Greg Casar wins Democratic primary for Austin and San Antonio area congressional seat
Casar will be among the most progressive members of Congress ever to serve from Texas. During his tenure on the Austin City Council, he was best known for supporting cuts to the police department and his fight against encampment bans.
Austin voters reject ballot proposition to hire more police officers
Supporters of Proposition A argued that boosting the ranks of the police force was necessary to combat the city’s growing homicide rate, a trend seen in cities nationwide. Opponents and city leaders warned it would lead to fewer firefighters, medics and librarians.
Local mask mandates pop up in defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning COVID-19 restrictions
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is the most recent official to defy the governor’s order. He announced Monday that the city’s nearly 22,000 city employees will be required to mask up inside city buildings where social distancing is not doable.
Austin announces stricter coronavirus protocols for unvaccinated residents as cases increase. But it can’t legally enforce them.
The city’s return to Stage 3 risk-based guidelines marks the first time a major Texas city has reversed direction in the trend toward normalcy. But others are also reporting surges in cases.
Analysis: Those Texans ignoring social distancing guidelines? They’re probably not vaccinated
Polling suggests that along with an increasing number of vaccinated people without masks, there will be many others who are unmasked but unvaccinated — posing a public health hazard to themselves and to other unvaccinated people with whom they come into contact.
Texas AG sues Austin, Travis County to block mask mandate
AUSTIN, Texas – Acting on his threat, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued Austin and Travis County officials on Thursday over their decision to continue requiring mask-wearing in public. “Judge Brown and I will fight to defend and enforce our local health officials’ rules for as long as possible using all the power and tools available to us," Adler said in a statement. State officials reported that 4,053 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases Thursday raised the Texas pandemic total past the 2.7 million level to 2,704,344. Of those, the Texas Department of State Health Services estimated that 121,882 cases were active Thursday and 4,406 hospitalizations Wednesday, the latest data available. AdThe state reported 231 new COVID-19 fatalities in Texas on Thursday, taking the state's pandemic death toll past 45,000 to 45,106.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sues Austin to stop it from imposing a local mask order
A COVID-19 safety sign in Austin on June 24, 2020. Credit: Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas TribuneTexas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing Travis County and Austin officials in an effort to force them to rescind their local mask orders, he announced Thursday. "I told Travis County & The City of Austin to comply with state mask law," Paxton tweeted. There have been more than 2,200 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Travis County in the past two weeks. Travis County Judge Andy Brown, who presides over the county government, said the authority to impose the local mask mandate comes from the county health authority, not from Brown’s emergency powers. Paxton’s office successfully defeated an effort by Travis and Austin officials to restrict in-person dining at restaurants around New Year’s.
Austin officials say they'll continue requiring masks in public — but it's unclear how they'll be able to enforce the rule
Austin Mayor Steve Adler says enforcement of the mask rule will be limited. Credit: Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas TribuneAustin and Travis County public health leaders say that they will continue requiring residents to wear masks in public, even though Gov. Austin authorities acknowledged that city governments alone can't impose mask orders, but argued that public health authorities can. Escott is the appointed public health physician and expert to whom our community entrusts our public health," Adler said. In a video message posted to Facebook late Tuesday, Adler said it's a Class C misdemeanor to violate the public health order.
Stop dripping your faucets: Texas officials say the state’s water supply is at risk
Feb. 17, 2021. Credit: Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas TribuneSign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news. Activities such as showering and doing laundry are safe, but cities under water boil notices are asking people to conserve water if at all possible. “This boil water notice is currently in specific areas and is a precautionary measure to ensure the health and safety of our customers.”AdThe city of Arlington also issued a notice asking residents to boil water before consumption. For now, it’s unclear when cities will be able to lift their water boil notices. While some parts of Austin have issued notices as a precautionary measure, other cities, like San Angelo, have gone days without safe drinking water after city officials found industrial chemicals contaminated the water system.
Mayor Nirenberg joins other Texas mayors in requesting more COVID-19 vaccines from Biden administration
SAN ANTONIO – With President-elect Joe Biden taking office in less than a week, mayors across the U.S. are already requesting more COVID-19 vaccines from his administration. Mayor Ron Nirenberg and several other mayors across the nation, including Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, penned a letter to Biden’s administration requesting the ability to bypass the state and get a direct line of vaccines to their communities. “I’m proud to join my mayoral colleagues in requesting that the Biden Administration prioritize a direct line of vaccines to our communities,” Mayor Nirenberg said on social media Thursday. Biden’s plan so far is to spend $25 billion on vaccine production and disbursement, NPR reports. Mayors said in the letter that they hope to develop a plan with the Biden administration on day one that will help residents to get their COVID-19 vaccines as quickly as possible.
