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COVID in Austin Update (July 16)

More about education. Nursing home numbers increasing.

Education Update

School updates are coming quick as the time of year schools would usually be starting is coming close.

Hays CISD released their July 20th edition of their reopening plan—the Internet is amazing where they publish their July 20th edition on July 16th—and it notable that they are pushing back the start of the year until after Labor Day, then doing three weeks of virtual instruction.

To me, this feels a lot like when the virus first hit the local area where any particular plan or announcement doesn’t really matter because it’s probably going to be outdated within 48 hours.

If you’re tired too, generally speaking, the start of the year for everyone is going to be weird and almost across the board will be virtual. That’s it. That’s the tweet.

Eyes are on the Texas Education Agency awaiting new guidence. It’s been teased that their previous announcements of a three-week virtual period being allowed will be replaced by a new announcement of allowing the entire semester virtual if ordered by local officials. But still waiting on it. I can’t blame the TEA for being a day late considering the CDC is now saying they’re going to have guidance at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, they are distributing PPE across the state to districts and Education Service Centers (e.g. “Region 13” in the common tongue) for distribution to schools.

I will give credit for the TEA that they add dates to everything on their site. Each section has a “last updated” date, then the list of documents for any section includes the date posted. For documents updated, within the document itself, they date each question or section for when that section was last updated. Really helpful to skim and see what’s changed.

The last thing I’ll mention on the education front. The White House Press Secretary is getting flack for the line “Science should not prevent schools from reopening”. The full-quote, she obviously means that the science indicates that schools should reopen. She mentioned research in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association), but I’m not sure what she cited.

I found one article that outlined things that must be done before we reopen that includes stating that Congress should be sending billions of dollars to schools to help them prepare. Another acknowledges that we’re making it up as we go. Another looks at what other countries are doing, all of which takes a lot of planning, but there’s not even guidance from the CDC that hasn’t “required revisions” at the request of the White House.

Nursing Homes Impacted

For the first time in awhile, nursing homes are in the news. In a presentation made Tuesday, Dr. Mark Escott reported a spike in nursing home-related cases.

Nursing homes have been under a lock-down of sorts for months since GA-08, Governor Abbott’s executive order of March 19th, where visitors haven’t been allowed.

Abbott Faces His Party

Gov. Abbott addressed the State GOP Convention—virtually—today. While the Governor has been on my naughty list for his lack of leadership, he’s been in his own party’s crosshairs for doing too much. Multiple counties have censured him for his mask mandate.

He faced the music directly with a firm defense of the mask mandate.

At the same time, he also said later today that there is no shutdown coming. From knowing him, I think he can expect him to hold his ground especially now that there seems to be a little slowing of the increase. He says he wants to give the mask mandate time to work, but I don’t think he’ll take further action unless things get notably worse, even if the White House COVID Task Force says he should (Texas is on page 302).

State of Texas

Before saying anything else, The University of Texas Health Science Center Houston School of Public Health released a new version of their dashboard. Oh, it’s a beauty.

I’ve been getting my numbers that I report daily from the DSHS official datasets, which is the source for this dashboard too.

Check out the chart of ICU hospitalizations in Texas by TSA. I’ve reported this a couple times in a table format, but this graph? So good.

Before moving on to the state numbers, there was a correction issued. Bexar County (San Antonio) had to pull back about 3,000 of their cases and was removed from the state’s official data.

The state only accepts a positive test from the PCR test. There is also an antigen test, which also detects an active infection, but that State won’t accept those for their numbers. (Note: this is totally different than an antibody test.)

Bexar County had included antigen positives in the number.

This strikes me because there isn’t a question that a positive antigen test is a positive. From what I’ve seen, the major problem with an antigen test is reports negative for an infected person too often. It has the advantage of being fast. Similar to a pregnancy test, when it says you’re pregnant, you’re pregnant. When it says you’re not, eh. Maybe you’re not, maybe the test just couldn’t pick up the pregnancy yet.

In other words, since Texas only counts PCR confirmed cases, there are absolutely known cases or very highly probable cases that aren’t included in any of the numbers we talk about.

Moving on, the Texas numbers for today:

  • 10,291 new cases.
  • 129 deaths (a new record, +19 from yesterday’s record).
  • 16.89% positivity (tied the record from the day before yesterday).
  • 10,457 hospitalized (about a 100 down from the record a couple days ago).

Travis County

Our hospitalization admit continues to hover at 70/day.

  • 413 new cases.
  • 479 hospitalizations.
  • 151 in the ICU
  • 102 on ventilators (new record, +5 from yesterday’s record).
  • 6 deaths

After having record hospitalization and ICU census counts yesterday, nice to not increase more. Seeing more neighbors on vents sucks.

By Brandon Kraft

My life is an open-source book.

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