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

Bill Magnus from ERCOT fired

Bill Magnus is in his final days as CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. The PCB decided this week to give Magnus a 60-day notice period. During the recent hearings, Magnus had very few responses to the blackouts to please state lawmakers.

“I think things have to change to avoid this situation again. What all these things are, sitting here today, Senator, respectfully, I don’t think I know, ”says Magnus.
The board spent little time and discussion before voting to fire Magnus. Five other board members resigned at the end of last month.

Utilities

Austin City Council will vote today on some utility programs. One proposal is to put $ 5 million in a relief fund for Austin Water and $ 5 million in a fund for Austin Energy to help ease the electricity bill. The council will also consider a $ 10 credit towards an upcoming utility bill.

The Austin Water Oversight Committee received an update from Water Director Greg Mesaros, who says the outages during the winter storm were demoralizing for the utility. He says Austin Water promises to do better.

“Austin Water will play a more important role in making sure these resources are backed up and stored before any event. It’s too difficult to get these off the ground during an event, ”says Mesaros.

He says Austin Water has already started work on updated real-time maps showing failures and leaks.

COVID-19 update

Moving on to the coronavirus, where Travis County’s numbers haven’t really moved either way over the past day. This morning 242 people were hospitalized for the virus, 74 of whom are in intensive care. Of the 76,274 cases confirmed last year, 1,718 cases were active and 73,802 cases were recovered.

And the hospital’s overall capacity has increased slightly this week for Williamson County, which reports 673 hospital beds available this morning. That’s 16% across the country, a little more than at the beginning of the week. 6.4% of the county has been fully vaccinated, and more than 14% of Williamson county has received a dose of the COVID vaccine to date.

Answer to wearing mask mandates

Several members of Governor Abbott’s Open Texas Strikeforce said they were not involved in his decision to lift COVID restrictions. Dr. Parker Hudson is one of the members. He tweeted Wednesday that he had not been consulted ahead of the governor’s executive order, ending COVID restrictions. Dr. Another member, Mark McClellan, said the governor’s order was premature. On Wednesday, the Commissioner of the Ministry of Health, Dr. John Hellerstedt, asked if he had specifically spoken to Governor Abbott about the executive order.

“Did the governor consult with you about his decision to repeal the national mask ordinance?”

“We have daily conversations with the governor’s staff about what we see trends in public health.”

Austin and Travis County’s health authorities say they want to see people wear masks for quite a while. Dr. Jose Ayala, of the Austin area, says that 80% of the local population in the area must be vaccinated against COVID-19 before they can relax the mask. Currently, around 10% of Texans have been vaccinated, Ayala says. I think we still have a long way to go.

“I think there needs to be a lot more education. There are many people who are afraid of vaccines, so we need to reassure and educate the population, ”says Ayala.

In Travis County officials say less than 6% of residents have been fully vaccinated.

Possible restrictions if cases arise

Travis County is really trying to find an angle to keep control of the populist who cannot force the wearing of masks. District Judge Andy Brown says this could mean finding a way to curtail local bars and restaurants.

“If that means changing the opening times of restaurants. And that’s something we can do under this new order, that’s absolutely something I’d be thinking about, ”says Brown.

In addition to limiting bar and restaurant hours, Brown would consider banning alcohol sales before 2 a.m.

As a result, there has been a lot of anger this week that Governor Abbott gave the public a choice about wearing masks. Williamson County judge Bill Gravell, who refused to give a mandate at the start of the pandemic, tells CBS Austin he supports this.

“Our hospital stay has decreased in the region or in the region. The number of positive tests they’ve gone down and the number of people vaccinated daily in our community are just going through the roof, ”Gravell says.

District judges can issue a mask mandate if the total number of COVID hospital stays exceeds 15%. Gravell says he would consider seeing the numbers rise again.

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