Austin won’t be allowed to restrict dining-in at restaurants, Texas Supreme Court says
In a further blow to the state, Texas’ Third Court of Appeals swiftly rejected an appeal later that night. Friday’s Supreme Court order, however, directs the lower court to block enforcement of the orders, pending any further appeal. Abbott, that allows for dine-in restaurant service and bars local officials from enacting more restrictive rules. Abbott and Paxton have sparred with other local officials who pushed aggressive measures meant to tamp down on the virus’ spread. Samaniego ordered a curfew similar to that in Austin and Travis County for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Austin can prohibit late on-site dining over holiday weekend, judge rules. But the state could appeal.
Elia Montoya serves breakfast dishes to U.S. Rep. Chip Roy and his family at Juan In A Million in East Austin in May. After the ruling, Deputy Attorney General Aaron Reitz announced on Twitter that the state would appeal. Under the curfew, patrons are not ordered to leave at 10:30 p.m., but they could not be served on-site. “It is our position that these local officials are in the best position to make the best decision for this jurisdiction,” said Travis County attorney Leslie Dippell. “My executive order stops cities like Austin from arbitrarily shutting down businesses,” he said.
Greg Abbott says Austin can't ban on-site dining for New Year's weekend as COVID-19 surge continues
Many businesses closed their doors on the strip during the spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas TribuneWith COVID-19 cases surging, Austin's mayor announced a ban on restaurants and bars serving customers on site during late night and early morning hours throughout the New Year's weekend, but Gov. Greg Abbott quickly attacked the move and said the city isn't authorized to exceed his statewide restrictions. “We are now facing our most dangerous surge,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said during a Wednesday press conference. “Today in Texas, COVID-19 represents one in five of every person hospitalized,” said Mark Escott, interim health authority and public health medical director for the City of Austin and Travis County.
Abbott, Paxton condemn Austin’s dine-in curfew for bars, restaurants on New Year’s weekend
Abbott spokeswoman Renae Eze said the governor ordered state health and emergency management officials to “strategically surge” medical teams to help with vaccinations in long-term care facilities. In Austin, officials moved to tamp down social gatherings and parties with new limits on dine-in and drink service at restaurants and bars. In a letter to city and county officials, Paxton said the order improperly restricts business hours in violation of a previous order by the governor. Austin Mayor Steve Adler said health officials are trying to corral surging hospitalizations and new cases. Adler said city attorneys were consulted on the Austin order.
Analysis: Leading by (bad) example
For Austin Mayor Steve Adler, the incident is a touch of class of the wrong variety, like slipping past the velvet rope outside a fancy restaurant or nightclub while the less privileged wait in line. Credit: Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas TribuneEditor's note: If you'd like an email notice whenever we publish Ross Ramsey's column, click here. If you would like to listen to the column, just click on the play button below. Just in case any of you were wondering!” Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson tweeted after Adler’s vacation came to light. Disclosure: Steve Adler, a former Texas Tribune board chair, has been a financial supporter of the Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors.
Austin mayor criticized for recording stay home message while vacationing in Cabo
AUSTIN – Austin Mayor Steve Adler has come under public scrutiny for going against his own guidance regarding traveling during the coronavirus pandemic. According to a report from KVUE, an Austin television station, Adler recorded the message while vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The trip followed an outdoor wedding and reception with 20 guests for his daughter at a hotel near downtown Austin. Two days after the wedding, Adler boarded a private jet with seven of the wedding attendees and vacationed at a family timeshare in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Adler told KVUE’s Tony Plohetski that neither the wedding nor the international travel broke his own orders or those established by Gov.
Politicians eat own words after dining out, taking trips
Gavin Newsom, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Los Angeles County supervisor all dined outdoors, conflicting with their own messaging to stay home. Gavin Newsom, who won plaudits for issuing the first statewide stay-at-home order in the U.S. back in March. San Francisco’s mayor, London Breed, was at the same $350-a-plate restaurant a day later, dining with a San Francisco socialite and six others. Breed has also won accolades for imposing some of the strictest rules in California, keeping coronavirus rates relatively low. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany called out what she called “Democrat hypocrisy" Wednesday as she displayed images of the same politicians.
Raging virus cases in Texas strain state health care system
AUSTIN, Texas – The crush of the coronavirus surge in El Paso has the city sending its non-COVID-19 cases to hospitals elsewhere in the state, officials said Tuesday. On Tuesday afternoon, Harris County sent out an emergency text alert to all 4.7 million of its residents asking them to cancel their holiday gatherings and to get tested. It’s just not the time,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the county’s top elected official. At a news conference, Hidalgo warned that the number of COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations locally is increasing. Hidalgo said that since late September, the number of average new daily cases in Harris County has increased by 250%.
