Travis County is the ninth most at-risk county in the nation for severe vaccine deficits and the second most at-risk in the state, according to a study by data science company Cogitativo.
The report, titled No Relief in Sight: The Growing Crisis of Vaccine Shortages in U.S. Counties, was conducted to see if vaccine allocation is being done most effectively with the CDC's current methods. Cogitativo used a simulation of vaccine allocation in the 10 most populous states, assuming there was a supply of 100 million doses, and compared allocation strategies by counties recommended by the CDC to their own strategy.
The CDC's Advisory on Immunization Practices recommends using priority populations that are predetermined (such as those who meet 1A and 1B qualifications in Travis County) and the Social Vulnerability Index to figure out who gets vaccinated first. Cogitativo, however, simulated a model using county clinical data, social determinants of health and peer-reviewed COVID-19 medical research.
The difference between the two is outstanding.
In the controlled setting of the simulation, the CDC's methods caused a shortage of up to 4.9 million doses nationally. Almost 640,000 lives would be saved using the Cogitativo methods, according to the simulation, and another 4.4 million hospitalizations could be prevented.
When the CDC method is used, 34% of counties, including Travis County, see a vaccine shortage. Travis County would have administered 106,678 fewer doses with the CDC's approach. Harris County leads Texas for most deficit doses.
Because Cogitativo uses clinical data to determine priority groups, the data company's CEO Gary Velasquez said in a statement that the shortage impacts vulnerable populations not getting the vaccine access they need.
"The data is clear: Without a more precise approach to allocating the vaccine, many of the most vulnerable—often in communities of color and rural areas—will be overlooked," Velasquez said. "To meet the most complex public health challenge of our time, states must use the most powerful, precise tools available so that every resident, whether they live in a city or in a rural community, has equal access to the vaccine."
To former Chief Medical Officer of Blue Shield of California Dr. Meredith Matthews, the study can be used to make sure those in disadvantaged locations never have to go without the vaccine.
"Access to the COVID-19 vaccine should not depend on where you live," Matthews said. "Using science and data can help states ensure that everyone has access, and that no community is left behind."
Austin officials concerned about inequities in distribution have advocated for changes to the local vaccine rollout, including pop-up distribution events at community centers, such as fire stations and schools, for the Black and Hispanic population most hit by the virus. Additionally, APH Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard has previously said that she has concerns that the city's Black and Hispanic populations were being underserved when compared to their community size.
"We remain deeply concerned that vaccine distribution is not reaching individuals who identify as Hispanic or African American, especially given the pandemic's disproportionate impact to these communities," Hayden-Howard said. "We must expand current efforts to provide vaccines to more members of our Hispanic and African American communities, especially in areas where disease transmission is high."
According to Austin Public Health's vaccine distribution dashboard, 31.7% who've received a dose were 60 or older; 7.6% of those vaccinated were Black, 18.1% were Hispanic of any race, 5.1% were Asian and 68.2% were White.
Last fall, Janneke Parrish was pushing hard in her advocacy at Apple. She wanted to see flexibility with remote work, pay equity and for Apple to respond to Texas’ six-week abortion ban with paid time off and coverage for the procedure under the company’s health insurance plan.
Then, in October last year, she was fired.
Parrish, who lives in Round Rock and worked at Apple’s Austin campus as an Apple Maps program manager for about five years, is a leader of an internal movement at the tech giant. It comes at a time when the company is expanding its local presence with a new $1 billion Northwest campus with space for 5,000 employees.
Parrish worked at this Apple campus on West Parmer Lane. (Steven Joyner)
In August, the movement known as #AppleToo launched a website with the goal of organizing employees and sharing stories about alleged workplace harassment and discrimination. Austonia talked to Parrish and another former Apple employee who are part of the movement about their claims in what they observed while working for Apple.
“I’ve been advocating for members of my immediate team within Apple for several years,” Parrish said. “And when I realized that the issues that I was seeing with my own team were true throughout Apple, there was a natural transition toward, ok let’s expand this advocacy and instead be more of an advocate for everybody at Apple to ensure that we the workers at Apple are treated fairly and equitably and get treated as human beings.”
