Subject: In This Together

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Dear Neighbors,

I am happy to share some good news. 

We continue to face a serious health crisis and we must continue to take precautions. We have, however, made important progress. This week Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott announced that Travis County was moving from a Stage 4 risk level down to Stage 3. Our collective actions as a community have made a difference. Key indicators show improvement: steady declines in new hospital admissions, COVID-related Intensive Care Unit patients, and ventilator usage.

Please continue to wear masks, social distance, avoid all social gatherings and any gatherings of more than 10 people, and stay home when possible. Our continued safety depends upon each of us.

I would like to provide some additional information on our COVID response and recent data so you can continue to make informed choices.

Our recent case data includes a data dump from state sources that in some cases extends as far back as April. As a consequence, Austin’s recent case numbers are somewhat skewed making it appear like our case numbers may be plateauing. Thankfully, Austin Public Health has not relied heavily on the state for reporting purposes and has maintained its own data and case information, allowing us to respond appropriately to the true situation on the ground.

At Tuesday’s Council work session, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott indicated that he believed that over the last two weeks about 50% of cases being reported are old, suggesting evidence of a substantial decline in recent cases in Austin. We also have seen a decline in positivity rates over the last 6 or so weeks. 
Dr. Escott further suggested that if you have put off elected procedures or primary care, now would be a good time to proceed since our hospitals are in good shape. 

It is important that we use reliable resources for COVID-19 facts. On Tuesday Dr. Escott showed three slides delineating FACTS vs. Fiction that are worth sharing. Please see the last three slides in Dr. Escott's presentation linked here.

Our community is only as safe and healthy as our most vulnerable. This week we again see that our Latinx populations continue to be over represented in the case data. The City has worked with local partners to improve targeted response efforts in the Latinx community and today released a plan outlining goals and actionable strategies. The plan details efforts underway to:
  1. improve outreach, prevention, and communication;
  2. increase and improve contact tracing;
  3. increase access to quality clinical resources; and
  4. provide economic and employment support.
As we try to open our universities and schools over the next few weeks, we must remain vigilant if we want to sustain openings and stem community spread. Labor Day weekend is coming up, and our health experts and risk guidelines advise that this is still not the time to host big parties or attend large gatherings. Please be safe next weekend and take all possible precautions – wear masks in public, follow good hygiene practices, stay home when possible, and avoid social gatherings.

In the rest of this newsletter, you will find a Council recap from this week's meeting, a KXAN news article highlighting two of my public health related budget amendments, details for a new social media campaign to encourage masks, ways to reduce your utility bills, and more. Please reach out to my office at if we can be of assistance.


Alison Alter
Council Member, District 10

Table of Contents
  • Hurricane Laura Resources 
  • Council Recap 
  • Investments in Public Health
  • Wear A Mask Austin! A Project by District 10 Resident Betsy Woldman
  • Central Texas Food Bank Distribution Event – August 29
  • Reduce Your Utility Bills 
  • Economic Relief Awards
  • Hire a Musician/Visit Austin from Home
  • Austin Resource Recovery–Goodwill Partnership
  • Virtual Open House: Spicewood Springs Low Water Crossing
Hurricane Laura Resources and Information

Please note that details are rapidly evolving. Please continue to check for updates.

The City of Austin and Travis County are working with regional partners to ensure Hurricane Laura evacuees have shelter as they wait out the storm and its aftermath. To this end, the City and County established a shelter at the Austin Convention Center (ACC) and opened the Capital Area Shelter Hub (CASH) Reception site at Circuit of the Americas. The traditional shelter setting at ACC will provide a place for evacuees to sleep, get food and access other basic amenities. Limited space is available at ACC, and the reception center is still operational but will close at 6 p.m. today. 

The Capital Area Shelter Hub has housed approximately 3,000 evacuees in more than 1,000 hotel rooms and in space at the convention center. Currently, hotel sheltering options provided by the Capital Area regional partnership have reached capacity, though there may be hotels in the area available to evacuees who have the ability to pay for them. 

Evacuees coming from outside the area seeking shelter in the Austin-area should continue to go to the reception center located at 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd. Evacuees can call 2-1-1 or Austin 3-1-1 (512-974-2000) for assistance in identifying the next closest sheltering location. Text the word “ATXShelter” to 888-777 to be signed up for updates, or call 512-978-1510 for the same updates that would be received via text message.

Buses began transporting individuals back to the Galveston area at 9:30 a.m. today. Individuals who arrived by personal vehicle are being allowed to return after they have registered their entire family with hotel staff, government officials, or a Red Cross staff member. Evacuees returning by their own vehicles are encouraged to check roadway status with the Texas Department of Transportation at 

The shelter at ACC will not affect the staging or availability of the Austin Convention Center as an Alternate Care Site (ACS). The shelter also will be following Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to maintain proper health protocols in a COVID-19 environment. 

To help coordinate services and funding for the hurricane response, the City of Austin and Travis County have both issued disaster declarations for Hurricane Laura.
Volunteers who would like to help the hurricane effort should contact the American Red Cross or the Austin Disaster Relief Network.

Note the City has well established methods to work with the state and federal government to provide disaster assistance to our neighbors. As with Hurricane Harvey, the City anticipates 100% reimbursement for our disaster assistance expenses.

Council Recap

On Thursday, August 27th, Council considered a 143 item agenda. Below are some highlights that may be of specific interest to District 10.

Council passed Item 11 to advance our Water Forward plan to create Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) infrastructure. In the face of climate change, the City has long recognized we must take bold and strategic action to secure a sustainable water supply. Projections show that we must plan for water supply needs beyond what is currently available to Austin. 

While we can meet significant needs through conservation efforts, better demand management, and creative reuse, we still must secure additional supply for use during drought or other emergency situations. To develop our strategies to meet these needs, in 2018 Council approved the Water Forward Integrated Water Resource Plan which serves as our 100-year roadmap for a sustainable water future. This plan was the result of extensive work by resident advocates, a Task Force made up of residents from across the City, including District 10, city departments and regional entities. 

One of their recommendations was to develop an Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) strategy. This is similar to having a stored supply of water for emergencies. In this project, water would be saved underground during wet times, and withdrawn for use during drought or emergencies. Because the water is stored underground in a naturally occurring aquifer, we would not experience water loss due to evaporation. The ASR Pilot and Program Management project is the first in a series of steps to develop an ASR project to help meet Austin’s water needs.

I especially want to thank Diane Kennedy who served as the District 10 appointee to the Task Force that developed these recommendations. The work of the Task Force and the progress we are making will secure a safe and sustainable water supply for our children and grandchildren.

This week, Council accepted several grants to help fund the Victim Services Division, as well as sexual assault investigations. The City will use these grants to continue funding eight of our Victim Services counselors and supplement investigations of sexual assault cases entered into the FBI’s Violent Crime Apprehension Program (ViCAP) database by funding new temporary staff. The grant funds also allow the City to enter into new contracts with DNA laboratories for evidence testing, technical review and Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) processing. 

Item 33 will allow the City to continue services that will improve the well-being of officers, first responders and their families. 

This grant will allow the City to:
  • continue the salary of a VOCA-funded licensed professional counselor
  • extend existing contracts with several professional clinicians
  • extend existing contract of the program's Principal Investigator

The agreement established in Item 38 allows additional staff from Integral Care’s Expanded Mobile Crisis Outreach Team (EMCOT) to be co-located at the 911 Call Center. These EMCOT staff members will be available to receive direct transfer of calls from 911 Call Takers when a caller is experiencing a mental health crisis. Callers are linked with EMCOT mental health professionals, who can quickly triage calls and dispatch EMCOT staff as appropriate. The goal is to ensure individuals receive specialized mental health services from the time they call 911 to the time a mental health professional arrives to assist and provide support. 911 call takers immediately transfer calls to EMCOT when a caller requests a mental health officer, so that EMCOT can triage and provide expert assistance. In addition, EMCOT is also available to be conferenced into a call to assist with crisis de-escalation.

The following COVID related relief efforts were funded from federal funding as programmed in our Coronavirus Relief Spending Framework. 

Item 132: Council approved funding for the Austin Area Urban League to provide direct financial assistance specifically for Austin/Travis County residents who are high-risk workers impacted by COVID-19, in an amount not to exceed $2,000,000. 

Item 133: Council approved additional funding for the Austin Public Education Foundation to provide continued emergency food access for caregivers of students in Austin-area schools who are experiencing food shortages due to COVID19. Of particular benefit is that this program will specifically contract with local Austin businesses impacted by COVID-19 who are experiencing business interruptions during the pandemic and those businesses will prepare the caregiver meals, so this program will assist with economic recovery efforts and ensure local businesses’ employees maintain employment as a result of this contract.

Items 134 and 139: Council also approved an agreement with Central Texas Allied Health Institute to provide an opportunity for students to complete hands-on hours at COVID-19 testing sites and assist with requirements to earn a Medical Assistance certificate. This project will allow us to serve the public with COVID-19 testing while also supporting workforce development goals and training our healthcare workforce. These testing sites will focus on testing individuals and their families whose jobs are in a field that is highly susceptible to COVID-19 contact and thus are considered high risk.

Items 140 and 142: Council approved an agreement with the Family Independence Initiative to administer an online portal to distribute direct financial assistance to Austin/Travis County residents impacted by COVID-19 and an agreement with the Workers Defense Project to provide both direct financial assistance and legal assistance to support high-risk workers impacted by COVID-19. 
Investments in Public Health

This week, KXAN highlighted new funding for increased public health resources in Austin. Through the budget process, Council adopted my amendment to add two ambulances and hire 46 EMS medics, dispatch, and support staff to improve our medical response during COVID-19 and beyond. These investments are necessary to support our EMS workers as they battle the pandemic and seek to meet growing needs in Austin.

We also are transitioning the Office of the Medical Director to a Chief Medical Officer model. By strengthening the office's clinical scope and adding more staff members, we are enhancing our ability to provide direct and telehealth physician and physician assistant services to residents of Austin/Travis County.

I was proud to lead on these critical investments in public health and to co-sponsor several related initiatives, and I thank Austin EMS Association for working with me to accomplish these changes. 

Learn more about these improvements by clicking the photo above or by following this link to Alyssa Goard's KXAN News article.
Wear a Mask Austin! A Project by District 10 Resident Betsy Woldman 

District 10 resident and City of Austin employee Betsy Woldman is joining with her neighbors to normalize wearing masks in public to protect our community from COVID-19. I invited Betsy to take socially distanced photos of my family wearing our masks, and she has shared these photos through the Wear a Mask Austin! Project. Below, you'll find an article Betsy wrote for this social media campaign. 

Wear a Mask Austin!
By: Betsy Woldman

Masks are often inspirational – commonly fashion statements, sometimes political billboards, at times they are whimsical or serious, and occasionally serve as advertising platforms.

And yes, they are still masks, proven to be the best way to stop the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

By posting COVID portraits of Austinites wearing their favorite masks, Wear a Mask Austin, a social media based project, hopes to normalize, inspire and encourage the simple, highly effective practice of wearing a mask.

Wear a Mask Austin's online gallery is a mixture of documentary photos along with crowd-shared images. Check out pictures of your friends, neighbors, and other Austinites expressing their personalities at

Want to be a part of the project? Post a photo of yourself wearing a mask on Instagram or Facebook with hashtag #WearaMaskATX

If you want a socially distanced COVID safe photo, just send a message to
Central Texas Food Bank Distribution Event

This Saturday, August 29th, the Central Texas Food Bank will be hosting a food distribution event for families in need. The distribution will operate as a drive-thru with pre-packed boxes that will be loaded directly into your vehicle’s trunk. Please allow appropriate space in your trunk before arriving at the distribution.

Saturday, August 29
Travis County Expo Center
7311 Decker Ln, Austin, TX 78724
8 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Reduce Your Utility Bills

Austin Water has reported an increase in customer water use coinciding with the current stretch of very hot and dry weather in Austin. In past years, similar weather patterns have led to higher than usual water bills for customers beginning in late August through early September. Electric bills also tend to rise during the summer months from increased usage. Customers should compare their monthly bill to the previous year’s bill for that month, rather than to the previous month.

Austin Water and Austin Energy are providing customers with tips and resources to help lower utility bills during these warmer months. Please visit this page to learn more about how to reduce energy use and manage your bills.

Additionally, Austin Water has been providing information about assistance available to customers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers can find that information at and

If you have concerns about your bills, please call City of Austin Utilities Customer Care at (512) 494-9400. 

Economic Relief Awards

The City of Austin Economic Development Department announces the award of more than $23.7 million in relief grants and loans to individuals and small businesses impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. An additional $9.3 million in additional relief grants are currently in process for development and distribution in the coming weeks. I am proud to be a creator or cosponsor for nearly all of these efforts:
Note the above programs are funded through federal awards to the City to provide COVID related response and relief. 

Artist: Gina Chavez   |   Photo Credit: Spencer Selvidge

Hire a Musician/Visit Austin from Home

If you’re looking for some live music entertainment for your virtual event, celebration, or fundraiser, Visit Austin has launched an excellent resource to help you find the perfect local Austin musician for a successful event. Learn more about the Hire An Austin Musician program to get started.
Austin Resource Recovery–Goodwill Partnership

Do you need to get rid of and want to donate clothing and housewares? Austin Resource Recovery's Curbside Clothing & Housewares is a partnership with Goodwill Central Texas and offers free on-call curbside collection service for unwanted clothing, shoes, accessories, toys, linens and housewares for reuse or recycling. This also includes small appliances, books or furniture. This service accepts items in all conditions for reuse or recycling so long as they are not wet or infested with bed bugs or other parasites.

You can schedule a collection online or call 512-637-7196. Another resource available is our Austin Reuse Directory, which can help find a home for unwanted items. 

Virtual Open House: Spicewood Springs Low Water Crossing

The virtual open house for the Spicewood Springs Low Water Crossing (LWC) #1 Bridge Replacement is open through September 1st. The bridge replacement is designed to make safety improvements to the low water crossing at Spicewood Springs Road north of Loop 360 and south of Yaupon Drive. 

Funded by the 2017 bond, the LWC project will undergo final design next month and construction will begin in Spring 2021. To learn more, visit the open house here.
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