Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Austin-Travis County Public Health Leaders: Skip the Horse Medicine and Get a Referral for Monoclonal Antibody Therapy

Austin Public Health discourages use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 

As misinformation continues to spread on the Internet about COVID-19, Austin Public Health (APH) is warning against individuals using medications not intended, prescribed or approved for COVID-19 treatment. 

The Food and Drug Administration warns (FDA) that taking large doses of the drug Ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19 and its variants can be dangerous and cause serious harm to humans. Ivermectin, commonly used to treat parasitic worms in horses and cattle. While Ivermectin is occasionally formulated and prescribed for human use, it is not an anti-viral drug approved by the FDA and is not effective in treating viruses like COVID-19. When prescribed for humans, Ivermectin is used to treat head lice, some parasitic worms and skin conditions. 

"If you have tested positive for COVID-19 and are at risk for severe illness, do not endanger yourself any further by taking an unapproved medication intended for livestock suffering from worms," said Dr.  Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. "With a recommendation from a health care provider and a call to 3-1-1, individuals can receive monoclonal antibody therapy, the same treatment that many top leaders around the world have received to aid in their recovery process. It is a free and a scientifically proven treatment that is readily available to the community."  

An expanded therapeutic infusion center in Austin is providing monoclonal antibody therapy to anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 and is at risk of severe illness. The infusion center, which has the capacity to treat up to 84 patients a day, seven days a week, provides an early treatment that reduces the need for care at area hospitals. During a surge, there is a rising concern of improper use of Ivermectin which may lead to further unnecessary increases in hospital visits. 

Anyone who has early symptoms of COVID-19 should call their healthcare provider immediately after receiving a positive diagnosis to receive more information about monoclonal antibody infusion. Treatment is free and requires a referral from a health care provider. Individuals who do not have insurance or a healthcare provider can contact Community Care, Peoples Community Clinic and Lonestar Circle of Care to see a provider for a referral to the infusion center. 

The infusion treatment center for monoclonal antibody therapy is a partnership among the State of Texas Department of Health and Human Services, the Texas Division of Emergency Management, Capital Regional Trauma Advisory Council, and Travis County with the support to Austin Public Health. To receive more information individuals can call 3-1-1 or 512-974-2000.  

For additional information on COVID-19 vaccinations, testing, and other services offered by APH visit https://www.austintexas.gov/covid19

Twenty Three People Move to Bridge Shelter from North Austin Encampment Today

Twenty three people camping at the underpass at Highway 183 and Oak Knoll Boulevard accepted the City of Austin's offer of temporary shelter today, the first step in their journey to stable housing and a better quality of life.  

The north Austin encampment marks the fourth and final location for Phase I of the Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link (HEAL) initiative.  Since June, 143 people experiencing homelessness in Austin have relocated to temporary shelter to begin the process of securing permanent housing.  

Individuals from the North Austin site moved to the Southbridge shelter in South Austin and the Northbridge shelter in North Austin.  Once settled, guests will be enrolled in a rapid rehousing program which provides them with temporary rental assistance and the support of a case manager as they work to secure permanent housing.  

"The HEAL Initiative opens an important door for people who have been living unsheltered for far too long," said Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey. "To move from an encampment to a secure, private room has an immediate and dramatic impact on their health and safety, and their ability to focus on their next steps." 

Austin City Council approved the HEAL initiative in February as a collaborative approach to reduce the number of unsheltered individuals by targeting specific encampment sites with the goal of eliminating the necessity of living unsheltered in Austin.  

For Fiscal Year2022, City Council budgeted $6 million to house another 200 individuals for Phase Two of the HEAL initiative.  The Homeless Strategy Division will be working with partners to identify the next several priority encampments based on health and safety.  The goal is to begin work on Phase Two HEAL sites this fall.    

"What we are learning from these first few months of work will strengthen our overall response and effectiveness going forward," Grey said.  

In addition to the Homeless Strategy Division, HEAL involves multiple City of Austin entities, including the Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST), Austin Resource Recovery, Parks and Recreation, and others. HEAL's community-based service provider partners include Family Eldercare, Integral Care, and Front Steps.  

Sept. 1st Begins National Preparedness Month

September is National Preparedness Month. The City of Austin Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) has committed to participate in National Preparedness Month to increase awareness throughout our community.

HSEM wants residents of Austin to make sure they and their family are prepared for a disaster. Emergencies happen at unexpected moments and it's important to take the time now to do some simple things that will help keep you safe when disaster strikes. 

