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COVID in Austin Update (June 28)

A reminder that tomorrow begins Early Voting for the primary run-off (moved because of the coronavirus) and the State Senate, District 14 special election. The early voting locations are different than usualđź“„. My usual early voting spot is the local Fiesta grocery store, but because of the pandemic, Travis County is not using any grocery stores for election sites for this one. You can vote in the run-off even if you didn’t vote in the original election.

You can look up your registration and see a sample of your particular ballot at votetravis.com.

State of Texas

Statewide, Vice President Pence and a few others DC folks met with Governor Abbott this morning in Dallas. The meeting was added to the VP’s schedule as he was already going to be in Dallas to speak at the First Baptist Church there.

Of note, nothing, in my opinion, came out of the televised session worth talking about. The usual VP praising the Governor and everyone acknowledging Texas isn’t in a great spot. I suppose, sadly, it is notable that everyone—the Vice President, Gov. Abbott, and everyone else—were wearing masks when they greeted each other on the tarmac when Air Force Two landed.

On the data front, we had 5,357 new cases statewide—the 6th day in a row we were over 5,000. For hospitalizations, we finally did it. We didn’t set a new record for today. We’re at 5,497 in the hospital, down 26 from yesterday, making this the second-highest day we’ve had.

Our positivity rate sucks. We jumped up to 14.31%, our highest since the pandemic started. This matters to me because it is a proxy to how well we’re able to test the overall community in order to have a solid picture of what’s going on with this virus. Our goal was to be around 5-6%.

This is also evidence of what I’m going to cover in the Travis County section of the update… Moving on.

Harris County (Houston)

Friday was a weird day with data. Just not as much out there as I’d like. I jumped on my phone this morning to try to catch up on some that I hadn’t seen updated—like the Texas Medical Center’s ICU projections. I couldn’t find it. I figured maybe I was just looking on the wrong page since I usually look up everything when I’m on my computer, leaving my phone just for checking in with news outlets.

Sure enough, it wasn’t on the TMC website anymore. I liked the ICU projection product because it was the only one in Texas I’ve seen that projected forward need against capacity.

Later in the day, the Houston Chronicle broke the story that TMC took them down after pressure due to the reporting around ICU capacity.

Tonight, they re-added the deleted products, but changed them. No longer does it mention the “100% base capacity” and the “surge” levels it did before. It mentions Phase I and Phase II IC, which looked to align with the previous “sustainable” and “unsustainable” surge language.

In any event, over 37% of ICU patients are COVID patients right now in Harris County. That’s a lot. It’s over 39% it you look at the entire SETRAC region. I’m not in Harris County, so I’m just going to look at SETRAC here on out.

On a separate note, news out of the County Judge’s office that Judge Lina Hidalgo will be self-isolating at home after a staffer in her office tested positive.

Williamson County (Round Rock/Georgetown)

Our friends to the north in Williamson still live without a business-must-require-masks mandate. Today, they saw a notable jump in number of new cases (169), so need to watch them over the next few days to see if this is an outlier or beginning of a sharper trend.

Hays County (San Marcos)

Thankfully, while they are still seeing extremely high numbers, they aren’t continuing to increase.

I don’t know the positivity rate or testing numbers over time for Hays—are there actually fewer cases being caught or is there are other things in play. In either case, it’s still way too high.

Travis County (Austin)

Bad news to start: we’re back in a really crummy testing position.

CommUnity Care Testing at the Hancock Shopping Center at IH-35 at 41st Street. Photocredit: Texas Tribute

Texas Tribune covers this across the state, but we are starting to again exhaust our testing capacity. At the Hancock site above, folks reported waiting four hours to get tested. From friends on Facebook, they were given testing appointments over a week into the future.

CommUnity Care, who has a number of testing sites across Austin including the one pictured above, is reporting a 29.5% positivity rate for the last week. (This does not include private testing done in town; Travis County does not release overall testing information.)

An interesting bit of data from their dashboard goes into the economic injustice related to this virus.

The chart above is for the week before last, but it shows ~15% positivity for those with standard health insurance or Medicare (the one for seniors), but 26-28% for those on Medicaid (low income support) or uninsured. The data has indicated that poorer folks are being hit harder by this for a variety of reasons—required to work outside the home, often living in closer quarters, majority of the bulletins from officials have been in English, etc.

The positivity is only going to increase as Austin Public Health is no longer giving testing appointments to anyone who is asymptomatic, so we’re back to only testing sick people.

Next, let’s look at our data again.

The good news—we had no deaths since yesterday.

We had 636 new cases since yesterday. The previous single-day high was 506 last Sunday. Hospitalizations are up, again, to 351. We had a record high 60 new admissions today, putting us at a 7-day average of 52.

Oddly, Austin Public Health, without an announcement that I found, changed the criteria for their stages according to their dashboard.

As published in late May, and posted below, Stage 4 was 20-70 daily new hospital admissions based on a 7-day average.

The website changed it to 40. Either way, we’re well above it at this point.

Stay safe.

By Brandon Kraft

My life is an open-source book.

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