Austin’s Top News – January 20, 2021

Austin's Top News from News Radio KLBJ

Inauguration Day

The Austin Police Department is on tactical alert as Inauguration Day has arrived. APD along with area law enforcement, says they’re not aware of any threat to the Austin area but are being cautious.

“We really want to see what’s going to happen over the next few days and be prepared for that.” APD Assistant Chief Joe Chacon says that means every officer is on call, “ready to respond at a moment’s notice, with all the gear that they would need to go into any type of a mobile field force, a type of scenario where crowd control may be necessary.”

As Austin Police patrol the city for any unrest on Inauguration Day, some officers are also in the nation’s capital for the big event. Roughly 50 cops were tapped to work security today alongside other departments and the National Guard. Austin police officers have taken part in several recent inauguration ceremonies in Washington.

COVID-19 update

Now Travis County’s metrics are experiencing a bit of an oscillation at the moment. Hospitalizations and ICU bed use have both gone back up over the past day. But this week, officials have said the rolling seven day averages are showing signs of living leveling off. Right now, 619 people hospitalized, 183 in the ICU. Of the overall 62,302 confirmed cases, 5,986 are currently active and 55,712 are recoveries.

So some encouraging signs are beginning to emerge in Austin’s COVID numbers. Mayor Steve Adler says the positivity rate for testing has fallen from almost 17% to 12.8%. And that’s with more than 20,000 people getting tested last week. 

“That’s the first number that we would see going down if, in fact, behavior changes were working in our city in such a way as to change the trajectory that we’re on,” says Adler.

But he says there is still a long way to go to reach the goal of under 5% positivity for all testing.

Vaccinations

The Lake Travis School District is getting some of its teachers and staff members vaccinated. Superintendent Paul Norton tells KXAN about 200 of them have now gotten that first shot.

“In a year that’s been very stressful, today has been a very positive light in that time frame for the staff to get the first round of shots,” says Norton.

Norton says the district was able to secure doses of the Moderna vaccine last week through one of its medical partners, and he is hopeful this will give employees and peace of mind about coming to campus to work. 

Amid the heavy criticism he’s faced from cities over the vaccine rollout, Governor Greg Abbott is touting what he feels has been a fairly successful effort so far. He says 78% of all doses allocated to Texas by the federal government have already been administered. 

“Percentage wise, Texas has administered 81% of first doses, 67% of second doses,” says Abbott.

The state has been averaging about 71,000 doses per day, and Abbott says hundreds of thousands more will arrive next week.

Austin Travis County and the City of Austin leaders are laying out what their goals are for the public vaccination process. City Manager Spencer Cronk says the vaccination level of the city needs to hit a certain point before herd immunity can really happen. 

“As you know, we have 1.3 million people in Travis County alone, and vaccine providers would need to vaccinate 70% of the population with two doses of the vaccine to achieve our herd immunity,” says Cronk.

Texas Health and Human Services Department reports in Travis County, more than 8,600 people have been fully vaccinated. 

Hays prom cancelled 

With COVID-19 still a big issue for schools, the Hays district has decided to cancel the senior prom this year. Officials say it wouldn’t be possible for kids to remain socially distanced at a dance, so it just cannot happen. 

UT commencement in May

University of Texas is planning for an in-person commencement ceremony in May, but that could change depending on recommendations from local health officials. The university says the ceremony is being planned for May 22 at the football stadium, and seating will be limited.

No sit/no lie ordinances

Homeless advocates are rallying against Save Austin Now’s effort to reinstate the Austin “no sit/no lie” and homeless camping ordinances. Chris Harris, with a group Homes Not Handcuff, says going this is going back to criminalizing the homeless.

“Because what it does is it saddles people experiencing homelessness with tickets, which often become warrants which often become arrests. And all of these things actually hurt people when they try to go and get housing, then they apply for an apartment, they apply for jobs.”

If the city validates the signatures on Save Austin Now’s petition it will go on the May ballot for voters to decide. 

This news and more on News Radio KLBJ:

https://omny.fm/shows/klbjam-flash-briefing-1/am-newscast-1-20-21

 

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