battery electrodes published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“The unprecedented growth of electric vehicles during the past decade has played an indispensable role in paving the way for a carbon-neutral future,” the researchers write.
That’s why it’s key to address a hitch with next-generation batteries, where restacking material can cause “significant bottlenecks” in charge transport, Yu says. Consequently, it can be difficult to achieve high energy and fast charging.
To tackle the sluggish reactions of electrodes, the team used thin two-dimensional materials as the building blocks and stacked them to create thickness. Then, they used a magnetic field to manipulate their orientations and put the materials in vertical alignment. In doing so, researchers essentially made a fast lane for ions to travel through the electrode.
They compared their results to a commercial electrode and a horizontally arranged one for experimental control purposes. In that comparison, they recharged the vertical thick electrode to 50% energy level in 30 minutes. The horizontal electrode took 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Zhengyu Ju, a graduate student in Yu’s research group who is leading this project, said the team’s electrode shows superior electrochemical performance.
In part, that’s “thanks to the unique architecture we designed,” Ju said. It ultimately allowed for high mechanical strength, high electrical conductivity and facilitated lithium-ion transport.
Going forward, the team aims to generalize their methodology of vertically organized electrode layers to apply it to different types of electrodes using other materials. They imagine if this technique becomes more widely adopted in industry, it may create future fast-charging, high-energy batteries to power EVs.
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Camp Fimfo Waco, a brand new camping resort, is kicking off football and fall camping season in style! With top-notch amenities, premium accommodations, and 10 weekends of fall fun, there’s no better place to have a fall camping getaway, especially if you’re a Baylor football fan!
Fall promises to be a one-of-a-kind camping experience. From Sept. 16 to Nov. 24, weekends will be packed with fall-themed activities, including special Halloween weekends in October. Campers can enjoy activities like fall crafts, campground trick-or-treating, costume contests, site decorating, outdoor movie nights, and more!
Packages and Ways to Stay
Camp Fimfo Waco
Located just 5 miles from McLane Stadium, Camp Fimfo Waco is the perfect place to stay during home game weekends. Skip the stuffy hotel room and embrace the great outdoors before cheering on the Baylor Bears! Campers can purchase a Baylor Tailgating Package that includes a pre-game meal from Executive Chef Sean Kelley and transportation to and from the game! Chef Kelley will also be cooking up delicious, elevated tailgating meals near the stadium so make sure to check out The Plaid Plate food truck before the game.
Stay in style and comfort, no matter your camping preference! At Camp Fimfo Waco, there are multiple ways to stay. Red Carpet RV sites come with a concrete pad and patio, full hook-ups, cable hook-up, a charcoal grill, fire ring and fire pit. Back-in or pull-thru options are available, as well as coveted spots tucked along the Bosque River!
Don’t have an RV? Not a problem, Camp Fimfo Waco has cabins too! Book a Riverview Firewheel Cabin if you’re looking for an air-conditioned oasis for the whole family. Complete with a kitchen and private bathroom, this cabin can fit up to 10 people. Elevate your stay by adding on a golf cart or snag a private cabana by the pool for guaranteed shade. With wifi available throughout the park, you can stay connected during your stay!
Amenities and Activities
Camp Fimfo Waco
Camp Fimfo Waco features lots of amenities to fill your days with fun, whether you’re a kid or kid at heart. After challenging your friends to a game of pickleball, basketball, or mini golf, go for a dip in the resort-style, heated pool - open daily through October! Stay on the weekends through October to enjoy the interactive splash playground. With plenty of ways to burn off energy, like the jumping pillow or playground, you can be sure to end the day with a peaceful night around the campfire!
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