Our region has witnessed the devastation that storms, flash floods, and wildfire can cause. This month is a time to take stock and ensure that everyone is ready. 

Each week on the City's social media channels, HSEM will share tips on the four key steps to emergency preparedness. The four steps are:

  • Sept. 5-11 - Make a Plan: Have a plan to communicate and meet during an emergency. Make sure all members of your family are aware of the plan and practice it. Consider what emergencies could happen where you live; what to do if you are separated and how will you let loved ones know you are safe. 

  • Sept. 12-18 - Build a Kit: Pack essential items in an easy-to-carry container including a gallon of water per person per day for everyone in your family for up to three days; non-perishable food; flashlight; personal hygiene items; copies of important documents; extra cash and any medical supplies.

  • Sept. 19-25 - Know your Neighbors: Emergency preparedness requires the whole community to participate. Knowing your neighbors is a simple step that can help when an emergency strike the community. When the whole community comes together to respond to and help recover from these emergencies - neighbor helping neighbor - we can often meet the needs of everyone.

  • Sept 26 – Oct. 2 - Stay Informed: Register with Warn Central Texas, the regional emergency notification system, and learn what disasters are common to your area. Make sure you monitor local news outlets during an emergency.

Warn Central Texas is a free service that sends emergency notifications by email, text, or phone call for your neighborhood. 

We will be announcing additional preparedness awareness programs throughout the month. In addition, different organizations and City departments will also be sharing important preparedness information that pertain to their operations.   

More information on how to be prepared for disasters can be found at AustinTexas.gov/HSEM or at Ready.gov.

Redistricting Commission return to in-person meetings following Governor's order

The Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (ICRC) reverts general meetings to in-person to comply with Texas Governor Greg Abbott's executive order. The order allows the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA) exemption for virtual meetings to expire on Sept. 1, 2021.

The next general ICRC meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, at the Permitting and Development Center (PDC), 6310 Wilhelmina Delco Dr., Austin, TX 78752. This meeting and all subsequent meetings will require an in-person quorum as well as in-person public testimony

"The ICRC has made quick progress to abide by the new order to continue our critical work," said Vice-Chair Luis Gonzalez. "We have reserved in-person venue space for all future general meetings starting on Sept. 1. Quorum requires that commissioners be physically present at these meetings, including both the chair and the vice-chair, while a few will still have the option to connect virtually."



With the conclusion of the first round of public forums on Friday, Aug. 27, 2021, the ICRC now shifts its focus to drawing preliminary maps using state census data.   

Mapping Specialist George Korbel will provide an update on the mapping process at the upcoming meeting. Korbel stated that the redistricting plan should be based on the 2020 census population and avoid any discrimination prohibited by the Constitution and laws. Because the city's population has changed and grown, district boundaries are likely to be reshaped.

"Based on what I see so far, I am hopeful that the Commissioners will find a way so that the modifications in the current districts will further the goals set down by the City Charter," said Korbel. 

Korbel will review all public testimony including verbal testimony collected at the 12 ICRC-hosted public forums, emails, maps, handwritten comments, phone messages, as well as individual and group input from commissioners before presenting a finalized map at the Sept. 15, 2021, ICRC meeting, where the commission will vote to adopt a map.


Public Forums

As part of the mapping process, the ICRC has scheduled public forums for viewing and discussing preliminary maps. The public is invited to attend and give feedback—verbal or written—at these meetings which will take place in each of the four-county precincts. Dates and locations are as follows:

  • Public Forum No. 1
    Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021: 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
    Gus Garcia Recreation Center
    1201 E. Runberg Lane
    Austin, TX 78753


  • Public Forum No. 2 
    Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021: 6-8 p.m.
    Mayfield Cottage
    3505 W. 35th St.,
    Austin, TX 78703


  • Public Forum No. 3 
    Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021: 1-3 p.m.
    George Morales Dove Springs Recreation Center
    5801 Ainez Dr.
    Austin, TX 78744


Additional Public Forums TBA

"The Governor's order has eliminated the option for audio testimony, requiring public testimony to be in-person," Gonzalez said. "To ensure the safety of the public, the ICRC has committed to follow recommended health guidelines for all in-person meetings, including requiring the use of face coverings, ensuring the availability of hand sanitizer, properly sanitizing surfaces including testimony microphone after each use, and maintaining proper social distance between all attendees."


Other Ways to Provide Input

The community is encouraged to submit feedback directly to the commission on SpeakUp Austin: https://www.speakupaustin.org/city-of-austin-redistricting. After registering on the site, the public can take the survey and even upload a map or instructions for redistricting. This information will be gathered through October 2021 and used to help draw the new city district boundaries.

