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COVID in Austin Update (June 20)

On the news front, it has been pretty quiet today.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) issued emergency 30-day suspension of license to two Austin bars for violating COVID-19 protocols, the agency reported today. If you’re planning to get a drink at Buford’s Backyard Beer Garden or Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot Icehouse (both in the 700 block of W. 6th St) anytime in the next month, keep on going. The TABC on Friday pulled the license for three bars outside of the Austin area. It’s Saturday and I want to believe happy thoughts on the weekend, so let’s hope that this means virtually the rest of the bar scene is respecting the protocols. 🤞

The Austin American-Statesman had an article about hospital capacity with some new-to-me details.

The notable takeways:

  • The County is prepared to stand up a field hospital at the Austin Convention Center in 100-bed stages, up to final capacity of 1,500. There’s no indication that this will be needed, but the County is looking ahead.
  • Seton moves all COVID cases either to Dell Seton Medical Center (e.g. the medical center at UT) or Seton Medical Center (the 38th Street hopsital). Both hospitals are still serving non-COVID cases, but if you’re sick and visit other Seton facilities, you’re heading to Central Austin.
  • Hospitals are better at treating cases than they were earlier in the cycle. Basically, better medical protocols mean better treatment and more success. That’s encouraging. St. David’s System noted a decrease of deaths: “He attributed that to having access to plasma from donors who have already had the virus as well as two medications, an antiviral, remdesivir, and a steroid, dexamethasone, that are being studied with good initial results.”
  • Still take this seriously.

Statewide, same headlines, different day. New hospitalization record at 3,247. New record for daily new cases at 4,430. This blows out the previous record on Thursday of 3,516. Remember when a few days ago, Governor Abbott was making a big deal that the 4,098 new cases reported was actually only 2,622 new cases since the rest were delayed reports from the inmate population?

In Austin, I hate the numbers.

Today, we saw an increase of 418 new cases. Yesterday was 295, but counted for two days. Maybe, just maybe, 418 is artificially high because of the dashboard issues? 295 over two days is actually pretty good, so maybe that was optimistic? I hope… I want happy news on Saturdays, but we don’t always get what we want, eh?

418 new cases is huge. Two weeks ago, I was shocked to see us jump above 100 for the first time. As I noted last week, weekends used to have depressed reporting, but the COVID train’s conductor is asleep at the wheel and not applying the brake on weekends anymore.

This is not what “winning” looks like.

Hospitalizations are stable (172 compared to 173 yesterday), but ICU has jumped to 71. That’s a new record over the previous of 64 yesterday. New admissions down to 29, but still looking at an increase of our 7-day average to 28.6, the highest level we’ve been at.

The ICU increase is what is concerning me the most. Let’s hope we can get that under control soon. The caseload number is mind-boggling. The county doesn’t report on the dashboard the number of tests or the positivity rate. Across the state, while the number of tests is increasing, the positivity rate (the percentage of tests that come back positive) is increasing and the overall numbers are increasing faster than the testing—meaning this isn’t because of more testing.

Good luck, Austin. Stay home. Wear a mask.

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By Brandon Kraft

My life is an open-source book.

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