For some of the 39% of the U.S.'s unvaccinated population, FDA approval stood in the way of their trust of the COVID-19 vaccine, along with other points of contention. But since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration officially approved Pfizer on Monday, health officials are hoping it will be the final push to get people vaccinated.
I will continue reminding people the Covid19 vaccine is safe and highly effective. If you had your doubts Pfizer vaccine is now fully approved by the FDA.— Maram Museitif (@MaramMPH) August 23, 2021
Just a reminder that Fentanyl was also approved by the FDA. Just because the FDA says it’s safe, doesn’t make it safe.— Alex Jones was right (@AlexJonesWs) August 23, 2021
Sitting at Stage 5 of Austin Public Health's risk-based guidelines for about a month, the resurgence of COVID cases and hospitalizations in Austin isn't declining. As each week goes by, local health officials are pleading for the remaining 34% of Austinites to get vaccinated. Currently, almost all hospital admissions are coming from unvaccinated individuals, according to APH. "We have full approval of the Pfizer vaccine, here's hoping that those that were hesitant to be vaccinated will now go forward and get vaccinated to help with ending this pandemic," said Dr. Desmar Walkes, APH health authority.
Will the FDA approval change the minds of the unvaccinated?
Only time will tell. But, we know that the unvaccinated are unlikely to change their mind. According to a recent poll, 80% of unvaccinated American adults said they probably or definitely will not receive the vaccine.
Judith Moreno, a 26-year-old Austinite who is in between waitressing and working for UPS, is not vaccinated. Moreno said she never went into quarantine—she was always working a job that was considered "essential"—and has never tested positive for the virus.
Moreno said she's glad to hear the news of the approval but still doesn't have any plans to get vaccinated.
"I just haven't gotten sick and I've been around people who have been sick and I've taken tests and tests and tests," Moreno said. "I feel like my body isn't in need of the vaccine—my immune system is pretty good because it's kept me from getting sick until now."
Moreno said she has family members, like her mother and grandmother, who are vaccinated and want her to get vaccinated. But Moreno says she doesn't feel like she's putting people in danger by abstaining because she mostly just maintains a routine from work to home.
"I believe that it's a real virus but I just haven't been 100% convinced to take the vaccine," Moreno said. "I'm very selfish but it's survival of the fittest out here right now. I'm religious so like if God's gonna take you, God's gonna take you regardless of whether you're vaccinated or not."
Reasons for not getting the vaccine
Aside from feeling that she is healthy enough to refrain, Moreno said she worries that the vaccine might have been rushed and could negatively impact her fertility down the line. Austin City Council Member Vanessa Fuentes told Travis county commissioners and Austin city council on Tuesday she is hearing similar concerns from members of the community.
To address these concerns, Austin Public Health has plans to include messaging about the FDA approval in its vaccine campaigns. "We want people to know in simple layman's terms what it means about the FDA approval and the safety and efficacy of those vaccines," APH Directory Adrienne Stirrup said on Tuesday.
Maram Museitif, a public health practitioner who sits on the board for Central Health, said she's heard plenty of different reasons people are reluctant to get poked, including fertility health and fear over long-term effects, inability to take off work to cope with potential symptoms, language barriers, lack of insurance and a rapid spread of misinformation.
Working at Central Health, which offers medical health plans to underserved communities, Museitif said she believes the best way to tackle those issues is to engage others in empathetic conversation.
"We're trying in the health arena to meet people where they are, so we need to really engage them, understand why you are hesitant to receive it," Museitif said. "We cannot assume everyone knows. But we have to build trust, and building trust takes a lot of time and effort and resources. There are a lot of barriers; It's going to take an army."
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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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