In the lead-up to her firing, Parrish faced an allegation that she had leaked details from a recent all-hands meeting to the Verge. She says she suspects it’s this, along with her advocacy, that influenced Apple’s decision to fire her.
“I didn’t do (the leak). And I know that Apple knows I didn’t do this,” Parrish said since a few employees including herself didn’t have access to that meeting due to a system crash that day. “I was still placed under investigation.”
As a requirement of the investigation, Parrish turned in her work devices. Before doing so, she wiped the files from her computer, saying she didn’t want her personal files on Apple servers. After a few days on paid suspension, she says human resources called and told her she’d been terminated with the reason being that she’d deleted those files.
Parrish is one of the leaders of the AppleToo movement. (Janneke Parrish)
Before Parrish’s firing, Apple was taking action on leaks and workplace organizing. An internal memo from 2018 noted a number of leakers they had caught were arrested. About a month before Parrish was fired, the tech giant had fired a senior engineering program manager for allegedly leaking confidential information. And in a September note, CEO Tim Cook sent a note to all Apple employees saying “people who leak confidential information do not belong” at Apple.
Austonia asked Apple about Parrish’s case and other matters at the company. In an email reply, the company said:
“We are and have always been deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace. We take all concerns seriously and we thoroughly investigate whenever a concern is raised and, out of respect for the privacy of any individuals involved, we do not discuss specific employee matters.”
Another piece of Parrish’s advocacy involved career opportunities for workers, particularly those based in Austin.
Even though Apple upped their presence in Austin in recent years, Parrish said Austin-area employees couldn’t enjoy networking opportunities like California workers did as Apple events were held on the West Coast. Texan Apple workers shouldn’t have to relocate to move up, she said.
“For those of us in Austin, I noticed, especially for my department, my career options were extremely limited,” Parrish said. “I was told by a manager that if I really wanted to advance in my career, I would have to move out to California.”
Parrish said Apple employees in Austin do not have the same career opportunities as those in California. (Shutterstock)
Austonia spoke to another member of the organizing group AppleToo. She requested anonymity to not hinder future job prospects in the tech industry. She’ll be identified with the pseudonym Mary.
Mary said she’s worked at Apple since 2008 in Austin, starting off as a contractor in customer support at iTunes and moving around over the years, leaving the tech giant earlier this month.
“It’s too hard to advance and there are no opportunities for development so (I was) just kind of stuck in a dead-end job,” Mary said.
Mary felt that another challenge was being a woman at a tech company. Starting out, she says she was the lowest paid in a training class of mostly men with pay of around $30,000, which rose to about $55,000 by the time she left.
But aside from pay, communication also proved to be a hurdle. To make her persona appear gender-neutral, she changed how her name was displayed on Slack, the interoffice directory and over email to just her first initial.
“The hard part was when I would have to get into a meeting with people then I felt like my voice is giving me away now,” Mary said. “But when I could avoid having meetings, I felt like it did make a difference.”
Mary says there’s been some movement in the right direction. An internal memo in November affirmed employees’ right to discuss pay after it had shut down employee-run pay equity surveys and an employee-run Slack channel. Earlier this month, it announced new efforts in a racial equity and justice initiative.
“We all want to see positive changes from Apple,” Mary said. “We all want them to look at wage disparities. We’d like to see more diversity—more minorities in leadership positions, more females in leadership positions.”
Still, Mary feels there’s more to be done. “I wish Apple was more responsive at making bigger changes,” she said.
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The Texas French Bread Bakery, located on 2900 Rio Grande Street, has been completely destroyed after a fire erupted on Monday night.
The Austin Fire Department responded to the fire just before 11 p.m., where they arrived to see flames coming from the roof of the bakery. Firefighters fought the fire for about an hour before the roof collapsed.
While no one was injured in the fire, firefighters say the historic building was completely totaled.
Texas French Bread just went up in flames pic.twitter.com/agXqKN3c00
— Jordan (@AimIessFriend) January 25, 2022
AFD determined that the fire was accidental and caused by mechanical failure. AFD said the damages amounted to $1.6 million total: $1.1 million in structural damage and $500,000 in damage to the contents of the bakery.
This year, Texas French Bread will celebrate 40 years of business. Before the bakery occupied the building, it was the Rome Inn, a music venue that hosted 1970s artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan.