Subject: Staying Safe over Memorial Day Weekend

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Dear Neighbors,

This Memorial Day Weekend, we pause to honor the sacrifices made by our veterans. Among other things, they model commitment to the common good for all citizens, even at the cost of one’s personal preferences. I am inspired by them in this difficult time. Thank you to those who serve and have served in the armed forces, and their families, for modeling the leadership we need in our communities.

Many of us may have Memorial Day Weekend customs or traditions that will look different this year. Our public health experts continue to encourage precautions to reduce transmission of the coronavirus, and our state and local leaders have issued orders stating residents must minimize contact with individuals or groups outside of their respective households. I ask you to follow these guidelines and think of others as you commemorate Memorial Day weekend.

As a strong parks advocate, I know that our parks, green spaces and waterways provide much needed respite to Austinites seeking to enjoy themselves while social distancing. Though outdoor activity is typically a safer form of recreation, I ask you to remember that crowds gathering in popular open spaces can lead to increased risk of transmission if we are not careful.

To help reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread, the City’s Parks and Recreation Department began requiring a vehicle day pass for Emma Long, Walter E. Long and Commons Ford Metropolitan Parks. Additionally, staff will be monitoring capacity at Emma Long Metropolitan Park, Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park, and Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park over the holiday weekend. Once capacity is reached, no additional walk-ins/cyclists will be allowed into the parks, but day pass reservations will still be honored. You can reserve a day pass at

Before heading out this weekend, check online to see if your destination has any restrictions or additional guidelines for visitation. If you’re planning to be out on Lake Austin this weekend, please read the section below about the City’s new No Wake Zones. In this newsletter, you’ll also find a Council recap from this week’s action, information about Austin Public Health’s COVID-19 risk-based stages and guidelines, details on how to obtain help paying utility bills, a new way to support local businesses and local students, and more.

Please be safe and respectful of one another, and enjoy your weekend!

Take Care,

Alison Alter
Council Member, District 10 
Table of Contents
  • Council Recap
  • New Risk-Based Guidelines and Public Health Stages
  • Updated COVID-19 Dashboard
  • Expanded COVID-19 Testing
  • ICYMI: Creation of the Austin Civilian Conservation Corps
  • City of Austin Utility Relief Measures
  • Non-COA Utilities Relief Measures
  • No Wake Zones
  • Austin Fun + Learning Project
  • National EMS Week: Thank You Austin EMS
  • National Public Works Week: Thank You Austin Public Works
  • CityView Update
  • Watch: CapMetro Community Meeting
  • District 10 Opening: Environmental Commission
Council Recap

Work Session Briefings

This week’s Council briefings included updates on the City’s coronavirus response, new data from our health partners at Central Health and CommUnity Care, an overview of the 2020 homelessness Point in Time count, and a framework for COVID-19 assistance spending and the projections for the City’s 2021 budget. We continue to focus on understanding how COVID-19 impacts our most vulnerable populations so we can identify effective policy actions. 

COVID-19 Update: 

Austin/Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott updated Council on the latest local data related to COVID-19, as well as how Austin’s case rates compare to other major cities in Texas. You can find his presentation linked here. We continue to see worrisome signs of high rates of cases and hospitalizations among our African American and especially our Hispanic neighbors.
Dr. Escott also presented new data on case clusters, new construction site testing rates, and Travis County jail protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19. He also announced a new seroprevalence study with the University of Texas to better understand infection rates, including among asymptomatic people.

CommUnity Care and Central Health: 

Council was briefed by CommUnity Care and Central Health on their experiences with and response to COVID-19. You can see their presentation here

CommUnity Care health centers have adapted to the current circumstances and are now serving clients primarily through telehealth services. They’re also providing testing services to clients and to the general public. CommUnity Care reported that over 17% of their test results have come back positive, and a disproportionate number of the Latinx community testing positive for the coronavirus. CommUnity Care also mapped tests across Austin and identified the top 10 ZIP codes for positive tests.

The image below is a graph of CommUnity Care's testing rates, which are separate from Austin Public Health's. 
Central Health followed with details about their current outreach efforts to inform the community about things like coronavirus symptoms, ways to slow the spread, the CommUnity Care COVID-19 hotline, and testing options. They also reported data on their Medical Access Program, including the fact that 16,000 patients had their coverage extended for 90 days.

ECHO Point in Time Count

The Ending Community Homeless Coalition (ECHO) presented results and data from the 2020 Point in Time Count, the annual census of individuals experiencing homelessness. You can see their presentation here. The Point in Time Count (PIT Count) occurred in early January, and my entire staff and I were proud to volunteer with the effort. 
In comparison to the 2019 Point in Time Count, the 2020 PIT Count saw a 39% increase in volunteers. The increase in volunteers allowed ECHO to divide Austin into smaller geographic areas, making it easier for volunteers to thoroughly cover the city than years past. The total count of individuals experiencing homeless was 2,506 people. This is an 11% increase from the 2019 PIT Count. ECHO showed data explaining that this increase is proportional to Austin’s population increase. The numbers also show that the homeless population accounts for 0.2% of Austin’s population. The PIT results revealed increased dispersion from the urban core, meaning that more individuals experiencing homelessness were found outside of the urban core. The results also found that the Black/African American population continues to be highly overrepresented in the homeless community, accounting for 36.5% of homeless individuals while making up less than 10% of the overall Travis County population. ECHO also reported that in 2019, their service providers were able to house 2,171 clients.

Our city’s five year strategic plan identifies addressing the homelessness crisis as Council’s top priority. We will continue to work with ECHO to make progress on prevention, housing and support in general and, as noted in prior newsletters, the city is taking several steps to meet the needs of our homeless population in the context of COVID-19.

Coronavirus Spending Framework: 

Deputy Chief Financial Officer Ed Van Eenoo briefed Council on the budget impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and offered a proposed framework for $270.1 million in expected COVID-19 related spending. This includes funding for Austin’s emergency response, medical and public health needs, economic support, and contingency expenses. You can view the presentation here and the detailed draft proposal here. Next week, City Council will hold a special called meeting in order to discuss the proposed spending framework and identify additional COVID-19 funding needs. We also anticipate a public hearing on June 4th. Remote testimony will be taken, and information on speaker registration will be available on the Council meeting information page. You can also send your feedback to me by emailing

I also am working with the Budget Office to host a virtual budget town hall. The District 10 Budget Town Hall is tentatively scheduled for June 3, 2020, from 6-7 p.m. The town hall will feature a presentation from Deputy Chief Financial Officer Ed Van Eenoo, followed by a Q&A session. Final details will be announced next week. In the meantime, visit to learn more about this year’s budget process.
May 21st Council Meeting

Yesterday, Council considered almost 100 agenda items. Below I have highlighted some of the key COVID-19 related response actions.
  • Item 38: Council approved a resolution directing the City Manager to establish a strategy for high-risk workers in order to prevent hospitalizations and fatalities related to COVID-19. This strategy may include providing resources and assistance to workers as well as helping ensure workplaces have the technical assistance and resources they need to adapt their workplaces to maintain COVID-19 safety guidelines. The City Manager also shall engage community task force meetings (open to the public), to address the issues, the implementation, and the challenges faced by high risk populations.
  • Item 75: Council accepted and appropriated $170,811,898 in funds from the Federal government, United States Department of Treasury, and the Coronavirus Relief Fund related to the Coronavirus Disease 2020 outbreak (often referred to as CARES money).
  • Item 14: Council approved acceptance of emergency grant funding in the amount of $4,620,659 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to fund our response to the coronavirus. Approximately $1 million of these funds will be allocated for the child care workforce to sustain jobs necessary for the response to coronavirus, avoid job loss caused by decreased enrollment of children in child care; incentivize overnight and weekend child care for essential workers by providing short-term working capital assistance to small businesses to enable retention of jobs; respite care for children whose parents or guardians are hospitalized or quarantined; and health and safety supplies needed for child care programs to operate during COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately $2.6 million will be allocated for emergency rental assistance for low- and moderate- income households impacted by the economic impacts of COVID-19 lasting no more than three consecutive months. Approximately $1 million will be for homelessness assistance to prevent, prepare for, and mitigate the economic effects of the coronavirus.
  • RISE Fund Items: Council also approved a number of additional contracts to local non-profit organizations including Family Eldercare, Central Texas Food Bank, Austin Diaper Bank, Meals on Wheels & More, the Financial Literacy Coalition of Central Texas and others to distribute direct financial assistance to individuals and households impacted by COVID-19. To be connected with the resources being distributed by these local non-profits and other locally funded partners can be contacted by calling 2-1-1 or visiting this website.
  • Item 80: Council took action to secure a fourth protective lodging facility to provide housing for individuals who do not have the ability to quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic and includes shelter and support services for people experiencing homelessness who also must be sheltered and have access to enhanced sanitation due to this public health emergency.
  • Items 95 & 96: Lastly, Council approved two items designed to support Austin’s cultural community. Item 95 directs the City Manager to prepare and take appropriate action to ensure the long-term sustainability of Austin’s creative culture. Item 96 authorizes the City Manager to implement feasible strategies related to economic recovery and revitalization associated with the live music ecosystem, including the Red River Cultural District.
Risk-Based Guidelines and Public Health Stages