Physical or Electronic Mail
Another way to participate is to contact ICRC commissioners or leave feedback please email: icrc.commissioners@austintexas.gov or write to: Housing and Planning Department, Attn: ICRC, P.O. Box 1088, Austin, Texas 78767.
For the latest information, including meeting modifications due to COVID-19, visit the ICRC on SpeakUp Austin or on Facebook.
About the ICRC
Commissioners are: Joshua Blank (District 8), Sara Inés Calderón (D2), Erin Dempsey (D10), Camellia Falcon (D7), Luis Gonzalez (D10, Vice-Chair), Errol Hardin (D1), Shaina Kambo (D9), Prabhu Kannan (D5), Dr. Sterling Lands (D4), Hoang Le (D3), Brigham Morris (D3), Christina Puentes (D7, Chair), Eugene Schneider (D6) and Selina Yee (D1).
Public input forums are recorded and made available after the meetings here: http://www.austintexas.gov/page/watch-atxn-live.
Past meetings and agendas can be viewed on the commission's website at www.austintexas.gov/cityclerk/boards_commissions/meetings/116_1.htm

Monday, August 30, 2021

Downtown Austin Community Court Reopens in One Texas Center

Downtown Austin Community Court (DACC) operations reopens today in One Texas Center (OTC), 505 Barton Springs Road, Austin, TX 78704. 

DACC's mission is to administer justice equitably and compassionately to foster trust and accountability, and to utilize a client-centered and housing-focused intensive case management model to help individuals experiencing homelessness achieve long-term stability. DACC also provides voluntary walk-in services connecting individuals to basic needs such as referrals to social services, enrolling in public benefits, obtaining identification documents, and accessing more community-based resources.

"We are grateful for the opportunity to continue providing essential services to the community," said Peter Valdez, Director of Downtown Austin Community Court. 

OTC is a City-owned building located in the downtown area along multiple bus routes.  It houses six City departments and as many as 1,000 employees. After reviewing the limited available City-owned spaces, staff determined that OTC is best suited to accommodate DACC's operational needs with minimal renovations and cost.  

OTC will serve as an interim location for approximately two years while DACC's long-term location is identified and prepared. The long-term location for DACC is expected to be announced this fall.

For more information, visit https://www.austintexas.gov/department/community-court.

EPA Recognizes Austin Water for Efforts to Restore Ecosystems

Bioswales used to manage stormwater runoff and create beneficial green infrastructure

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognized Austin Water in this year's Outstanding Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development Competition. Austin Water's Wildlands Conservation Division received First Place in the People's Choice Category for a project that manages stormwater runoff in sensitive habitat areas in its Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. This work connects forest fragments, restores diverse native flora and fauna, and recharges karst features on critical conservation lands.

"We are deeply honored to be recognized for our work to preserve and protect Austin's natural resources," said Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros. "Austin Water's commitment to sustainability and resilience is embedded in our core values. We are proud to provide an array of environmental services, including this project, that will enhance habitat for species such as the Black-capped Vireo.

The closed-canopy woodlands of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve provide endangered species habitat in our rapidly developing region by permanently protecting forests and caves in Travis County. Austin Water's Wildlands Conservation Division designed a series of shallow troughs and hillside terraces, known as bioswales, to collect and control rainwater high in the landscape, while providing important rehydration benefits for lands downhill. Wildlands staff and community volunteers installed these bioswales with the help of a contractor and added compost for planting native seeds, seedlings, and saplings. Now complete, the bioswales increase rainwater infiltration and improve soil biology, reduce potential flooding, and slow runoff and erosion. In addition, the trees and shrubs planted in these areas provide enhanced carbon sequestration to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

"This pilot project has been a huge success, and we are currently installing a similar project on another site with a history of land clearing and erosion," said Jim O'Donnell, a biologist with Austin Water's Wildlands Conservation Division. "We are also partnering with organizations at the federal, state, and local level to share what we've learned and how they might leverage our experience on their own green infrastructure projects."

The EPA defines green infrastructure as a cost-effective, resilient approach to managing wet weather impacts while providing community benefits. Green infrastructure uses vegetation, soils, and other elements to restore some of the natural processes required to manage water and create healthier environments.

For more information about Austin Water's commitment to the environment and our community through this green infrastructure project, see this video about the creation of the bioswales: https://bit.ly/bcpBioswale.

