Downtown Austin venue closes again due to COVID-19 cases

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — “The Elephant Room reopened on June 22nd, and we closed on July the 7th after two weeks,” said acting manager Michael Mordecai.

That’s after he says a waitress tested positive for COVID-19, and so did two other staff members and a drummer.

“My reaction is basically shock and, it’s like, ‘what do we — what are we supposed to — how do you act?'” Mordecai said.

The Elephant Room was set to reopen Wednesday after a two week COVID-19 safety closure, but Mordecai says they’ve decided to stay closed indefinitely to be safe as cases in the county surge, leaning on city and federal grant money to pay the bills.

“Everybody was acting like, pandemic’s over, it’s like, happy days are here again. And I think we all kind of learned a lesson from that,” Mordecai said.

He says at least one staff member and the drummer were fully vaccinated but isn’t sure about the others.

It’s something Rannon Ching, pharmacist-in-charge at Tarrytown Pharmacy, has also been seeing. He says demand for COVID-19 testing has increased more than 300% over the last month. Their positivity rate has also gone up from about 2% to about 10%.

“A lot of the tests that we’re doing is, you know, ‘we went to a camp, and someone tested positive there,’ therefore we have a lot of families that are wanting to test their children as well. We have had a lot of employers saying that they’ve had employees test positive, so therefore they need to get testing for the rest of their employees.”

Ching says about 40% of positive cases over the last month have been for people who are vaccinated, but those, he says, have milder symptoms than unvaccinated patients.

“The best thing you can do is get vaccinated to prevent hospitalization and severe disease, and if you are vaccinated, just be careful,” Ching said. “Be a little bit more cautious, it’s not a free pass.”

Tarrytown’s numbers reflect those of the region. Austin Public Health reports an increase in COVID-19 breakthrough cases as well as hospitalizations.

Like local health leaders, Ching urges even vaccinated people to mask up indoors.

“Do you have a chance of being exposed to someone with COVID? And if the answer is yes, just being a little more careful than what maybe you might have done just even two months ago,” Ching said.

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