We’re in the midst of a pivotal budget season, and I’m working diligently to ensure that the FY2020-2021 budget prioritizes equity, health, and prosperity for the whole community. Over the past days and weeks, I’ve heard from many of you about your vision for the city’s future. I am so grateful for your input, and I’ve been listening carefully to your feedback and suggestions...
Message from Council Member Pool
We’re in the midst of a pivotal budget season, and I’m working diligently to ensure that the FY2020-2021 budget prioritizes equity, health, and prosperity for the whole community. Over the past days and weeks, I’ve heard from many of you about your vision for the city’s future. I am so grateful for your input, and I’ve been listening carefully to your feedback and suggestions.
Earlier this week, I released my Austin Police Department (APD) budget proposal. It calls for realignment of funding and structural changes at APD, with your input top of mind. These possibilities include eliminating unfilled officer and cadet positions, closing the training academy for a year, and cutting overfunded items. They also include moving some non-criminal operations out of APD to other departments when a trained civilian response is preferable or necessary. In my proposal, I separated sworn officers and civilian staff, and the funds for sworn officers remains at APD. With more community-led responses to calls that are non-criminal in nature, officers can instead focus their time and expertise on law enforcement duties responding to criminal acts and violence, where officer involvement is urgent.
Additionally, I am committed, with Council Member Kitchen, to mental health diversion programs to ensure a public health response to mental health crises – not just a law enforcement response. This applies to calls related to homelessness and substance abuse as well.
In all, these possibilities are aimed at re-imagining public safety with the community front and center. But the conversation about public safety doesn’t end when Council votes on the FY2020-2021 budget on August 12, 13, and 14. Our hard work will continue for much longer.
I am excited to host a joint forum in late September with Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison specifically for District 7 and District 1 constituents. The forum will offer a discussion of what community safety looks like for district residents with a variety of lived experiences and perspectives. It will also serve as a gathering space for shaping a collaborative vision for public safety in the months and years to come. We will have details for everyone in the coming weeks. I hope to “see” all of you there.
Finally, I’d like to share a few updates on COVID-19. Austin-Travis County is still in Stage 4, and it’s important we continue social distancing and wearing our masks. The City continues to provide assistance opportunities to community members, including the Economic Development Department’s new grant program to support childcare providers impacted by the pandemic. The City is also launching a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Card (EBT) program to help families get food while schools are closed. More information is provided below in this newsletter. And at this moment, AISD campuses will not reopen until September 8. I encourage you to periodically visit the City of Austin’s COVID-19 information site and local news sources to get the latest updates.
There’s a lot happening right now. I hope you get a chance to pause and recognize your strength and resiliency in these challenging times. It’s your devotion to making this city a better place – especially right now – that makes serving you so rewarding.
The Texas Department of State Health Services is improving the reporting of fatalities due to COVID-19 by identifying them through the cause of death listed on death certificates. This method allows fatalities to be counted faster with more comprehensive demographic data. Using death certificates also ensures consistent reporting across the state and enables DSHS to display fatalities by date of death, providing the public with more information about when deaths occurred. The change will be reflected in today’s data when posted online.
A fatality is counted as due to COVID-19 when the medical certifier, usually a doctor with direct knowledge of the patient, determines COVID-19 directly caused the death. This method does not include deaths of people who had COVID-19 but died of an unrelated cause. Death certificates are required by law to be filed within 10 days.
DSHS previously counted COVID-19 fatalities as they were reported publicly by local and regional health departments after they received a notification and verified the death. The length of time that process takes varies by jurisdiction and does not provide timely demographic information on most fatalities.
As of Monday, death certificate data has identified 5,713 fatalities among Texas residents, including 44 newly reported today. That compares with 5,038 deaths reported Sunday under the previous method. DSHS will continue to post the number of additional fatalities reported each day. Fatalities are reported based on where the person lived.
Austin Public Health statement on
reduction in hospital admissions
Austin Public Health is issuing the following statement regarding the reduction of hospital admissions and how they are linked to the risk stages:
Even though Austin-Travis County has crossed into Stage 3 based on the primary indicator (7-day moving average of hospital admissions), there are many other indicators we monitor in order to determine staging. Some of the other indicators include doubling time, 7-day moving average of new cases, ICU and ventilator capacity.