Permitting for Special Events Updated with Enhanced Mitigation Strategies

Beginning Monday, Aug. 30, the Austin Center for Events (ACE) will require an enhanced version of the Health and Safety Form to be completed as part of the special event application process. This form presents organizers with several COVID-19 mitigation efforts to consider and allows for applicants to provide information on how they intend to implement them.  

While the current permitting process has been in effect since April of 2021, in collaboration with Austin Public Health (APH), additional identified measures are now included on the form to increase public safety as hospital resources have become strained during the latest COVID-19 surge. 

Enhanced mitigation criteria for permitting include: 

  • Screening at event entrances by requiring in-person attendees to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to the event.  

  • Developing strategies for maintaining at least 6 feet of social distancing. 

  • Including "mask zones" in outdoor event areas where social distancing is not possible. (Note: Masks are required at all times at any City of Austin or Travis County facility.)

For indoor events with 1,000+ attendees, and outdoor events with 2,500+, the submitted Health and Safety Form must be approved by APH. An APH staff member will review the forms and either approve plans or work with the organizer on strengthening mitigation efforts to hold a safe event for attendees and the community. 

"It goes without saying that we all recognize what incredibly challenging times we are in these days. Like many in our community, we are eager to plan and prepare for events," said Assistant Director of the Development Services Department Beth Culver. "The challenge is that we are in an ever-evolving situation. The Austin Center for Events and APH teams are committed to working with event organizers to provide as much information as available to help inform event planning efforts to keep our community safe." 

ACE and APH will continue to monitor the local situation regarding COVID-19 and consider various factors in the permit decision making process, including:   

  • The applicant's ability to provide sufficient safety, health, or portable sanitation equipment, services, or facilities that are reasonably necessary to ensure the event will be conducted with due regard for safety; and  

  • Whether or not the resources required to ensure public safety within the special event venue or impact area will prevent the police, fire, or emergency medical services departments from providing reasonable protections to the remainder of the City. 

The permit changes only apply to events that are required to obtain a Special Event Permit and do not cover activities at Q2 Stadium, Circuit of the Americas, and Moody Amphitheatre at Waterloo Greenway as these facilities do not fall under the Special Events Ordinance. Additionally, venues throughout town holding events may not require special events permits through ACE due to annual sound permits that are already in place with those private businesses. 

Event Guidance and COVID-19 Resources 

Information on the ACE Special Events Update website regarding the enhanced mitigation criteria for the COVID-19 Health & Safety Form, Event Reopening Guide and FAQs will be updated no later than Monday, Aug. 30. 

COVID-19 health and safety recommendations for indoor venues, musicians and artists can also be found in the Event Reopening Guide, and general business guidance is available at www.atxrecovers.com and www.atxmusic.org.  

For COVID-19 updates, testing, and vaccination information visit www.AustinTexas.gov/COVID19

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Austin Public Health reports positive West Nile Virus mosquito pools in Travis County

Aug 26, 2021 01:07 pm

[Español abajo]

Austin, Texas – Through routine monitoring for mosquito-borne diseases, including the West Nile Virus, Austin Public Health (APH) has identified four positive mosquito pools for West Nile Virus in the 78744 zip code within the last two weeks.  

Although no human cases of West Nile Virus have been identified at this time, the positive mosquito pools indicate the virus is in our community. In 2020, there were 36 positive mosquito pools in Travis County and 1,389 positive pools across the state of Texas, and four confirmed West Nile virus cases. 

"We use routine monitoring to assist us in alerting the public about the potential spread of the virus through mosquito bites," said APH Interim Assistant Director of Environmental Vector Control Marcel Elizondo. "By eliminating breeding opportunities and protecting ourselves from mosquito bites, we keep ourselves, our families, and communities safe."  

West Nile Virus is the most common mosquito-borne disease in the United States. It is typically spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. According to the Center for Disease Control, West Nile Virus is not spread through coughing, sneezing, or touching other people or live animals.    

Only about 20 percent of people infected with West Nile Virus develop symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Of those infected, few develop further serious illnesses affecting the central nervous system. People over 60 years of age are at greater risk of developing serious disease, as are those with medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease. Organ transplant recipients are also at risk for more severe forms of disease.  

Know the dangers and fight the bite with the "Four D's":   

  • Drain standing water: Mosquitoes breed in standing water and need as little as one teaspoon. Emptying water that accumulates in toys, tires, trash cans, buckets, clogged rain gutters, and plant pots will deny mosquitoes a place to lay their eggs and reproduce. 

  • Dawn to Dusk: Although different species of mosquitoes are active at different times of day, the Culex mosquito that spreads West Nile Virus is most active between dusk and dawn. 