How Gov. Greg Abbott made Austin’s police budget cuts a top campaign issue for candidates running in November
Greg Abbott has made the matter a campaign issue for 2020 candidates. Greg Abbott has made clear that he believes policing should be top of mind for all Texas candidates and voters. Part of that movement has included calls from the left to “defund police” — often the largest expense in city budgets. Austin Mayor Steve Adler also said in a statement Thursday that he did not consider Austin's budget cut "defunding," which he said city leaders did not support. The action drew a sharp and immediate reaction from Abbott and other state leaders that has continued through this week.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says local governments can't stop or delay evictions
In a nonbinding opinion, Attorney General Ken Paxton said Friday that local governments can't delay or ban eviction proceedings, even under emergency declarations during crises like the coronavirus pandemic. Loren Elliott for The Texas TribuneSign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton advised Friday that local Texas governments' attempts to delay evictions for renters grappling with the COVID-19 recession amounted to rewriting state law something they can't do, he said in nonbinding legal guidance. While local officials do possess certain emergency powers ... statewide eviction procedures far exceed the requirement that those powers be exercised 'on an appropriate local scale,' Paxton said in a letter. Nothing he has done to date shows us that we could expect something different, said Sandy Rollins, executive director of the housing advocacy group Texas Tenants Union.
Here's how the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded in Texas since March
A downtown Austin building showed the state of Texas with a heart inside during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic in the state. Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas TribuneWhen did the novel coronavirus first start to affect Texas and Texans? We put together a timeline of the states efforts to protect public health during the pandemic, and how those restrictions and provisions have changed over time. Disclosure: Steve Adler, a former Texas Tribune board chairman; SXSW; Walmart; the University of Texas; Texas A&M University and Texas State University have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism.
Facing budget shortfalls, nearly 100 Texas mayors plead with Congress for coronavirus relief funding
The budget calamity looming over local governments is real and it requires extraordinary measures, said a letter signed by 97 Texas mayors and directed to members of Congress. We therefore fear that state and local revenue is going to take time to rebound. But unlike the CARES Act, the proposal hasnt received bipartisan support and has stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate, according to The Washington Post. Overall, COVID-19 expenditures are vastly outpaced by the citys revenue losses, Williams said. The citys population is just under 400,000 not reaching the 500,000 threshold required to receive direct funding from the CARES Act and instead receiving funds funneled from the state.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signals support as Austin weighs fines for people not wearing face masks
Greg Abbott on Wednesday signaled his encouragement to Austin city leaders to move forward on "additional enforcement mechanisms" related to a recent order Abbott issued requiring Texans to wear masks in most public spaces. Abbott further discussed his letter to Adler in an appearance on KXAN on Wednesday evening. "Local officials do need to step up and enforce these executive orders, knowing that the executive orders that have been issued were intended to slow the spread...without having to close down," he said. And so all that they are contemplating doing, as i understand it, is making sure that they do enforce the existing executive order standards." The thing about people wearing face masks and the reason why I issued the face mask requirement, is that if everyone does wear a face mask, everyone can go into work wherever they may work."
COVID-19 hospitalizations in Texas continue to rise
AUSTIN, Texas Hospitalizations across Texas have more than doubled in the last two weeks, rising to 8,698 people in hospitals on Monday. Local officials across Texas say their hospitals are becoming increasingly stretched and are in danger of becoming overrun as cases of the coronavirus surge. State health officials reported Monday that more than 12,000 beds remained available throughout Texas but the numbers differ locally. On Monday, Texas reported 5,318 new cases, after a record high of 8,258 on Saturday. Texas also reported 18 additional deaths Monday, bringing the totals to 2,655 reported deaths and 200,557 confirmed cases.
Texas leaders warn of hospital capacity, ask for lockdowns
DALLAS Leaders in two of Texas' biggest cities are calling on the governor to empower local governments to order residents to stay home as the state's continued surge in coronavirus cases tests hospital capacity. Austin Mayor Steve Adler told CNNs "State of the Union" Sunday that he wants Gov. Gregg Abbott, a Republican, to return control of his city to the local government as its hospitals face a potential crisis. If we dont change the trajectory, then I am within two weeks of having our hospitals overrun, Adler, a Democrat said. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.
