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COVID in Austin Update (July 9)

Latest models don’t all say we’re going in the wrong direction forever.

Other People To Listen To

I’m just a layman. I’m not in public health or anything. This is just me ingesting an unhealthy amount of news and needing to process it in a productive way. I’m glad so many people have told me it has helped them.

If you want to follow some experts who share fact-based, data-driven takes, here are a couple of suggestions. These are folks who I trust their read of the data and are apolitical.

On Facebook: Your Local Epidemiologist
On Twitter: Dr. Peter Hotez

Dr. Hotez is pretty vocal with criticizing the political response (like me), but he often rebukes attempts to make this political by trying to slam the governor more personally or the GOP.

New Orders

City of Austin

As mentioned yesterday, at today’s City Council meeting, the Council passed two resolutions allowing for a $2,000 civil fine for failure to follow health orders (e.g. wearing a mask) and instructing the city to levy a lawsuit against any business not following health protocols.

Due to the emergency nature of the pandemic, both are effective basically immediately and are on the books until December 31st. (Not that we must wear masks until December 31st, but that the Health Authority can create rules that can be enforced with fines up to $2,000 until then, unless modified by the Council).

Round Rock

Meanwhile, Round Rock reduced the penalty for lack of wearing a mask to a warning followed by a $200 fine. They also voted today to push the postponed May 2020 city council elections to May 2021. Abbott had ordered them postponed to November.

Governor Abbot

The Governor issued a proclamation to amend GA-27, the order prohibiting elective surgeries in a number of counties. It’s a lot of counties.

Now, all of the counties within the following Trauma Service Areas, as shown on the map below, are included in the restrictions. Areas J, K, M O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V and Dallas County. Basically, most of Texas except North Texas, Northeast Texas, the Panhandle and Lubbock areas, and El Paso.

State GOP Convention

🍿 I’m obviously won’t be heading to the convention either way, but yesterday, Houston cancelled their contract. Today, Montgomery County’s (Conroe and The Woodlands) Judge invited the convention to drive up IH-45 and the State GOP sued the City of Houston over the cancelled contract.

The district judge already ruled for Houston in the suit and the GOP has appealed directly to the Texas Supreme Court. As Mayor Turner said, it’s a bit ironic that the GOP is arguing it is safe for a 6,000-person in-person convention while the courts are still meeting virtually.

Houston’s Hospitals

I haven’t said much about Houston lately. Just too much locally. But, they’re still in the same position. ICUs are at 105% of capacity at the Texas Medical Center as they’re solidly in “Phase 2”. Phase 1 is their normal ICU beds. Phase 2 is their first level of supplemental capacity. They still have a lot of room in these supplemental phases, but of course, you can only run on supplemental for so long..

Sports!

There’s been a lot of chatter on the sports front. Most of it is more national in scope so I haven’t worried about covering it. The short of it is the NBA, MLB, and MLS are all in various stages of their beginning play. MLS have started games. MLB teams are working around again for a start later this month. NBA teams are now reporting to their “bubble” at Disney World.

Notable, there has been testing problems where MLB teams haven’t received results in a timely matter and MLS kicked FC Dallas out of the first tournament due to too many players testing positive.

But now, eyes are looking toward the big one for us in Texas. Football.

On the college front, for those who didn’t realize it, the Ivy Leagues still play football, but not this year. They’re cancelling all of the Fall sports.

The Big Ten announced they are only playing their conference games this Fall. None of the other major conferences have joined them (yet), but ACC did announce that if more conferences went that route, they would help ensure Notre Dame has games—6 of Notre Dame’s games this season are against ACC teams already. ND is independent for football, but in the ACC for the rest of their sports. Either way, ND’s AD isn’t really expecting the season to start as schedule.

Ohio State’s AD is even less optimistic.

Locally, Big 12 said it is too early to talk about such things, though word is spirit groups and bands won’t travel to away games this season.

Dallas ISD’s superintendent isn’t expecting there to be high school football either.

Some schools are going to go to esports instead? If that’s your thing, cool.

Stats

State of Texas

We’re not seeing any improvement on the state numbers. 9,782 new cases today. The “good” thing is this is the second day in a row it has declined. But, this is the 3rd highest daily value and still 1500 higher than the 4th highest daily value. We’re bringing in 14% of the country’s positive results.

For hospitalizations, we’re at 9,689, a new record yet again. The only ray of sunshine is the increase is lower than we’ve been seeing.

On the death front, it’s bad news. We hit 105 deaths, a record for the 3rd day in a row. Also bad news, our positivity rate is a new high at 15.56%.

I want there to be good news, I do. We should expect deaths to continue to increase.

Travis County (Austin)

Before touching on today’s numbers, as mentioned the other day, Austin Public Health tweaked how new hospital admissions are calculated after they realized an error on their part. They updated the data on the public sets now. The noteworthy thing was a retroactive new record for hospital admits goes to July 2nd with 92 new admissions, which is a hell of a lot higher than the number we had before (in the 70s).

On to today’s update. For the second day in a row, we had over 700 new cases. 703, to be exact.

Good news—after three days of record-high deaths, we had none reported today. Hospital census and ICU census also declined again. Not by a lot and looking at the 7d-rolling average for hospitalizations is still increasing, so no celebrations or anything.

We still have 91 people on ventilators, though. Same as yesterday’s record setting number.

We’re still in Stage 4. According to the UT models presented, we may be slowing things down, but models lack confidence. In other words, the data is mixed enough it doesn’t obviously support pushing for a 35-day shutdown. The models do suggest that COVID positive kids will be heading to the classroom if they open as they’re scheduled to open, even if we did have a 35-day shutdown. Local officials are asking Governor Abbott to roll back to Phase 1 reopening.

Also, the data indicated that ICU capacity would be the first to be hit. Generally, they had be focusing more on the 1500-bed total available, but the 331-474 ICU beds will run out first. The KXAN article linked above pretty accurately reports what they said during the meeting today for the parts that I was able to catch.

In the end, we still have a fighting chance. Wear a mask. Stay home as much as possible.

By Brandon Kraft

My life is an open-source book.

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