Subject: New COVID-19 Data and Projections

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Dear Neighbors,

This week Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County’s Interim Health Authority, briefed Council on the latest COVID-19 data which reveal that the pandemic could once again be on the rise in our community. Recent mobility data show that Austinites are increasing their social interactions, and case data indicate the possible beginning of a new spike in infections and hospital admissions. We are in this together. Each of us can help save lives and livelihoods. By taking precautions and following public health guidelines, we can limit the spread of COVID-19, reduce our community risk level, and keep our schools and businesses open.

I know many of us are feeling “pandemic fatigue,” and we all long for a return to normal. Nonetheless, we must remain especially vigilant as the cold winter months arrive with increased risk of illness and COVID-19 numbers spike elsewhere in Texas. Please wear a mask, avoid large social gatherings, maintain personal hygiene, practice social distancing, and stay home if you are sick.

Dr. Escott shared several graphs from the University of Texas at Austin depicting current projections for hospital admissions, ICU beds, etc. These projections estimate that if social interactions continue to rise and public health guidelines are ignored, Austin could re-enter the Stage 4 Risk Category in early November. It’s important to note that these projections are not guaranteed, they show what could happen if no change to our social behavior is made. Austin’s numbers remain low relative to other parts of the country and state, but we need to be vigilant to avoid a repeat of this summer.
We are observing some patterns in disease transmission. Data and contract tracing show that infections are happening most frequently at social gatherings in the evening and that people may look well and still transmit. Please remember to wear a mask if you are around individuals outside of your household, even if you are friends or family. Dr. Escott also noted that we are not seeing evidence of transmission in classrooms, but we are seeing transmission among youth at social gatherings and via extracurriculars such as sports.

As a city we want to avoid a twindemic of flu and COVID, which if raging together could overstretch our hospital systems. If you have not already done so, please get your flu shot this week.

If we keep our focus on safety now, our community could be in a much better place in time for the holidays. This weekend is especially important as many folks will face choices about whether and how to socialize and celebrate Halloween and Día de los Muertos. In this newsletter, you’ll find tips about how to celebrate safely, details about where to get flu shots, voting information, and two proclamations honoring some of our frontline workers and first responders.


Alison Alter
Council Member, District 10

Table of Contents
  • Council Recap
  • Halloween and Día de los Muertos Safety Tips
  • Get Your Flu Shot!
  • Go Vote: Early Voting and Election Day Information
  • Letter Carriers Month
  • Austin Firefighters Honored for Wildfire Efforts in California
  • What's Next for Austin's Co-op Economy: A Virtual Discussion
Council Recap

Our agenda this week was shorter than usual at 44 items. Here are a few highlights.

Item 7: With voter approval of the 2018 Bond Proposition B, the Parks and Recreation Department received funding for the replacement of the Dougherty Arts Center. In the Spring of 2019, Council approved the relocation of this facility to the Butler Shores parkland. The design phase for this project is underway as of Summer 2020. This week Council approved the construction manager firm who will provide pre-construction services throughout the design phase as well as construction phase services The future facility is envisioned to build on the existing core arts programs in an improved environment that can better accommodate the City’s significant demand for affordable access to arts services.

Item 9: This item authorizes an agreement with Workforce Solutions, Capital Area to develop and administer the Make It Now: Rapid Retraining Initiative for an Equitable Recovery Program. With this first investment, Make it Now will employ 260 individuals experiencing unemployment due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. Since the start of the pandemic, I have made workforce development central to my approach to economic recovery, and I will continue to advocate for additional investments such as these.

Item 17: Council approved an agreement between the Austin Public Library and the Austin Independent School District to provide students easy access and use of the Austin Public Library system through the Library Cards for All Students Program. Through this interlocal agreement, an AISD student’s parent or legal guardian will have the choice to opt-in to the Program and request a student library card for their child. This program will offer students, who may be otherwise unaware of or unable to access, free access to the valuable resources of the Austin Public Library system. A similar agreement was approved for Del Valle ISD as Item 18.

Item 20Council approved the acquisition of 702 Wood Street, situated on the banks of Shoal Creek just north of West 6th Street in the downtown area as new parkland. The Parks and Recreation Department will purchase this proposed acquisition through parkland dedication fees collected from proximate residential developments at the current fair market value as determined by an independent third -party appraisal.

