COVID in Austin Update (June 21)

To start off, an updated list of counties requiring businesses to require masks:

  • Bexar County (San Antonio)
  • Brooks County (Falfurrias, I’ll forgive you if you don’t know it. Population 7k. Props!)
  • Cameron County (Brownsville)
  • Dallas County (Dallas)
  • El Paso County (El Paso)
  • Harris County (Houston)
  • Hays County (San Marcos)
  • Hidalgo County (McAllen)
  • Jim Hogg County (Hebbronville, population 5k)
  • Kleberg County (Kingsville)
  • City of Port Aransas
  • Travis County (Austin)
  • Webb County (Laredo)
  • Nueces County (Corpus Christi)*

Nueces County hasn’t officially issued the order from what I can tell, but the county judge said it is coming.

I haven’t checked each county’s orders, but most are enforceable starting tomorrow. But, why wait? Just wear a mask now. If you’re reading this, I’m likely preaching to the choir, but still, wear a mask.

There are still counties in metro areas that are actively intending not to issue mask requirements (looking at you Tarrant County and Fort Worth, Williamson County and Round Rock) and plenty that “recommend” masks. Come on, mandate them. You still have the discretion of when to fine a business or give them a warning, but at least act like there is a serious situation, at least in the metro areas.

That brings up a good point. Texas is a big state. Why should Clay County (population 10,000) do the same thing as Harris County (population 4.7 million). That’s a fair point. My concern is that while testing capacity and availability has increased in the metro areas, the rural areas seem to be still a bit behind. Maybe rural counties don’t need to require masks, but how confident are we that we actually know that?

In either event, at least if your county is seeing any increase in cases and you aren’t masking, put on a damn mask. I won’t be able to keep the list up to date—there are 254 counties in Texas after all, but I did want to share that an increasing number of counties are requiring it—both urban and rural.

On the State level, Governor Abbott announced a press conference for 2 p.m. tomorrow regarding the virus. For awhile, all of his press conferences have been to announce that we’re doing fine and to reopen more. We’ll see if he continues on this path or acknowledges things aren’t going great.

Speaking of not going great, for the 10th straight day, we’ve his a new record for hospitalizations with 3,409. We had 3,866 new cases reported, 2nd to yesterday’s high.

Yesterday, there were a very high ~65k tests recorded, but today, down to a more normal ~25k. I use fuzzy math here because the total tests include both viral (e.g. currently infected) and antibody (e.g. ever at any point had an infection) tests and takes a day or so before they break it out. Without breaking out the antibody tests, we’re looking at about a 10% positivity rate over the last 7 days, which is well above the 5-6% stated as our goal. (Including antibody tests pollutes the data and isn’t good, so don’t trust me with these numbers except to say, we are returning more positive tests than we should for having this under control).

To follow up on Hays County, south of Austin, which saw a really amazing spike late last week. Things seem “better” in that they’ve only been at about 100 a day, which is still high. To give you a sense of things, Hays County has almost the same number of active cases as Travis County right now. Hays has a population of ~230,000 compared to Travis’ 1.2 million.

I haven’t discussed “active cases” before now. I don’t like the metric because it is based on a lot of assumptions. Travis County used to report “recoveries” only when they confirmed the person had recovered, but switched to the State’s method on June 4th. The method now used is taking the number of positive results, subtract deaths, assume 20% of the remainder resulted in hospitalization (thus 80% didn’t), then assume that a hospitalized case takes 32 days to recover and a non-hospitalized case takes 14 days to recover.

That’s a lot of assumptions for me to feel comfortable taking a lot of stock in “active” cases or “recoveries”. Perhaps it is a fine proxy to see roughly how many cases matter right now, but I’m not going to celebrate “recoveries” under this method, personally.

On to Austin, the good news is we only had 10 new hospital admissions, the lowest we’ve had in some time. The brings down our 7-day average to 25.7. I’m going to guess this is only a temporary relief looking at the rest of our numbers.

We’ve had another death, putting us at 110 total. Thankfully, we still haven’t seen this number spike.

The total hospitalization count is at 174, just shy of last week’s record of 176. ICU patients jumped again to 84. Like I said yesterday, this is what concerns me most. This is 20 more ICU beds taken by COVID patients since Friday, which was 20 more than the Friday before.

Then, of course, total number of new cases. Yesterday, we had a mind-boggling 418, which was 200 more than the previous single-day high. Today, we hit 506 new cases.

I don’t know what the Governor is going to say tomorrow, but I’m eager to hear it.






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