At this time, ICU capacity is still very limited, and APH needs to ensure that we do not reach capacity in the ICUs. This capacity continues to limit the availability of surgeries to manage serious medical conditions. It is essential that the public maintains the level of social distancing, staying at home, and mask-wearing that they have been for the past few weeks. Before the health authority can consider additional reopenings or increased gatherings, we need to have more ICU capacity, and continued reductions in new cases and new admissions to the hospital.
We will continue to evaluate the data in coordination with our local hospital systems should we later make a determination to move into Stage 3.
Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said: “Our priority has to be safety, and maintaining the highest level of public health. We've seen over and over again that when we rush to open things, if we don't have the appropriate protections in place, it leads to cases surging and shutting the City down again and we do not want to be in that situation moving into the fall.”
For more information and updates about COVID-19, visit AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.
Austin-Travis County Offering Free COVID-19 Testing
in Del Valle and Pflugerville
Austin Public Health (APH) in partnership with the Texas Military Department (TMD) and Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) will be rolling out a free walk-up testing site at Del Valle Middle School from August 3-16 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. every day.
TDEM will be handling all the logistics and TMD will be administering the tests. The Del Valle testing site will have the ability to test 800 people a day on a first come, first served basis. Residents in the community do not need an appointment, doctor’s referral, or insurance.
This testing site will be in addition to the existing APH sites and is designed to serve the community where it is located. This site will only be operational for two weeks during this time period and then will shutter operations after Aug. 16.
The Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM) is also working with Austin Public Health and the City of Pflugerville to manage a walk-up testing site in Pflugerville on Monday, Aug. 3 – Saturday, Aug. 8. The Pflugerville testing site will have the ability to test 300 people a day.
People who have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, who have symptoms of COVID-19, or are an older adult or a person of any age with certain underlying medical conditions, including chronic diseases, an immunocompromised state, or obesity should get a COVID-19 test.
As with all testing sites, any personal information provided for testing and contact tracing is confidential, and immigration status is not asked.
Del Valle Testing Location:
Del Valle Middle School
5500 Ross Drive
Austin, TX 78617
Testing Dates and Time:
Aug. 3 – Aug. 16
Daily, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Pflugerville Testing Location:
1440 W Pecan St.
Pflugerville, TX 78660
Testing Dates and Time:
Aug. 3 – Aug. 8
8am to 12pm, or until tests run out
For your safety please remember:
· Bottled water
· Umbrella or hat to provide shade
· Wear a face covering
· Social distance 6 feet apart from others
· Wash or sanitize your hands
The Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM) is also working with Austin Public Health and the
Testing capacity is 300 people per day, or until tests run out, and it is first come, first served. Individuals do not need to register in order to be tested at the site.
**Media Note:While these testing sites are in public areas, those getting tested are patients. We ask that you do not film the site, but if you do please protect patient privacy by avoiding video/photos of faces, identifiable cars or license plates. Staff on location are wearing full PPE. For the safety of our patients and your media crews, do NOT approach patients as they are suspected to be COVID-positive. We want to provide our patients a comfortable environment with privacy as close as possible to that of a clinic and reduce potential liability issues incurred by media outlets.
Guidance Issued to Child Care Programs Under
Health Authority Emergency Rules
Austin, Texas – Last week, the Health Authority for Austin-Travis County issued emergency rules, which included requirements for local child care programs.
APH staff will advise child care programs on next steps when there are confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases or potential exposure, including whether a temporary closure of one or more classrooms is necessary. In the instance of a confirmed case, the City guidelines require child care programs to communicate with staff and parents about closure decisions, possible COVID-19 exposure, and any guidance about necessary quarantine or isolation measures.
The City guidelines also specify that:
Staff and children over the age of 10 in child care programs must wear fabric face coverings;
Entry should be denied to individuals with a temperature greater than 99.6°F; and
Child care programs must implement a health and safety plan that details measures being taken to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 that is available to staff and parents.
When enrolling a new child, programs should have parents complete two forms with health screening questions and information about their child’s previous child care program. Children with symptoms of COVID-19 or who have had close contact in the last 14 days with someone with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, must meet the criteria regarding resolution of symptoms and/or quarantine before they can return to or begin care in a child care program.
“We want to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in child care programs by ensuring children who may have an exposure from a previous child care program do not enter a new program before they complete their quarantine period,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “These steps will mitigate spread and help keep young children, the child care workforce, and the loved ones of staff and children in child care programs safe and healthy.”