  • Dress: Wear pants and long sleeves when you are outside. Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing; mosquito repellent clothing is also available. 

  • DEET: Apply insect repellant: Use an EPA-registered repellent such as those containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol or 2-undecanone. Apply on both exposed skin and clothing.  

Mosquitoes are present in Central Texas year-round, but the population is largest and most active from May through November. During this period, the APH Environmental Vector Control Unit monitors the mosquito population.  

For more information on West Nile Virus, visit www.AustinTexas.gov/WestNile. For additional information about APH Environmental Vector Control and mosquito monitoring programs, visit https://austintexas.gov/department/environmental-vector-control.  


Salud Pública de Austin informa que hay zonas de mosquitos positivas para el Virus del Nilo Occidental en el Condado de Travis  

Austin, Texas - A través de la vigilancia rutinaria de las enfermedades transmitidas por los mosquitos, incluyendo el Virus del Nilo Occidental, Salud Pública de Austin (APH por sus siglas en inglés) ha identificado cuatro zonas positivas de mosquitos para el Virus del Nilo Occidental, en el código postal 78744, en las últimas dos semanas.   

Aunque no se han identificado casos humanos del Virus del Nilo Occidental en este momento, las zonas positivas de mosquitos indican que el virus está en nuestra comunidad. En 2020, hubo 36 zonas positivas de mosquitos en el condado de Travis y 1,389 zonas positivas en todo el estado de Texas, así como cuatro casos confirmados del virus del Nilo Occidental.  

"Utilizamos el monitoreo rutinario para ayudarnos a alertar al público sobre la posible propagación del virus a través de piquetes de mosquitos", dijo el Asistente Director Interino de Control de Vectores Ambientales de APH, Marcel Elizondo. "Al eliminar las oportunidades de reproducción y protegernos de las picaduras de mosquitos, nos mantenemos a salvo nosotros mismos, nuestras familias y las comunidades".   

El Virus del Nilo Occidental es la enfermedad que más comúnmente transmiten los mosquitos en los Estados Unidos. Normalmente se transmite a las personas por la picadura de un mosquito infectado. Según el Centro de Control de Enfermedades, el virus del Nilo Occidental no produce contagio al toser, estornudar o tocar a otras personas o animales vivos.     

Sólo un 20% de las personas infectadas por el Virus del Nilo Occidental desarrollan síntomas como dolor de cabeza, dolores corporales, dolores articulares, vómitos, diarrea o sarpullido. De los infectados, son pocos los que desarrollan otras enfermedades graves que afectan al sistema nervioso central. Las personas mayores de 60 años corren un mayor riesgo de desarrollar una enfermedad grave, al igual que quienes padecen enfermedades como cáncer, diabetes, hipertensión o enfermedades renales. Los receptores de trasplantes de órganos también corren el riesgo de padecer formas más graves de la enfermedad.   

Conozca los peligros y combata la picadura con los siguientes consejos:    

  • Drena el agua estancada: Los mosquitos se reproducen en el agua estancada y necesitan tan sólo una cucharadita, por tanto vacía el agua que se acumula en juguetes, neumáticos, cubos de basura, canalones obstruidos y macetas, pues impedirá que los mosquitos tengan un lugar donde poner sus huevos y reproducirse.  

  • Del amanecer al atardecer: Aunque las diferentes especies de mosquitos son activas en diferentes momentos del día, el mosquito Culex, que transmite el virus del Nilo Occidental, es más activo entre el atardecer y el amanecer.  

  • Vestimenta: Use pantalones y mangas largas cuando esté al aire libre. Porte ropa de color claro y suelta; también existe ropa repelente de mosquitos.  

  • DEET: Aplique un repelente de insectos: Utilice un repelente registrado por la EPA, como los que contienen DEET, picaridina, IR3535, aceite de eucalipto de limón, para-mentano-diol o 2-undecanona. Aplíquelo tanto en la piel expuesta como en la ropa.   

Los mosquitos están presentes todo el año en el centro de Texas, pero la población es mayor y más activa de mayo a noviembre. Durante este período, la Unidad de Control de Vectores Ambientales de la APH vigila la población de mosquitos.   

Para obtener más información sobre el virus del Nilo Occidental, visite www.AustinTexas.gov/WestNile. Para obtener información adicional sobre el Control de Vectores Ambientales de la APH y los programas de monitoreo de mosquitos, visite https://austintexas.gov/department/environmental-vector-control.   

