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COVID in Austin Update (June 22)

Governor Abbott held a press conference this afternoon at the Capitol. To be direct, it contained nothing of note to anyone who has been paying attention.

If you want a few more words about what he said, he acknowledged numbers are trending all in the wrong ways. Positivity, per his numbers, went from ~4.5% at their lowest to currently ~9%. “COVID 19 is spreading at an unacceptable rate.”

He urges everyone to follow best practices—stay home if you can, when you leave home maintain social distance and wear a mask. As far as mandates or requirements go, nothing changes.

To soapbox, “stay home if you can” but we’re going to re-open youth baseball fields? I think that sends mixed messages that his conference today didn’t push back against.

He continued the refrain that we still have hospital capacity, but noted that if we continue this trend, in a month, we’re going to be screwed (my words, not his). On a good note, Chief Kidd (State’s Emergency Management Chief) said we have plenty of personal protective equipment (PPE), which is “one of the few times you’ve heard me say that”.

Governor Abbott did celebrate TABC’s enforcement of crowded bars, which include some more yesterday and more today. In Austin, this included the 6th Street location of UnBARlievable. This bar was in the news a few years ago because the owner likes to say racist and sexist things. While the Rainey Street location remains open, the 6th Street location can’t serve alcohol for the next month. Maybe just don’t go back, ever? The Soho Lounge on 6th also lost their permit. 17 bars statewide have been shut down for not following protocols. In an interesting twist, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, one of the first ones closed, argues that TABC didn’t indicate there were any issues during the inspection.

On the early voting front, the Governor has a lot of emergency power, so was asked about voting in next month’s runoff and special senate election. “Vote early, wear a mask.” That’s all. As a reminder, there have been a number of attempts to open up mail-in voting through both state and federal county. As of now, they all are waiting further appeal but as it stands, technically, it isn’t allowed.

At the same time, local election officials have no authority to validate if your request for a mail-in ballot is legit or not. They have to give you one. You’re taking on the risk of legal action if you vote-by-mail improperly or the risk of the virus if you vote in person.

Anyhow, not really local news, but opposite of, say, Texas Motor Speedway welcoming fans next month, cruises will be on hold longer.

The Cruise Terminal in the Port of Galveston will be quiet a bit longer.

Anyhow, on to the numbers. New cases for the state dipped a little, but still 3,280 (5th highest all-time, 1-4 the four days preceding). Hospitalizations increased yet again (11th straight day?) to 3,711.

Credit: The Texas Tribute

In Williamson County (Round Rock/Georgetown), where they are not issuing orders to require businesses to require masks, they joined the Century Club yesterday marking their first day of 100+ new cases. Their top three new case days were yesterday at 100, Saturday at 78, and today at 74. Williamson County also set a hospitalization record with 18 total cases—6 in the ICU. Note that Williamson County hospitalization numbers are included as part of the Austin/Travis County report since that metric is looking at hospitalizations across our MSA.

Hays County (San Marcos) brought in 160 new cases, 2nd to the 210 new cases set on Thursday.

In Austin, we have a new “Austin, Let’s Be a City of Us” PSA coming out. Again, nothing new if you’ve been paying attention.

Coming soon, Congress from Riverside up to 11th Street will have protected bike lanes to help support the increase in bicycle usage seen due to the coronovirus. The City has closed-except-for-local-traffic a number of streets and closed lanes of various roads to augment the bicycle network, so this continues that trend.

On the numbers’ front, for new case low, I think we’re seeing the Sunday dip of testing with the results. Travis County does not report the number of tests administered, but on the state level, it was only 22,829 compared to Sunday’s 62,782. I’m curious if that flows down to the county level too.

In either case, the number of new cases was only 129. We haven’t seen a number that low since last Tuesday. My guess is yesterday’s low hospital admissions (10) and today’s low new cases are related. Something akin to Sunday, fewer people to go Urgent Care/ER thinking they’d wait the weekend, thus fewer people checked on and admitted. With fewer tests done, add turn around time, that gets reflected with testing on Monday.

Anyhow, besides new cases being only 129, everything else is still bad. Hospitalizations up to 181, a new high, with 21 admissions today.

Hospitalizations. Blue is actual number, red is the seven-day average.

ICU is a new high at 86 and ventilator patient number is also at a new high of 32.

Keep wearing masks and be prudent.

Update: I mentioned above UnBARlievable being a place that it’d be fine to skip even after they reopen. Forgive the language and the ignorance that TABC is a state entity.

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By Brandon Kraft

My life is an open-source book.

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