Austin Public Health published the first iteration of a color-coded chart to help residents of Austin-Travis County understand the stages of risk and provide recommendations on what people should do to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new risk-based guidelines set out five distinct stages of risk, from the lowest threat, Stage 1, through the most serious, Stage 5, along with recommended behaviors for each stage. The stages also vary based on whether you are at lower or higher risk. 

Lower risk is defined as those with no substantial underlying health conditions who have a lower risk of complication and death from COVID-19. Higher risk populations include those aged over 65 or people with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, obesity, or those who are otherwise immunocompromised. These guidelines are designed to help individuals make appropriate choices given the current levels of risk. At this point in time, Austin is at a Stage 3 risk level.

Last week, Dr. Mark Escott and APH Director Stephanie Hayden participated in a virtual press conference regarding the new Risk-Based Guidelines. You can watch the press conference here and learn more about each stage here.
Updated COVID-19 Dashboard

Austin Public Health has updated the City’s COVID-19 public dashboard. The new dashboard now includes:
  • Charts of demographics of all confirmed cases, hospitalizations, and deaths
  • Breakdown of the spread of COVID-19 in comparison to local policy implementations
  • Number of confirmed cases and deaths reported each day since the first reported case (March 13) as well as the first symptom onset date (March 2)
  • Updates to visuals representing the progression of cases and hospitalizations since the first reported case
  • Further clarification and context on information provided on the dashboard
Confirmed case count, death total, and hospitalization numbers are updated daily. Hospitalization and death demographics data are updated weekly.

To view the desktop and mobile versions of the dashboard, visit

Expanded COVID-19 Testing

The Austin Public Testing Enrollment Form that allows the community to complete an online assessment for COVID-19 testing is now live on Appointments are currently available.

The new tool allows the public to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms without having to see a physician. The form will use an algorithm-based assessment to evaluate whether or not an individual should be referred to a free testing site. Completion of the online assessment will not guarantee referral to a testing site. Austin Public Health (APH) will continue to prioritize health care workers and first responders on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as people at higher risk for developing severe symptoms. Testing continues to be by appointment-only, and tests at the APH testing sites will be at no cost to the individual.

Additionally, the CDC expanded the list of possible symptoms for COVID-19 by six. Some of these symptoms are less severe in nature (for example: loss of taste/smell vs. fever), so we anticipate more people will be eligible for testing. Testing continues to be by appointment-only, and tests at the APH testing sites will be at no cost to the individual.

ICYMI: Creation of the Austin Civilian Conservation Corps

During this crisis, I have highlighted the need for smart investments in our community that will not only alleviate urgent needs but serve our city over time. It’s why I created the Austin Civilian Conservation Corps. In my resolution, I also included direction to the City Manager to advocate for the resurgence of such programs on the national scale. I’m pleased to see the New York Times recently featured an opinion piece calling for a national “tree army” in the same vein. You may read it here.
City of Austin Utility Relief Measures

City of Austin Utilities customers may be eligible for financial assistance on their utility bill if they have been impacted by COVID-19. Between Austin Energy and Austin Water, an additional $12.3 million has been added to the Plus1 program to help more customers.

