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COVID in Austin Update (July 12)

Hospitalizations look bleh across Texas, but Austin continues good trend.

Today was pretty quiet on the news front, at least in Texas. Florida made headlines with 15,000 new confirmed cases reported today, while Disney World is reopening.

Testing

Of course, while we aren’t pulling 15k new cases in a day, we are seeing delays in test results. This piece from the Washington Post shares more about the situation nationally, but Travis County/Austin Health Authority, Dr. Mark Escott, reported during last week city council’s meeting that some of the results his office was seeing were for test samples collected two weeks prior.

For us to get a grasp on this, that has to change. As the CDC posted on their site long before Texas started reopening, we have to have case investigation and contact tracing to include anyone with contact of 15+ minutes 48 hours before symptom onset. Between realizing they’re sick—since our testing is overwhelmed enough that the public system is only testing symptomatic folks—scheduling a testing appointment (“appointment” being generous given the lines and times waiting), then waiting 7-10 days or more for a result, by the time “case investigation” can really start, it’s virtually pointless.

Really, if you think you need to get tested, you should isolate. Everyone in your family should isolate away from you, but also away from the world, and you should inform everyone you’ve been in contact with over the few days prior, and they should all isolate, and so forth. That would allow the virus to work through those who have it without exposing it to others outside the cluster.

Our testing is just too slow and too limited to be helpful with that.

State GOP Convention

Be it in Austin, we are a political town for the state. Even though this event is scheduled for Houston, it still has my attention. I haven’t heard anything from the Supreme Court of Texas on the lawsuit the GOP filed against Houston for cancelling their contract, but the State GOP did update their folks.

The convention is next week. They looked at other sites offered to them and they wouldn’t work. They’re outside or too small. It’s Houston or virtual. They’re still planning for in-person initial meeting tomorrow and reminding everyone that the hotel has a 48-hour cancellation period. Heh.

Lock Down Coming?

As reported on this site, on Friday, Gov. Abbott told Lubbock local news in one of his regular daily TV interviews that we were looking to having another lock down unless we got things under control.

Houston and Harris County is asking for an immediate two-week lockdown to try to get things under more control. In March, this would have been a local option under the State’s disaster laws, but now it depends on Gov. Abbott since his executive orders suspended the local jurisdiction’s options. Will Governor Abbott backdown again? I don’t know how much worse things need to get before he does. (Aside, I agree with the Houston Chronicle’s Editorial Board’s read. The salon incident (“the haircut heard around the world”) was the moment where Gov. Abbott crossed the Rubicon.)

Meanwhile, the Chronicle article linked above includes that the DoD is sending medical personnel to the state, hopefully popping up to 50 additional beds in Houston. Additionally, Texas is asking for federal help in setting up a field hospital in the Rio Grande Valley.

So, how are the hospitals looking?

In terms of base numbers, today, in Texas, we set a new record with 10,410 people in the hospital.

Here’s how we look over time, broken up by Trauma Service Area:

TSAJune 1June 15July 1July 6July 12Remaining Open Beds
Amarillo4716253147369
Lubbock14157286125335
Wichita Falls00112135239
Abilene20103334439
DFW5807011411160718952689
Paris1428385169809
Longview/Tyler495579121220547
Lufkin1628354663183
El Paso10994177218277382
Midland/Odessa18235990113462
San Angelo02152841187
Belton/Kileen2329545277244
Waco25313158211
Bryan/College Station2329545258172
Austin89141404485483684
San Antonio105165109113131490657
Houston4827302139265628631842
Galveston111154318364431302
Victoria17116210816163
Laredo1411829315496
Corpus Christi615163249360375
Lower Rio Grande Valley37875889541356439
Statewide Total17562326690486981041011726

Every single TSA has more COVID patients since July 6th except for Austin. Everyone has more since July 1st, so don’t get all proud and boastful about Austin yet.

How about the ICUs?

TSAJune 1June 15July 1July 6July 12Remaining ICU Beds
Amarillo19810141929
Lubbock9828414424
Wichita Falls0065915
Abilene109111314
DFW240247419480604297
Paris61317232791
Longview/Tyler282629335383
Lufkin31210111712
El Paso575570709136
Midland/Odessa13719414634
San Angelo0127813
Belton/Kileen6713142112
Waco151918257
Bryan/College Station981012811
Austin415213714415774
San Antonio365127738242260
Houston21426462475681597
Galveston4265709410823
Victoria121427385
Laredo572835517
Corpus Christi3551821024
Lower Rio Grande Valley141813121731729
Statewide Total748861199325172995977
Note: This is for the TSA regions. Individual counties may be more or less constrained.

All hospital data in the charts above are per today’s update of the State DSHS data and on the TSA level. Other dashboards (like Austin’s) may reflect different geographical areas or may take the snapshot at a different time of the day.

As mentioned before here and by the health authorities, ICU capacity is or will be the crunch point in Texas. The Corpus Christi region has 102 COVID ICU patients of 170 total ICU beds occupied—a full 60% of their ICU census—with only 4 ICU spots open.

The Rest of the Numbers

For Texas, we saw 8,196 new cases and 80 new deaths. Sundays are usually a bit of a slow report day, but I’ll take it. Hospitalizations, as mentioned, don’t slow down and we’re at 10,410.

The Chronicle published the result of an investigation they did that shows that Texas is likely undercounting deaths right now. This makes sense to me since Texas only counts a death if it has a lab-confirmed COVID test associated it. I only share the data that I can find, so I don’t want to harp on this too much. In time, we can look back at the excess death rate—the number of deaths occurring in 2020 by month/week over the average of the past so-many years—and get a sense of the potential “collateral damage” of those either undiagnosed or avoid seeking treatment, etc.

Our positivity rate has hit a new high at 16.33%. The state reports on the previous 7-day rate. This is the data point that proves that the logic of “we have more cases because we are testing more!” is just bullshit (sorry, not sorry).

As we see from the chart above from the School of Public Health at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, our cases are rising significantly higher than our testing.

How about Austin?

As I said yesterday, I don’t want to trust that things are getting better. I want it to be true, but seems a bit too good to be true given everything.

Anyhow, we had 166 new cases today. Sundays are slow, yes, but ignoring July 4th, 166 is the lowest new case number since June 22.

We did have one new death. Our deaths the past couple days matched what we had seven days ago, so our 7-day rolling average has been holding at 4.57 for the last 3 days.

We saw another decrease in hospitalizations (-1) with 434 today, which means our 7-day rolling average of hospitalizations decreased today for the first time since June 9th. Again, don’t celebrate. The June 9th decrease went from 90 to 89 and we’re looking at a 448.6 average right now. But still, I can hope.

Our ICU census, though, went went up. We saw 17 more ICU beds occupied with 154. Ventilator count remained at 87.

As been true every day for the past 3o or so I’ve written these updates, we need to keep wearing masks and keep staying home except for the essentials.

By Brandon Kraft

My life is an open-source book.

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