Item 21: Council authorized an agreement authorizing Austin Public Health to partner with an outpatient contract pharmacy to provide eligible clients certain outpatient drugs at reduced prices pursuant to the 340B Drug Pricing Program. Section 340B of the Public Health Service Act requires pharmaceutical manufacturers participating in Medicaid to sell outpatient drugs at discounted prices to healthcare organizations that care for many uninsured and low income patients. Austin Public Health will participate as an entity to provide preventive HIV medications such as Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (also known as PrEP) and Post Exposure Prophylaxis (also known as PEP) prescriptions to high-risk clients to reduce and prevent HIV transmission.

Item 42: Council accepted grant funding in the amount of $630,992 from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs for the Homeless Housing and Services Program and the Homeless Housing and Services Program Youth Set-Aside. This funding will be used to continue emergency shelter services, case management, and housing assistance for single adults and families at the Salvation Army Social Service Center Emergency Shelter downtown, and provide financial assistance, case management, and shelter operations at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless. 

Item 44: Council approved the FY21 Audit Plan, which identifies audit projects the City Auditor’s office intends to conduct within the fiscal year. These audit projects review programs and departments to evaluate whether they meet the goals they set out to achieve, and make recommendations for improvements. You may view the plan here.
Halloween and Día de los Muertos Safety Tips

Fall celebrations are around the corner! Austin Public Health released risk guidance for celebrating Halloween and Día de los Muertos.
Low-risk Halloween activities include carving pumpkins with members of your household, decorating your living space, hosting a virtual Halloween gathering with a costume contest or pumpkin carving show-and-tell, and having a candy hunt or piñata within your home.

Low-risk Día de los Muertos activities include preparing traditional family recipes for family and neighbors and delivering them in a no-contact manner, playing music in your home that your deceased loved ones enjoyed, decorating masks or making an altar for the deceased, and joining a virtual celebrating with family and friends.
Get Your Flu Shot! 

Thank you to the U.S. Hispanic Contractors Association for these fun flu shot graphics! Getting a flu vaccine every year is the best way to protect yourself and others from the flu, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone six months of age and older get vaccinated for the flu every year. High-risk individuals include:
  • Adults over 65
  • Pregnant women
  • People with chronic medical conditions
  • Health care workers
  • Individuals who live with and/or care for high-risk individuals
Flu shots are available at Shots for Tots/Big Shots clinics for children who are uninsured or Medicaid recipients and for uninsured adults. The flu vaccine costs $25 for adults, $10 for children, and is free for children with Medicaid. No one will be denied services if they are unable to pay. For an appointment, please call 512-972-5520.

For those who are insured, visit to find a location with flu shots near you.

Go Vote: Early Voting and Election Day Information

Early voting ends on Friday! Polling locations are open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. and the Travis County “Mega Centers” (Ben Hur Shrine Center, Millennium Youth Complex, PfISD Rock Gym, South Park Meadows, Suite 400 & Suite 500, and the Austin Central Library) will extend voting hours until 9 p.m.

On Election Day, Travis County will increase the number of voting locations across town. Polls are open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Remember, even if lines are long on Election Day, as long as you are physically in line before 7 p.m. you must be allowed to vote.

Check the Travis County Clerk’s website or visit to see current wait times, find early voting and Election Day locations, download your individualized sample ballot, and more.

Letter Carriers Month

Our letter carriers are serving on the front lines during COVID-19, and they play a critical role in protecting our democratic process in this year's election by delivering millions of mail-in ballots. This month, I presented a proclamation to our local letter carriers’ union honoring their work and commitment to public service. You can watch the proclamation presentation here or by clicking the photo below.

If you see your local postal service worker, please thank them for the work they’re doing!

Austin Firefighters Honored for Wildfire Efforts in California

This week, I was honored to issue a proclamation declaring Oct. 28, 2020, as the Austin Fire Department 2020 California Wildfire Deployment Day. In response to the Creek Fire, California’s largest single fire in its history, the Austin Fire Department deployed 30 firefighters to assist in the effort, several of them serving in leadership roles. They will use this experience to help Austin in our efforts to prevent and mitigate against wildfire. This hands-on training is important because Austin is one of the most at-risk cities in the nation. It’s not a matter of "if", but "when" we’ll see our next major wildfire event.

You can watch the proclamation and see the full list of deployed firefighters here or by clicking on the photo below. 

What's Next for Austin's Co-op Economy: A Virtual Discussion

A District 10 constituent shared the following invitation with my office:

The Austin Cooperative Business Association is hosting a virtual event about the potential for cooperative conversions of businesses in the wake of COVID-19. On Saturday, November 14, join the ACBA to learn about the immediate potential for cooperative conversions locally, how you can convert your business or advocate for cooperative support, and what’s next for Austin’s co-op economy.

Learn more and RSVP on this Eventbrite page.
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