To apply for assistance, go to: Customers are eligible for Plus 1 emergency assistance if they, or a member of their household, have experienced a financial hardship, loss of job, or reduction in income related to COVID-19. This includes financial hardships based on illness, caring for a family member, shelter in place orders and the resulting closure of non-essential businesses, as well as school and child care facility closures.
Non-COA Utilities Relief Measures

Recently, City Council approved an ordinance authorizing the City Manager to work with other utilities providing service to City residents to facilitate their development and implementation of pandemic‐related assistance programs. Check out this memo for information on the measures non‐City of Austin utilities are taking for customers who are suffering financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic. 
No Wake Zones

In an effort to improve boater safety, Council approved a slow-no wake ordinance that focuses on high-traffic spots for loading and unloading boats and other watercraft, swimming and other water recreation, and refueling. These navigational control zones for boats are on Lake Austin under and around the Pennybacker Bridge, in the area immediately north of the Tom Miller Dam, and near the Oyster Landing Marina and the Walsh Boat Landing.

Under this ordinance, boaters must operate at headway speed, meaning that vessels are required to travel at the lowest possible speed needed to maintain control of the craft. These control zones are marked by navigational buoys as well as signage posted at the boat ramps and nearby businesses.

The Austin Police Department Lake Unit has been conducting community education and engagement with boaters since this ordinance took effect in February. The officers have been working to raise awareness and gain voluntary compliance during this period, issuing warnings to this point. The education period will be extended until July 14, 2020 due to delays associated with COVID-19. Following that, a boater may be cited and fined. A boater may also be cited during the ongoing education period if they have already been warned multiple times.
Austin Fun + Learning Project

The Austin Council of Parent Teacher Associations (ACPTA) has a new way to support local students by supporting local businesses. The Austin Fun + Learning project helps both students and beloved local businesses at a discounted price.

How does it work?
  • Step 1: You support favorite local stores by choosing items to buy and donate. Stores give you a discount of 10-15%. (Click here for a list of stores and discount codes.)(LINK)
  • Step 2: Volunteers will pick your donations up from participating stores and deliver them to students at Austin ISD food distribution sites.
  • Step 3: Students enjoy new opportunities for fun + learning at a time when every kid needs that more than ever!
You can find other ways to support this program by checking out the Austin Fun + Learning website.

National EMS Week: Thank You Austin EMS

Happy National EMS Week! I want to take a moment to give my most sincere thanks to Austin’s EMS employees for the life-saving work they do every single day. I’m especially grateful for our EMS responders during this pandemic — for their bravery and selflessness, and for their unwavering commitment to saving lives. Watch a quick video about how Austin EMS is helping our community by clicking here or on my photo below. 
National Public Works Week: Thank You Austin Public Works

Happy National Public Works Week! I want to thank our public works employees for everything they do for our community, rain or shine. Thanks to our public works staff, we have sidewalks for our kids to safely travel to school, trails for exercise and recreation, and bridges to connect us. Thank you for all you do to maintain and improve our quality of life.

Check out the quick video I filmed to thank our public works employees by clicking here or on the photo below. 
CityView Update

The City of Austin's Public Information Office is now releasing remotely-recorded CityView episodes, which share important new city updates and information. Recent episodes are focused on COVID-19 and include details on Parks Safety Measures, Risk Guidelines, Austin Energy Appreciation, the Thunderbird Salute, and more. Take a few minutes to watch the latest episode on YouTube.
Watch: CapMetro Community Meeting

On Wednesday, I participated in the Project Connect District 10 virtual open house, which was streamed live on Facebook. The purpose of the event was to provide an overview of Project Connect, as well as offer a platform for residents to ask questions of the team.

In the discussions to date, I have been focused on how we enhance East-West connectivity, how we plan to build the system out over time, and the nuts and bolts of how we cover our costs in a transparent and realistic manner. At the end of the day, the choice will be up to you, the voters. The Project Connect team has been working hard to put a choice before you that could significantly change mobility in Austin, and I urge you to learn more at the Project Connect website. As always, you can share your thoughts and feedback with me at

District 10 Opening: Environmental Commission

The District 10 office is seeking a new representative to serve on the Environmental Commission. Duties for this commission can be found here.

If you are interested in volunteering for this commission, please send your resume and a short memo with the following information to my office at
  1. What is your assessment of the top three policy questions your commission will be dealing with over the next four years?
  2. A statement of the expertise and experience that you bring to these issues.
  3. A statement of what issues you anticipate emphasizing in your work supporting your commission.
Please join me in thanking departing commissioner Wendy Gordon for serving so well in this role since 2017. Feel free to share this opportunity with your friends and neighbors.

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