APH continues to encourage employers to support employees whose child care has been disrupted due to COVID-19 by allowing home-based work when possible; offering flexible work options and paid family leave; and providing employees information about ConnectATX.org and 2-1-1 if they need assistance with rent, utilities, or other resources.
AUSTIN, TX — The City of Austin Economic Development Department announces a new grant program to support and sustain Austin childcare centers and providers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Austin Childcare Provider Relief Grant is a $1 million fund that will provide grants up to $50,000 to reimburse eligible operating expenses for childcare providers.
The grant program is designed to give immediate and equitably-focused one-time financial assistance to eligible childcare centers, including family childcare home providers. Childcare providers that are Texas Rising Star certified (or demonstrate appointment scheduled to complete the Texas Rising Star accreditation assessment) or have National Accreditation are eligible to apply. Childcare centers that serve families receiving a Childcare Subsidy (CCS), centers owned by members of historically underrepresented communities, and centers that have not received other recovery funding are strongly encouraged to apply.
“Local childcare centers fill an essential need for our Austin families with children,” shared Sylnovia Holt-Rabb, Acting Director for the City of Austin Economic Development Department. “As directed by the Austin City Council, this program will ensure that programming and operations of these critical community service providers can continue.”
Austin Childcare Provider Relief Grant
The Austin City Council approved Resolution 20200507-023 on May 7, 2020 to designate $1 million for the Austin Childcare Provider Relief Grant (formerly the Childcare Support Fund).
Austin childcare centers and providers that experienced an economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic may apply for grants of up to $50,000 to reimburse for eligible operating expenses. Eligible childcare providers must be able to demonstrate an economic loss associated with COVID-19 and must be located in a City of Austin Council district.
The Austin Childcare Provider Relief Grant application will be live online starting Tuesday, July 21, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. Austin childcare centers and providers that meet the eligibility criteria are encouraged to prepare their answers and documentation in advance by reviewing the application, eligibility criteria, and required documentation at ATXrecovers.com prior to the application date.
As part of a partnership with the City of Austin, United Way for Greater Austin will accept submitted applications and provide consultation and case management services to grant applicants. Every eligible application submitted will be evaluated against a matrix that includes criteria for need, vulnerability, and equity. Applications must be submitted before the October 1, 2020 deadline or until all funds are expended (whichever comes first).
Informational Webinar on Wednesday, July 22 from 9:00-10:00am
At the request of the City of Austin and the Austin Chamber of Commerce, the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs conducted an online survey of Austin area childcare centers. The survey sought to better understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the childcare industry. These survey results will help inform how to distribute limited recovery funds equitably.
The survey results showed that affordable and safe childcare services are critical to getting many Austinites back to work. Even as childcare centers are reopening, many parents are reluctant to send their kids back, fearing the possibility of COVID-19 transmission and infection. Childcare centers are facing lower enrollment, enhanced sanitation and social distancing requirements, and declining revenue. Supporting these providers will be central for the success and sustainability of reopening the Austin economy.
Construction begins this week at Shoal Creek Boulevard/Woodview Avenue
This summer, Shoal Creek Boulevard crews constructed changes at Shoal Creek Boulevard and 38th Street. Construction is largely complete at this intersection with final signage and striping work scheduled for August.
Crews are scheduled to begin construction at the Shoal Creek Boulevard/Woodview Avenue intersection tomorrow, July 29. The northbound slip lane from Shoal Creek Boulevard to Woodview Avenue will be permanently closed to motor vehicle traffic and a new rain garden will be built in this area with a sidewalk bridge over the rain garden. These changes are designed to increase safety for all road users, including people driving cars, walking, and riding bikes in this area.
I would like to introduce you to the newest District 7 Austin Youth Council Member: Nausheen Hossain. Austin Youth Council is a group of high school students who volunteer their time to be involved in the community and make a positive impact. They do so by volunteering, organizing events and making their voices heard in the city.
Some fun facts about Nausheen: she is a sophomore at Harmony School Endeavor who loves painting, math and coding. She has been doing karate since she was five years old and earned her black belt last summer. This summer she started writing for a magazine called Teen Pop focused on teen inclusion. When she gets older she wants to use coding to help others, but for now she is wanting take advantage of the opportunities the youth council has made available to her. Congratulations, Nausheen!
