Austin’s Top News – January 14, 2021

Austin's Top News from News Radio KLBJ

Adler asks Biden for more vaccines

Austin Mayor Steve Adler is among the mayors from across the nation that have signed a letter to Joe Biden pleading for him to send COVID vaccines directly to cities. He says doses continue to have to be rationed locally, and a number of people who are qualified for vaccines can’t get one because Austin Public Health only got 12,000 doses from the state this week. 

“Austin public health, as you might expect now, started a very strict policy that you don’t get vaccinated unless you have gone on to register and have a scheduled appointment,” says Adler.

The letter from that group of mayors also asked that Biden send cities more money to help them out with distribution.

COVID vaccine portal

Austin’s COVID vaccine portal that was launched just yesterday has been getting a lot of attention. Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden says the site was flooded with people trying to sign up almost immediately. 

“We’ve had over 20,000 individuals that have signed up with accounts,” says Hayden.

But with only 12,000 doses available, that means at least 8,000 people who have signed up so far will have to keep waiting. So many people did sign up at once that the site actually crashed temporarily. 

Local health officials say they are concerned that not enough people will be taking the COVID vaccine when it becomes available to them. Travis County’s Alternate Health Authority Dr. Jason Pickett, says herd immunity is the goal, and he doesn’t think that will happen without as many people as possible taking the vaccine, he points to smallpox as an example. 

“We never achieved herd immunity to that disease until there was widespread vaccinations,” Pickett says. 

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about vaccines that the health community is trying to combat. 

Cap Metro provides rides to vaccinations

Capital Metro says it’s doing its part to help people get vaccinated. The Austin area transit agency is giving residents with COVID-19 vaccination appointments free rides from curb to curb. Officials say throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve remained committed to providing essential mobility services to those who need it and believe this is just another part of the job. 

After at least February 1, Capital Metro will not be operating at shuttle service at the University of Texas. Cap Metro says the reason for that is because the school has shifted most undergraduate hybrid courses to a 100% online setting. However, students with a valid UT ID can still ride or use Capital Metro Services for free.

COVID-19 update

The number of COVID hospital patients has eclipsed 600. Travis County Austin Public Health says there are 607 in need of a hospital bed today, 185 of whom are in the ICU. 5,809 cases are active. About 58,300 cases have been found since last year, resulting in almost 52,000 recoveries. 


Coronavirus has been rough on first responders, including the Austin Police Department, where many employees have been dealing with it. This week the virus has claimed the life of a veteran civilian instructor of the training academy. APD says Joe Alvarado died on Tuesday due to complications with the virus. He was 76 years old. 

Ken Shine Prize

UT Dell Medical School will award infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci with the Ken Shine Prize in Health leadership today. It’s given each year to people deemed to have helped make significant advances in health. Fauci will be speaking this morning with officials from the school. 

Senate republican resolution

Republicans in the Texas Senate have made a significant rule change to ensure that Democrats can’t block legislation. It used to take the approval of 19 of the 31 members of the Texas Senate for any bill to make the floor for debate. Now that the Republicans are down to 18 members, they’ve lowered the threshold 18. 

“It will not guarantee every Republican bill passes, but it will make it easier, make it harder to block legislation that has strong support,” State Senator Bryan Hughes authored the resolution Senate Democrats all voted against.

“And it just seems to me that we’re watering down what has been a very deliberative body by making this change,” says State Senator José Menéndez.

Ballot harvesting in SA

A San Antonio woman’s been accused of ballot harvesting in the 2020 election. Attorney General Ken Paxton has charged Raquel Rodriguez with election fraud, illegal voting, unlawfully assisting people voting by mail and unlawfully possessing an official ballot. Each charge is a felony under Texas election code. 

“We are fiercely committed to ensuring the voting process is secure and fair throughout the state, and our office is prepared to assist any Texas county in combating this un American form of fraud,” says Paxton spokesman Alejandro Garcia.

If convicted, Rodriguez could face up to 20 years in prison. 

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