Several Texas cities worry hospitals may run out of beds in two weeks or sooner
As Texas hit another record high Sunday, reporting 8,181 people hospitalized for the new coronavirus, local officials predicted cities like Houston could soon run out of space to care for the sickest patients. As Texas hit another record high Sunday, reporting 8,181 people hospitalized for the new coronavirus, local officials predicted cities could soon run out of space to care for the sickest patients. The state reported that there still are 13,307 available staffed hospital beds, including 1,203 available staffed ICU beds statewide, but hospital capacity varies greatly by region. As of Saturday, 10 of 12 hospitals in Texas' Rio Grande Valley had already reached capacity as the number of people being hospitalized for the coronavirus more than doubled over the last two weeks. Ten of Texas' trauma service regions have more than 70% of their beds filled, with six of those regions reporting their beds are at least 80% filled, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Local leaders warn Texas is heading down a dangerous path as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surge in big cities
Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas TribuneAs Texas' coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to break records for a second straight week, leaders and health experts in the largest cities are warning that the state is heading down a dangerous path and hospitals could soon be overwhelmed. Travis County and Austin-area cases dramatically increased over the weekend, surging to 6,210 on Monday, compared to about 4,991 reported on Friday. He said there has been a sharp increase in the number of cases of younger people in North Texas. She cautioned that cases in Hays County are growing faster than those in the rest of the Austin metropolitan area. Disclosure: UT Southwestern Medical Center, Texas State University and Austin Mayor Steve Adler have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors.
Austin mayor says residents are now three times more likely to catch COVID-19
The city had 5,286 COVID-19 cases, as of Saturday, which is up from around 4,300 on Friday, Adler said. In San Antonio, health officials reported 6,344 COVID-19 cases, which was an increase of 382 cases from Friday. Mayor Adler said in the release he has extended the citys emergency order until August 15, requiring face coverings, social distancing and minimized social gatherings to help contain the spread. In Bexar County, facial coverings will be required at all area businesses when social distancing is not possible. Both Mayor Adler and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg joined other Texas mayors in writing a letter to Texans about staying vigilant in the fight against COVID-19.
Texas bars and restaurants were eager to reopen. Now some are closing their doors again as coronavirus cases rise.
“I freaked out,” said Prince, who plans to quarantine for two weeks and get tested if COVID-19 symptoms arise. Also Tuesday, the state reported that at least 2,000 Texans have died from the COVID-19 disease caused by the new coronavirus. "They still have to be practiced because COVID-19 hasn't suddenly magically left the state of Texas," he said. More than 680,000 workers in the restaurant industry have lost their jobs during the pandemic, according to the Texas Restaurant Association. Disclosure: Steve Adler, a former Texas Tribune board chairman; Texas A&M University; and the Texas Restaurant Association have been financial supporters of the Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors.
Texas' big-city mayors ask Gov. Greg Abbott for power to impose face mask rules
Greg Abbott in a letter Tuesday to grant them the "authority to set rules and regulations" mandating face masks during the coronavirus pandemic. The mayors wrote that many people in their cities continue to refuse to wear face masks and that "a one-size-fits-all approach is not the best option" when it comes to regulating the issue. Abbott has continued to encourage Texans to wear masks, but in a press conference Tuesday balked again at the idea of imposing penalties on people who don't. "I make clear on a daily basis around the entire state of Texas that wearing a mask is very important, and local officials send that message," he said. He said local officials wanting to slow the spread of the virus have other tools at their disposal.
In Austin, a liberal bastion, protests force another reckoning with racism, segregation
Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas TribuneMany Austin residents bask in their citys reputation as a laid-back liberal bastion a city of hippies and festivals that coined the motto Keep Austin Weird to distance itself from the surrounding states conservatism. Racial and economic justice have not been Austins top priorities in the past, said Austin City Council member Greg Casar. The City Council is liberal, has a female majority and includes several people of color, one of whom is black. But in addition to the death of Floyd, Austin residents have expressed outrage over the death of Michael Ramos in their own backyard. Protesters in Austin marched Sunday against the killing of Michael Ramos in Austin and George Floyd in Minneapolis.
I didnt care if I was exposed to COVID: Protesters anger outweighed their fear of getting sick
I didnt care if I was exposed to COVID, she said, though she tried to stay away from the thickest crowds. In Harris County, which includes Houston, County Judge Lina Hidalgo asked protesters to consider showing support for the demonstrations virtually. On Sunday, Texas reported 1,949 new virus cases the highest increase since the state began reporting coronavirus case counts. Texas health officials have reported nearly 1,700 deaths from COVID-19 to date. And the mass jailing of protesters could be another spark for the virus; Texas largest police departments reported arresting hundreds of people during the weekend.
Coronavirus has halted these concerts, festivals and movie premieres
(CNN) -- As the world seeks to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, it's had an effect on entertainment. With countries like Italy going on lockdown to try and contain spread of the virus, concerts, festivals and movie premieres are also being postponed or canceled across the globe. Ultimately, there is no higher priority for us than the health, safety and physical well-being of each of you, together with everyone else involved in the production of the event." We have unfortunately made the difficult decision to postpone our upcoming shows in Asia due to the health + travel concerns with coronavirus," the band wrote on their site. "The Wendy Williams Show"The nationally syndicated talk show will begin taping episodes without a studio audience out of concern for the coronavirus.