Austin City Council Directs City Staff to Develop a COVID-19 Booster Shot Strategy

Austin City Council Directs City Staff to Develop a COVID-19 Booster Shot Strategy that Meets the Needs of the Community
Aug 26, 2021 03:04 pm

On Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021 Austin City Council unanimously approved a resolution (Item 110) that calls on City staff to develop a comprehensive COVID-19 booster shot strategy that is both equitable and efficient. President Biden's booster shot rollout, which was announced on Aug. 18, is scheduled to begin the week of Sept. 20. 
"As recommended booster shots quickly approach, this policy ensures we have a targeted strategy in place that takes into account all of the lessons learned from the initial vaccine rollout," said Austin City Council Member Vanessa Fuentes. "This needs to go beyond fixing the technical issues. We need a plan that is readily available to Austinites, laying out how we're going to get booster shots in arms while still addressing low vaccination rates, especially in our communities of color."
"This is a meaner, more aggressive form of the virus than we faced last summer," said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. "It will require us to improve the distribution of these vaccine boosters, while also continuing to encourage and incentivize the initial vaccine within at-risk communities."
The resolution calls for a booster shot strategy that:

  • Is equitable;
  • Builds on lessons learned;
  • Accounts for the need to address ongoing vaccine access issues affecting communities most impacted by COVID-19;
  • Builds on the City's recent commitment to increase its Community Health Worker staffing and improve health education; and
  • Calls for a robust community engagement and communication strategy.

This resolution also tasks staff with reporting any outstanding needs of any City department taking a role in the implementation of the booster shot process as well as calls for a memorandum due back Sept. 21 and a work session presentation on Sept. 28.
"Every day, hundreds more Austinites are taking control of their health and choosing to get the vaccine, and together we can beat this pandemic," said Austin City Council Member Greg Casar. "Let's make sure our eligible friends and neighbors get their booster shot as soon as possible."  
"The science is clear: vaccines are our greatest defense against this virus," said Austin City Council Member Alison Alter. "Booster shots are not new; most of us have received boosters for things like tetanus, whooping cough, and hepatitis. COVID boosters will better protect our community, and we must have a plan to ensure we are dispersing vaccines efficiently and equitably."  
"Vaccination is how we stop the spread and slow down the creation of new variants – and we must continue to ensure everyone has access," said Austin City Council Member Ann Kitchen. "Booster shots will help extend protections for those already vaccinated and be there when the newly vaccinated need their "boost".  It's how we are going to get to the other side of this pandemic. Get vaccinated!"
Third doses are currently recommended eight months after the initial course of the two-dose vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer. However, those with moderately to severely compromised immune systems are eligible now. Booster shots for single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines are still pending. For more information, visit austintexas.gov/covid19

Monday, August 23, 2021

Virtual Redistricting Forum + Preliminary Maps || ICRC

 AUSTIN, TX (Aug. 23, 2021) – The public has one more opportunity to give input before the preliminary map for the ten city council district boundaries is drawn by the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (ICRC).


While the ICRC has met its City of Austin charter requirements of holding ten public forums, the commissioners added two more public forums via virtual format due to the complications created with COVID. The final virtual forum is Friday, Aug. 27 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.


"When the ICRC began planning for the public forum portion of the redistricting process back in June, the COVID-19 pandemic was a pressing issue to consider. Some residents prefer an in-person option for their public testimony, others are still adhering to social distancing guidelines," said ICRC Vice Chair Luis Gonzalez. "Additional virtual forum options were the obvious choice to ensure the ICRC was maintaining a balance between fair access to the process and our concern for public health. The two additional options gave the commissioners more opportunities to receive direct input from Austin residents as we begin our redrawing. Given the current severity of the pandemic and the benefit of hearing more voices, we feel we took the correct approach."


The public is invited to attend the last public input meeting, before the preliminary map is drawn, at this location:


Friday's, (Aug. 27) forum from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., can be accessed by registering with this link: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_FvRbBtg0QWirQxYWmBuTzA. After registering, a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar will be sent.


As the ICRC wraps up its first round of public forums, their mapping specialist George Korbel has been busy looking at numbers since the U.S. Census data published their count on Aug. 12, 2021.


George Korbel, who has been drawing redistricting maps for over 50 years, has been studying the different software platforms used by different entities – cities, school districts, counties. These "different software platforms will interpret the data a bit differently" and the ICRC wants to analyze all software platforms used before drawing its own maps.


The Texas Demography Center, the state entity that processes Census data for use in redistricting, will have redistricting data available the first week of September and the ICRC will draw up its own maps after that time.


