Austin’s Top News – February 4, 2021 | KLBJ-AM

Partial camping ban

Austin City Council today will partially reintroduce public camping bans. Michele Steeb of the Texas Public Policy Foundation says the so-called HEAL resolution, or the link to support homeless camps, is actually a pretty good first step.

“And then we have to start enforcing it. And that’s going to take a lot of different people to help the homeless understand what the new rules are and where they can and can’t be, “says Steeb.
Here Steeb is critical of the city because officials have already said that the camping bans will not be enforced by police or fines. And because of this, Steeb ultimately believes the HEAL resolution will not work.

The petition to lift the ban on camping, filed by the local nonprofit organization Save Austin Now, has been certified by the city of Austin. 20,000 signatures are required to get the issue on the ballot in May. City clerk Jannette Goodall says 26,103 signatures have been validated.

Updated the homeless hotel at Candlewood Suites

On the eve of Austin’s vote to purchase the Candlewood Suites Hotel for homeless shelters, which will take place today, residents and business owners have teamed up again to urge the city to postpone the date. Much like Williamson County’s commissioners said this week, protesters say the city was quick to sneak in on this with no transparency. Bianca Rodriguez spoke to CBS Austin.

“Let’s fund something that is in a non-residential area that actually offers rehabilitation services for these people,” says Rodriguez.

Almost 2,500 people signed an online petition against the opposition. But despite the push back, the plan seems to have a lot of support for the city council’s slides.

Georgetown State Senator Charles Schwertner throws himself into the debate about the Candlewood Suites Hotel. He tells FOX 7 that the Austin City Council is not properly addressing homelessness and should not refer its problems to Williamson County.

“I will bring my colleagues to both sides of the chamber. I’ve already spoken to the management and that’s a real problem down here, ”says Schwertner.

He, too, was blind to the city’s plan only a few days ago, and is submitting a bill that would force cities and counties to duly notify the community before making decisions like this.

COVID-19 update

Travis County’s COVID hospital stays have continued to decline for days, and as of this morning, the county is once again below the 500 hospital stay mark. But only 499 people are hospitalized. Active cases are still going in the right direction. 5,008 cases were reported today. That dropped by 140 in the last day. A total of 70,631 cases with nearly 65,000 recoveries were confirmed.

UK COVID variant

The UK variant of COVID-19 was officially found in Austin. Austin Public Health confirms the more infectious version of the coronavirus has been found in a patient in Austin Travis County. Officials say the test was taken at a private testing facility. They had medical staff believe the British variant of the virus had been around for a long time. Following reports last month on the Harris County man with no travel history who signed the UK variant of COVID. Dr. Austin Travis County’s Health Department Mark Escott says he understands the current COVID vaccine is effective for the COVID variants.

Second dose of vaccine

Thousands of people in Austin are about to get their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Austin Public Health doesn’t allow people to schedule an appointment for a second shot until others arrive from the state. Austin Mayor Steve Adler says these people will be notified.

“We hope to reach people on the 28th day they received the first vaccine. However, the studies show that you can get it 30 to 60 days later and still keep it working, ”says Adler.

Austin Public Health is hoping to let people know about a second dose no later than a week after this 28-day benchmark.

New forensics laboratory

Austin City Council will also vote today to create a new forensic laboratory that is independent from the Police Department. Ken Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association, told KVUE that this really makes sense, although he disagrees with many of the council’s police decisions.

“I think that should have happened years ago. It gives the evidence examined a third eye, not a police eye, ”says Casaday.

Casaday says storing evidence that has been checked by a neutral third party is something he is very supportive of. The city plans to use $ 12 million reallocated from the APD budget.

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