COVID

Asher Price
Jul 20, 2022 - News

Austin's bats can catch COVID

A Mexican free-tailed bat. Photo: Ernest Valdez, USGS

Those tittering bats who hang out beneath the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge can catch COVID, per a new federal study.

Why it matters: Learning how COVID interacts with wild species illuminates the virus' ability to adapt genetically to new hosts and become more virulent.

Asher Price
Jul 7, 2022 - News

Census data reveals Texas' COVID population shift

Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Map: Simran Parwani/Axios

Turns out, people are moving here.

The big picture: Driven by the pandemic, our new work-from-anywhere world has accelerated the great Sun Belt shift as cities like Austin have attracted emigres from California, the rural Midwest and other parts of Texas seeking either cheaper housing or better job prospects.

Nicole Cobler
Jun 22, 2022 - Business

Downtown office leasing beats pre-pandemic levels

Photo: Rick Kern/Getty Images

Austin's downtown commercial leasing surged well above pre-pandemic levels last year, and beat out Houston, Dallas and San Antonio for new leases and construction.

Why it matters: COVID surges and lockdowns have been particularly challenging for downtown business owners, but companies are expanding their footprint, bringing employees — and their wallets — to nearby restaurants and retail shops.

Nicole Cobler
Jun 21, 2022 - COVID

COVID shots for children under 5 could be available this week

A health care worker administers a Covid-19 test to a child at the Austin Regional Clinic drive-thru vaccination and testing site in Austin on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021. Photo: Matthew Busch/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Austin parents will soon have the option to get the area's youngest residents vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Driving the news: The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off on Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna's COVID shots for children as young as 6 months old on Saturday.

Asher Price
Jun 21, 2022 - News

To do business with Texas, you can't boycott Israel

Illustration of the Texas State Capitol with lines radiating from it.
Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

If you want to sell widgets — or really any item or service — to the state of Texas, you first have to formally pledge that you won't boycott Israel and that you won't "discriminate against" firearm companies.

The big picture: Standard provisions buried deep in Texas contracts and reviewed by Axios show state officials can exert political leverage on companies hungry to win — and keep — business with government entities.

Asher Price
Jun 7, 2022 - News

Texas diners eating at restaurants more readily than rest of U.S.

Data: OpenTable; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Even as the pandemic persists (yes, we're still in a pandemic), Austinites are headed to restaurants in numbers that exceed those of the before times, per data from OpenTable.

The big picture: The rest of the U.S. is still sorta hunkered down, but Austinites are out and about.

Asher Price
Jun 7, 2022 - News

How the war in Ukraine shuttered an Austin vegan ice cream shop

Screenshot of a Sweet Ritual/Instagram post
Screenshot via SweetRitual/Instagram

You can add an Austin ice cream shop to the long list of places unexpectedly impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Driving the news: Sweet Ritual, a beloved vegan ice cream maker, announced that it's shutting down.

The big picture: Safflower oil, a crucial ingredient in Sweet Ritual's frozen desserts, is produced and processed in Ukraine — and it grew scarce after the conflict began in February, Sweet Ritual owner Amelia Raley told Axios.

Between the lines: Raley used safflower oil to mimic the texture of dairy ice cream.

  • The shop shut down for more than a month earlier this year because Raley couldn't acquire the ingredient.

What they're saying: "My supplier doesn't know when [the safflower's] coming back, because no one knows what's going on," Raley said.

Zoom out: Russia has plundered grain and other goods from Ukraine, leading to spiking food prices globally.

By the numbers: The safflower shortage was only the latest crisis for Sweet Ritual, which had already been hobbled by the pandemic, labor shortages and supply chain issues.

  • Inflation drove up ingredient prices by at least 30% compared to pre-pandemic times.
  • The cost of coconut milk soared by 97%.

To stay in business, price hikes for items like milkshakes — which were going for about $7 — felt inevitable.

  • "I had to ask myself, 'Can I charge $15 for a milkshake? Will my customers pay for it?' That's what I'd need to keep the caliber of employees I have."

Her plan had been to push through the summer season, but the ceaseless setbacks — topped by personal health issues — led her to get out.

  • "My boyfriend says it's like someone poked me in the eye, punched me in the gut and then shoved me down the stairs — and is now drawing a mustache on [me] at the bottom."

What's next: A summer vacation. She hasn't had one in 10 years.

  • Raley, who has served as a frozen dessert consultant, is weighing several job offers — and deciding whether to remain in town.
  • "Austin's been really good to me, and it's an incredible place to grow as an entrepreneur."
Asher Price
May 10, 2022 - Business

A peek at the future of Texas pool-sharing

Illustration of a dollar sign made out of the tiles at the bottom of a pool.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

As near triple-digit temperatures descend on Texas, pool time is taking on greater appeal.

The big picture: Nascent pool-sharing companies are betting that the market for opening up private homes to leisure activities extends beyond the pandemic — and are making a big push in Texas this summer.

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