The City of Austin's demographer released population numbers for the city that showed a 21 percent growth in population. According to the U.S. Census, Austin has a population of 961,855. With the addition of 171,465 people, the ideal size for each one of the ten city council districts is 96,186.


The population growth extended across demographic sectors, with the largest growth among non-Hispanic White residents, expanding by 67,723 to 452,994 persons, followed by Asian American residents growing by 36,694 to 85,853 persons, Hispanic residents growing by 34,741 to 312,448 persons, and African American residents growing by 5,242 to 66,002 persons, according to the U.S. Census data.


Korbel, who has attended all but one ICRC public forum, plans to use the public's input in his map making process.


"They're giving suggestions as to what changes should be made, and when I get access to the data, we will determine what the population of each one of the current city districts will be," Korbel said. "Based on that information, we'll start making changes to the districts, but I really can't tell until I get a hold of the data."


Korbel has been involved in redistricting over 50 jurisdictions such as cities, counties and school districts. Most recently, they redistricted education institutional boundaries in Houston and for Lone Star College, one of the largest community college districts in the nation.


He was instrumental in challenging the fairness of at-large elections in Texas in the '70s. He and the ICRC's legal counsel David Richards were part of the team that litigated the landmark case known as White v. Regester.


The case, which made it all the way to the Supreme Court in 1973 and won, found the urban voting district in Dallas and Bexar counties reduced Latino representation in the Texas House of Representatives. The case also expanded into other counties with large urban districts in the state including, Tarrant, Nueces, McLennan, Travis, Galveston, Jefferson, Lubbock and El Paso.


"(The case) set down the proof pattern for litigation in almost literally all redistricting that dealt with at-large elections," Korbel said.


Gonzalez said the ICRC is hard at work trying to find in-person venues in September to host the four public forums for the public to view and comment on the preliminary map when it is drawn.


To submit feedback directly to the commission about redistricting visit SpeakUp Austin! at https://www.speakupaustin.org/city-of-austin-redistricting. Scroll down to the "Event Feedback" tab and click on "Your Suggestions for Redistricting." After registering on the site, the public can take the survey and even upload a map or instructions for redistricting. This information will be gathered through October 2021 and used to help draw the new city district boundaries.


Another way to participate is to contact ICRC commissioners or leave feedback please email: icrc.commissioners@austintexas.gov or write to: Housing and Planning Department, Attn: ICRC, P.O. Box 1088, Austin, Texas 78767.


Due to rapid changes in scheduling due to COVID restrictions, for the most up-to-date events information from the ICRC please refer to events pages:







Public input forums are recorded and made available after the meetings here: http://www.austintexas.gov/page/watch-atxn-live.


Past meetings and agendas can be viewed on the commission's website at www.austintexas.gov/cityclerk/boards_commissions/meetings/116_1.htm


Interpretation and/or translation services will be available free of charge by advance request in Spanish, Chinese or Vietnamese. Call 311 or email matthew.dugan@austintexas.gov to request these services 48 hours in advance of a forum.


To find City Council Districts in Austin visit this link and type in an address: https://www.austintexas.gov/GIS/CouncilDistrictMap/



ICRC Information

Commissioners are: Joshua Blank (District 8), Sara Inés Calderón (D2), Erin Dempsey (D10), Camellia Falcon (D7), Luis Gonzalez (D10, Vice-Chair), Errol Hardin (D1), Shaina Kambo (D9), Prabhu Kannan (D5), Dr. Sterling Lands (D4), Hoang Le (D3), Brigham Morris (D3), Christina Puentes (D7, Chair), Eugene Schneider (D6) and Selina Yee (D1).


The ICRC board will hold its weekly commission meeting via videoconferencing 6 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021. 


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Thursday, August 19, 2021

Austin Public Health Launches Vaccination Incentive Pilot Program

Gift Card Program Only Available While Supplies Last 

[Español abajo]

Austin, Texas – Starting Aug. 19, Austin Public Health (APH) will offer a $50 H-E-B gift card to individuals who receive their first or second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at eligible APH vaccination locations. The incentive pilot program is limited to 2,000 gift cards total and is available until all gift cards are issued. 

The pilot program is part of the City of Austin's strategy to ensure the health and safety of our community and its residents by providing safe, effective, and long-lasting protection against life-threatening diseases. When used in conjunction with masking, vaccines provide the best protection against a constantly changing COVID-19 virus.    

Supplies are limited and there are eligibility restrictions. To be eligible, a person must: 

  • Receive their first or second dose at an eligible APH location 

  • Complete an exit survey 

  • If under 18, individual must be accompanied by parent or guardian 

  • Not be a City of Austin employee or vendor 

  • Once all gift cards are issued, the pilot program will end.

