Austin’s Top News – January 11, 2021

Austin's Top News from News Radio KLBJ

Snow brings power outages

Snowy conditions have left thousands of people without power. Marissa Monroy with Austin Energy tells CBS Austin snow accumulation weighed down branches on the power lines. 

“We knew by midweek last week that we might be facing this situation, so we made sure we had extra crews ready and on hand,” Monroy says.

About 37,000 people did have to deal with power outages. The last report, which came in around midnight, Austin Energy says it was still trying to get the power back on for about 4,000 customers and crews have been working through the night to get that done. 

COVID-19 update

The wintry weather is the reason the City of Austin says it’s online coronavirus dashboard has not been updated over the past day. The most recent number of hospitalizations reported by the county is 586 of the overall 55,870 cases found over the past 10 months. 6,044 active, 49,257 are recoveries. 

Central Texas bars have been ordered to shut down and restaurants have been ordered to operate at half capacity. That took effect this weekend after at least 15% of Central Texas hospital beds were made up of COVID patients for seven straight days. Austin’s Mayor Steve Adler says you can still help out local businesses by shopping online or working with curbside delivery. 

“Please try to support our local businesses as much as you can if there’s an opportunity to tip please over tip because those folks need it the same,” says Adler.

Local health officials say this rollback is a concerning reminder that Austin Travis County is in a deadly COVID surge.

Convention center COVID hospital

The Austin Convention Center is now being prepped to take in coronavirus patients, and many local doctors are gearing up to step in to offer help. Dr Ernest Kahn tells KXAN he’s seen a dramatic decrease in places to put incoming patients in Hospital.

“Alot of COVID in patients are having to wait in the emergency room, partly because there just aren’t beds ready,” Khan says.

Last week, the Travis County Medical Society issued a call for help to any available physician to step in and help out. At least 50 have so far answered that call. 

Vaccine update

More coronavirus vaccines will be arriving in 104 Texas counties this week. Travis County is one of them. It’ll be getting 12,000 doses, which will be distributed to providers by Austin Public Health. Some of those vaccines also may be handed out beyond Travis County, since the state is not sending more doses to any hubs in Bastrop, Hays or Williamson County this week.

COVID variant

There’s been a lot of talk in recent weeks about a new coronavirus variant first discovered in the UK. Dr. John Carlo with the Texas COVID-19 Task Force says finding new variants of coronavirus is actually very common. 

“There are several variants that are already out there. This is just one of many, but this particular one, at least from initial reports that we’re seeing, is potentially more infectious,” Carlo says. 

But despite its more infectious nature, doctors don’t believe it to be any more deadly. The expectation is that current vaccines, combined with natural antibody defenses, should still provide ample protection. 

UT asks students to stay away

The University of Texas is issuing a call to students asking that they stay away from campus for the time being. A letter from officials says the area is dealing with too much strain on hospitals to risk students being on campus. So for now, the only classes being conducted on campus, will be for nursing and pharmacy. 

Roadway deaths in Austin

2020 was a deadly year for Austin, and not just in terms of the soaring violent crime rate. More people were killed on Austin roads last year than in any other year since 2015. This, according to the Austin Monitor, which reports a total of 94 roadway deaths despite significantly fewer people driving due to the pandemic. Some people say speed was a big factor there. 

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