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COVID in Austin Update (June 30)

Let’s review the month and the quarter, shall we?

It’s been a hell of a month and a hell of a quarter.

Okay, that’s enough of that. If you’ve been reading along these posts alive in America, you don’t need a summary. Moving on.

News

Baseball

Very minor in the grand scheme of things, Minor League Baseball announced there will be not be a 2020 season this year. MiLB is a separate entity from MLB. MLB teams are affiliated through Player Development Contracts to the various MiLB teams—the Round Rock Express is the Triple A affiliate of the Houston Astros, for example. The MLB provides and pays for the players and the coaches, while the facilities and the rest of the staff are provided and paid for by the minor league team. In other words, Round Rock provides the stage and the Astros provide the on-field talent.

Today, MLB announced they would not be providing the talent this year, so MiLB has no players to showcase. Thus, no season. (The Astros will pay their MiLB players through the end of August, though.)

The Round Rock Express, I suppose expecting this, was granted a temporary expansion team in the Texas Collegiate League. This is a wood-bat league (college usually plays metal bats) that will be playing over the summer as the Round Rock Hairy Man. Originally, the Hairy Man was going to be one of the random mascots that the Express will play as during the season for a few games. It’s named after a local legend. Anyhow, you’re not here about baseball.

State

Quick thing—HEB statewide will require masks for shoppers and employees, whether or not they are mandated by the local authorities.

Unemployment Benefits Update

The Texas Workforce Commission announced they will not be implementing a “seeking work” requirement on Monday as originally scheduled.

Usually, unemployment benefits require that the individual is actively trying to land work, but that was suspended in the pandemic. Citing the recent upward motion of the virus, the TWC changed course.

Republican Convention

The Texas Medical Association, a major sponsor of the Republican’s in-person, no-mask convention in Houston in a couple weeks, wrote a letter to the party strongly urging them to reconsider the physical conference. As of when I’m writing this, the TMA says that the state GOP is taking the request “seriously”. Props to the Tribune for spreading word that TMA was still a sponsor.

Hospital Capacity

Governor Abbott extended the “no elective operations” order to four additional counties. In addition to the existing ban for Travis (Austin), Bexar (San Antonio), Harris (Houston), and Dallas counties, they are now banned for Cameron (Brownsville), Hidalgo (McAllen/Edinburg), Nueces (Corpus Christ) and Webb (Laredo) counties.

Laredo and the Valley has been particularly hit hard with capacity issues, including having the National Guard come in to provide additional medical staffing support. Houston had been taking the ICU capacity headlines, but Laredo Medical Center hit 100% before Houston’s Texas Medical Center.

Not worth a bullet on it’s own, but Governor Abbott was on KXAN (Austin’s NBC affiliate) last night and celebrated that 2/3rds of Texans were under mask mandates. I didn’t fact-check—I assume he means by population, not 2/3rds of counties. I’m going to refrain from expressing my thoughts on the Governor now praising that local officials had to invent a way to thread a needle to get these orders in place. You probably know how I feel.

Education

The State Board of Education was briefed today by the Education Commissioner about COVID today. I didn’t watch the briefing, but borrowing notes from a reporter who was there:

  • Texas students will sit for the STAAR exam this year, though they will expand the window districts can administer the exam and offer an online option.
  • Schools will have digital delivery options.
  • There are no public health guidelines for in-person instruction yet.
  • Money will be an issue probably. We used our federal money to make this last school year’s budget work.
  • The State has provided PPE to districts, but there aren’t mandates to use it.
  • Hiring is a local decision, so how districts handle teachers who are high-risk for COVID is up to individual districts.

Austin

Austin Public Health announces new Stage criteria

I mentioned a few days ago that the criteria for the various “stages” of response had changed without announcement, marking stage 4 as 40 new hospitalizations on a 7-day rolling average instead of 20.

They announced it today.

I am a bit frustrated, though, by APH’s communication efforts. I can appreciate they are handling a situation they have never had to handle before. The announcement of the new criteria:

Notice something?

They included the old charts.

The new chart sets stage 4 at 40 and stage five being triggered at a hand-wavey 70-123.

On the good front, they released some additional datasets. You need an account to see them. I’ve been trying but haven’t been sent the activation link yet. From the titles, I think they are the existing data we have, but maybe it’ll include historic information. That’ll be good to compare to my manually-recorded historical information. Hopefully, I’ll have access in the next day or so.

APH had bad data on the mobile dashboard for over a week. I think they finally have it updated, but took a bit (and a call to 311 after no response previously) to get them to update it.

Anyhow, on to the data.

Data

State of Texas

After a previous record of 5,996 on June 25th and dipping below 5,000 finally yesterday, we jumped up to 6,975 new cases.

Statewide, deaths are still looking okay. I’m still really hopeful that our efforts to help protect the older segment of population is making the big difference here.

For hospitalizations, a new record again. 6,533 in the hospital. We’ve set new daily records every day since June 12th, except for the 28th.

Our positivity rate for the state went back over 14% again.

Travis County (Austin)

On the local front, let’s see how we are doing.

Today, we had 558 new cases, the 2nd highest daily number. This was after the record 636 on Sunday and 508 yesterday.

We had 3 deaths since yesterday. That’s 7 between yesterday and today. We last had 7 over 2 days on May 12-13.

For hospitalizations, we’re at 369, up a smidge from yesterday’s 368. We’ve gone up every day from June 21st onward. A month ago, we were at 78 on May 30th.

We had 67 new hospitalizations today. That’s a new record and what concerns me the most.

There are 132 in the ICU and 64 on ventilators. Increases from 121 (+11) and 65 yesterday (-1 yay!), respectively.

Until tomorrow…

LATE: ICUs are at 80%:

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By Brandon Kraft

My life is an open-source book.

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