While we thank those who have done their part to get the vaccine to protect themselves and the community, the gift cards under the pilot program are not retroactive for those who previously received vaccinations. Only APH locations will have these incentives, excluding the Anna Lark Center. Additionally, individuals who are classified as immunocompromised and go to an APH location to receive their third dose are not eligible. People receiving the gift cards will be asked to sign a receipt certifying they meet the eligibility criteria. 

"We hope that this incentive may help those who are on the fence get vaccinated and contribute to our overall herd immunity," said Interim APH Director Adrienne Sturrup. "However, the ultimate incentive should be the reduction of you and your families' risk of hospitalization or death."

Vaccination Resources 

It is easier than ever before to get a vaccine or test. COVID-19 vaccinations are free and require neither identification nor insurance. In many cases, residents can walk up without an appointment.  

Residents can locate providers in their area using Vaccines.gov or texting their zip code to 438829 (822862 in Spanish) to find a nearby clinic. Residents can also call 3-1-1 (512-974-2000) for more information regarding COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. Additionally, Capital Metro is providing free transportation to vaccination sites through their VaccineAccess program

For additional information on COVID-19 and vaccinations visit https://www.austintexas.gov/covid19 


Salud Pública de Austin lanza programa piloto de incentivos de vacunación 

El programa de tarjetas de regalo solo estará disponible hasta agotarse la existencia 

Austin, Texas – A partir del 19 de agosto, Salud Pública de Austin (APH, por sus siglas en inglés) ofrecerá una tarjeta de regalo de H-E-B de $50 a las personas que reciban la primera o segunda dosis de la vacuna contra el COVID-19 en los centros de vacunación de APH que califiquen. El programa piloto de incentivo se limita a 2,000 tarjetas de regalo en total, y estará disponible hasta que se agoten las existencias de tarjetas de regalo.

El programa piloto forma parte de la estrategia de la Ciudad de Austin para garantizar la salud y seguridad de nuestra comunidad y sus residentes ofreciendo protección segura, eficaz y duradera en contra de enfermedades que ponen en peligro la vida. Cuando se usan junto con las mascarillas, las vacunas proveen la mejor protección contra el siempre cambiante virus de COVID-19.    

Los suministros son limitados y aplican ciertos requisitos. Para calificar, una persona debe: 

  • Recibir la primera o segunda dosis en un centro de APH que califique 
  • Completar una encuesta de salida 
  • Si es menor de 18 años, la persona debe estar acompañada de su padre, madre o tutor 
  • La persona no puede ser empleado o proveedor de la Ciudad de Austin 
  • Una vez se emitan todas las tarjetas de regalo, se terminará el programa piloto. 

Si bien agradecemos a aquellos que han cumplido con su parte y se han vacunado para protegerse a sí mismos y a la comunidad, las tarjetas de regalo del programa piloto no son retroactivas para las que personas que ya se vacunaron. Solo los centros de APH contarán con los incentivos, excluyendo el Centro Anna Lark. Por otra parte, las personas con sistemas inmunes comprometidos que reciban la TERCERA dosis y asistan a un centro de APH para recibirla tampoco califican. Se les pedirá a las personas que reciban una tarjeta de regalo que firmen un recibo que certifique que cumplieron con los requisitos. 

"Esperamos que este incentivo ayude a convencer a aquellos individuos que aún estén indecisos para que decidan vacunarse y contribuyan hacia la inmunidad colectiva en general," comentó Adrienne Sturrup, Directora del Departamento de Salud Pública de Austin. "Sin embargo, el incentivo más importante debería de ser la reducción del riesgo de hospitalización o muerte para usted y su familia."

Información sobre las vacunas 

Ahora es mucho más fácil que nunca vacunarse o hacerse una prueba. Las vacunas contra el COVID-19 son gratis y no requieren identificación ni seguro. En muchos casos, los residentes pueden asistir sin cita previa.  

Los residentes pueden buscar proveedores en su área en Vaccines.gov o enviar por texto su código postal al 822862 (438829 en inglés) para encontrar una clínica cercana. Los residentes también pueden llamar al 3-1-1 (512-974-2000) para obtener más información sobre las pruebas y vacunas contra el COVID-19. Además, Capital Metro está ofreciendo transporte gratis a los centros de vacunación a través de su programa VaccineAccess

Para información adicional sobre el COVID-19 y las vacunas, visite https://www.austintexas.gov/covid19