Bull Creek Greenbelt and Barton Creek Greenbelt Reopen August 8, 2020
The Parks and Recreation Department (PARD), in consultation with the Austin Public Health Department, will reopen Bull Creek Greenbelt and Barton Creek Greenbelt beginning August 8, 2020.
As part of PARD's capacity management program, designed to alleviate environmental and community impacts, the Department will implement a pilot capacity management program at Barton Creek Greenbelt. This program will begin August 8 and is expected to continue for approximately 5 months. As a part of the pilot program Barton Creek Greenbelt will require a reservation in advance of visits Thursday through Sunday beginning Saturday, August 8, 2020. Reservations are free and can be made online beginning August 1. If a computer is not available, visitors may leave a voicemail at 512-974-6797.
As one of the formally recognized 2020 Leave No Trace Hot Spots, environmental impacts at Barton Creek Greenbelt have reached a critical level and continue to worsen. With increased traffic to the Greenbelt, litter (including pet waste), erosion, trail damage, water quality issues, and injuries continue to rise. Neighborhoods surrounding the residential entrances are particularly impacted by heavy traffic, public intoxication, and trash. By closely monitoring usage during the pilot program, Park Rangers will gather insight for future Barton Creek Greenbelt management strategies, educational opportunities and funding requirements.
Advance reservations are currently required for visitors Thursdays through Sundays at Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park, Emma Long Metropolitan Park, and Walter E Long Metropolitan Park. Reservations for all parks can be made online or, if a computer is not available, visitors may leave voicemail at 512-974-6797.
Virtual Exhibit Hosted by
Oakwood Cemetery Chapel
Oakwood Cemetery Chapel presents “To Vote,” an online exhibit with events from July 27 - September 30. “To Vote” recognizes Austin's suffragists during the 100th, 55th, and 45th Anniversary of all women gaining the right to vote in America. Many people who worked hard for that right are buried in Austin’s municipal cemeteries.
On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified as part of the U.S. Constitution, granting white women the right to vote in America. Women had been publicly campaigning for political rights in the U.S. since 1848, starting with a women's rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York. The voting rights of Texas women were first formally raised at the Constitutional Convention of 1868-69.
On August 5, 1965 the Voting Rights Act was signed into U.S. law creating the first opportunity for women of color to vote in America. In 1975, Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan worked with President Ford to ensure the voting rights of Mexican American and Native American people in America.
In Texas, generations of women rallied across the state for voting rights that helped them manage households, businesses and properties. Texas was the first southern state to ratify the 19th Amendment because of the activism of these people.
About Oakwood Chapel
Through historical tours, exhibits, events and memorial services, the Oakwood Cemetery Chapel provides a place to connect, heal and reflect, that is open to all.
Austin Animal Center The District 7 office continues to hear from constituents who are concerned about the health and welfare of animals found in neighborhoods around Austin. We are in regular contact with Chief Animal Services Officer, Don Bland, who has provided updates on intake numbers at the Austin Animal Center during the City’s COVID-19 response.
From March 16, 2020 to August 6, 2020, the Austin Animal Center has taken in 2,817 animals: 16 birds, 1,199 cats, 1,357 dogs, 206 wildlife and 39 other small pets. In that same time frame, they have had 1,142 adoptions and 429 animals returned to owners.
The Austin Animal Center has reopened to active volunteers. To ensure the safety of the people who are part of the volunteer program, social distancing is being practiced every day. Nine volunteers are on the AAC campus each day: 4 volunteers are walking dogs, 2 work with cats, 1 volunteer helps with a daily dog playgroup, 1 works on data entry and 1 assists with veterinary services.
The Austin Animal Center is also participating in the nationwide Clear the Shelters event. This is traditionally held 1 day a year. Due to COVID-19 concerns, this year the Clear the Shelters event is running for the entire month of August to promote shelter adoptions. The Austin Animal Center will waive adoption fees through the month of August and schedule adoptions by appointment. https://www.cleartheshelters.com/
An important reminder: the AAC’s response to COVID-19 has been to require appointments for animals to be accepted, adopted or claimed. If you have lost your pet or are interested in adopting an animal from the Austin Animal Center, please go the website for more information: https://www.austintexas.gov/content/austin-animal-center
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