Austinites stay in both official and unofficial warming centers opening their doors—and hearts—to those stuck in the cold
Having been without power since Monday, Angela Salva and Jordan Carter said staying at the warming center at the Palmer Events Center is better than being left in the cold during one of the coldest storms in Texas history.
"(It's as) comfortable as you can be on a cot," Carter said. "They gave us food. It's not the best food and it's cold but it's edible."
The pair have been without water, gas and electricity since Monday. It isn't a fix-all—the couple is missing out on needed work—but they are thankful to have a place to stay.
"Hopefully we'll go home—that's what I want to do," Salva said. "We don't want to make this our hotel."
Warming stations and shelters have been open all week, having to adjust to power outages and water shortages, but nevertheless providing a warm place for Austinites to go in the midst of an intense winter storm. A full list of city shelters can be found here.
The City of Austin Homeland Security and Emergency Management Communications Manager Bryce Bencivengo said warming centers and shelters are trying to get Austin's most vulnerable to safety.
"We're planning to keep them open as long as they're needed," Bencivengo said. "We're acquiring things as we need them, you know, some of them lose water so we got to get porta-potties, some of them get power so if we can move people around we do it, if not we can put them on a generator. Resources change every day and we're meeting them and doing the best we can."
With over 45,000 people still without power and warming centers all over the city filling to capacity, local businesses are stepping up to the plate to warm the community. From breweries to yoga studios, business owners are offering a friendly hand to their neighbors.
The Brewtorium Brewery and Kitchen, located at 6015 Dillard Circle, has been offering what little resources it has to the community since Wednesday: water and electricity while it lasts.
Joe, a brewer at the restaurant who declined to give his last name, said the restaurant is taking things day-by-day, not knowing how long the electricity or water will last. Plus, they can only take in 50 people at a time for COVID-19 safety concerns.
Wednesday, Joe came in to run the restaurant by himself. But Thursday, he has help from other employees.
"It was a slow trickle, which was great," Joe said. "We're really hoping to keep it as a slow trickle because we have limited resources."
Similarly, Yoga East Austin doesn't have much to offer other than a warm room, water from the tap and a few outlets, but they are giving what they can—and it's more than what people have had in this winter crisis. Since its heat is powered by natural gas, the studio has even had owners sleep there to escape the bitter cold.
Gabriel, a teacher at the studio who declined to give his last name, said they are just trying to help people get out of the cold.
"We have a large yoga room, where people can just hang out in if they need to be warm for a few hours," Gabriel said. "We just figured today we take a pause on class and make the space available to people who needed it."You can view a more complete list of businesses acting as warming centers here.
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Vaccine week 13: Travis County to receive more than 75K doses of vaccine thanks to Johnson & Johnson bump
Eighty-seven providers in Travis County will receive a total of 75,540 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for the week of March 8 as part of the 13th weekly allocation, a nearly 62% increase compared to last week's. The significant increase is largely due to inclusion of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which received an emergency use authorization from the FDA last weekend.
The bulk will go to hub providers Austin Public Health and UT Health Austin, the clinical wing of Dell Medical School, as well as to Seton Medical Center, which will receive the largest share of this week's shipment. These three providers will either receive doses from Moderna or Pfizer.
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