Current Events

COVID in Austin Update (July 14)

New Orders

In Austin/Travis County, a couple of sets of new orders came down.

Education Beat: Travis County Schools Closed Through September 7

As mentioned yesterday, Round Rock ISD announced it would not seat in-person classes until after Labor Day. Today was a rush of activity with, basically, schools across the state making similar announcements. At this point, I haven’t seen any that extended longer than three weeks, in major part, because the Texas Education Agency will only allow districts to delay re-opening physically by three weeks.

However, Governor Abbott said that will be changing. In his usual TV rounds, Governor Abbott said that the TEA will be announcing an extended phase-in period for in-person instruction. We’ll see what it actually will be.

In either case, all schools within Travis County will not have in-person instruction until after September 7th. Travis County Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott issued a Health Authority Order applicable to all schools, public and private, with any grade Pre-K to 12th grade ordering them closed to physical instruction, including extracurricular activities and sports. Schools have to submit to his office their plans at least two weeks before reopening.

This officially means the first week of high school football won’t happen in Travis County.

I think it is fair to say the outcry against the TEA’s recent guidance has been pretty universal. I would be surprised if schools go back in session at Labor Day given how things look today.

Emergency Rules Adopted

At last week’s City Council meeting, the Council approved an ordinance giving the Health Authority the ability to adopt emergency rules. Failure to comply with the emergency rules could result in a $2,000 fine.

Today, Austin Public Health officially announced the current emergency rules. These are effective immediately until November 12th unless otherwise modified.

The rules, in brief:

  • Everyone over 10 needs to wear a mask except those situations that were already announced and a part of the State’s mask mandate.
  • No standing or gathering in groups larger than 10.
  • Generally, must stay six-feet apart from other people.
  • If you have COVID or awaiting results, the entire household must isolate.
  • If you’re isolating because of a pending or positive test, must notify a health professional in advance of a visit or the 911 operator if contacting 911. There are some other things too.
  • Business must ensure masks are worn and the premises are cleaned per the rules’ instructions.
  • Businesses are to conduct health screenings of employees.
  • Businesses must comply with and let employees comply with instructions from APH if they test positive.
  • Some more specific rules for construction sites and Child Care sites with a positive test must contact APH.



State of Texas

We set a new record with 10,745 new cases today. We edged out yesterday’s positivity record with a new record today at 16.89%.

A record high 10,569 hospitalized.

We saw 87 deaths. A bit off of the record high, but it would have blown away the record if it was a week ago.

Austin (Travis County)

I was trying to be cheerful. I want to bring good news.

We saw 553 new cases today. With yesterday’s 657, it is the second highest two-day total after last week’s ~1400 couplet. We had 7 new deaths.

I was hoping that our hospitalization decrease of the past few days would be the beginning of something. Well, today we have 469 COVID patients hospitalized, which ties for our record.

We have 154 in the ICU, two shy of the record. We have a new record of 92 people on ventilators right now.

At least it hasn’t been spiking upward as fast as it was.

We saw 74 new hospital admissions. Our 7-day rolling average has been right at 70, give or take, for a few days now.

In closing, stay home as much as possible and wear a mask. There’s some initial research suggesting that the virus may be able to persist in the air longer than previously thought, so while masks can absolutely help, nothing is more effective than staying at home.

Current Events

COVID in Austin Update (July 13)

Hope y’all are staying cool! It is 107°F outside as I’m writing this. If you need dinner plans, eggs a la sidewalk is today’s special.

GOP Goes Virtual

The Supreme Court of Texas denied the appeal from the State GOP trying to force Houston to host an in-person convention this week.

As of me writing this, the State GOP announced they will vote to move the convention online tonight.

Schools Going Back?

The national news today is reporting on LA and San Diego announcing they are going to online-only for the Fall.

Within Texas, Laredo and El Paso have worked around TEA in a way by their local health authorities ordering schools to not return to in-person instruction until after Labor Day.

I struggle to stay impartial on this topic. Everyone I know involved in education is concerned and my personal social network echos KUT’s reporting.

The Secretary of Education hasn’t comforted me.

In particular, SecEd speaks of ensuring everyone is in school, but if there are issues, locals should handle it. But there aren’t any details on what does “handling” actually mean?

I’m just not convinced that there is a cohesive and sustainable plan for us to return back in a month. The kids’ health is part of it, but teachers too. I’m concerned for the kids’ mental health—what will teachers disappearing because they need to quarantine impact kids?

While, yes, there will be virtual vs in-person option. Schools fulfill a big role in child care so people can work. There is inherit privileged in being able to choose a virtual option, which I’m sensitive to given the outsized impact that COVID-19 has had on particular socioeconomic groups. I want my kids in school. I just need more than what AISD is able to do (or should do).

Austin Public Health is to be having a meeting about schools this week. If you’d like to contact their director about it, you can do so on the City’s website.

Up IH-35, Round Rock’s school board is asking TEA to not require in-person classes until Austin’s Staging Indicators are at Stage 2 or lower. (We’re currently at Stage 4, flirting with Stage 5).

In the next tweet, they’re encouraging RRISD parents to write to the TEA Commissioner directly at


On the higher education fronts, more Texas schools are trying to figure out how to help international students whose visas are in jeopardy if they end up going to all-virtual learning. As a reminder the Interim Director of ICE stated that the policy—which will require international students whose universities only offer virtual learning or their particular class load is fully virtual—to leave the county is literally just an attempt to encourage universities to open.

State of Texas Data

Today’s report from Texas is of a slow day. New cases hit 5,655, about half of a few days ago. Mondays are usually slow coming off of the weekend.

Also, new case numbers are increasingly less reliable as labs are struggling to keep up. Quest Diagnostics shared that while they turn around Priority 1 patient tests in a day, everyone else is 7 days or longer.

We’ve seen 43 deaths in the last day.

Our hospitalizations were stable, slightly decreasing by 5 to 10,405.

Statewide positivity hit a new high of 16.85%

Travis County (Austin) Data

As part of a Facebook conversation, I did some back-of-the-napkin math for our positivity. Austin Public Health does not release the positivity rate nor the number of tests performed. The State of Texas additional datasets include a county-by-county daily cumulative number for tests and active cases. Looking at the delta of tests between July 5th and July 11th and the delta of active cases between those dates for Travis County, I estimate Travis County’s positivity rate to be 25.75% for that 7-day period.

Travis County saw 657 new cases today, our third-highest single day total.

We saw 3 more deaths. Inpatients jumped up 25 to 459.

The ICU stayed at 151 with one fewer ventilator in use (86).

Current Events

COVID in Austin Update (July 12)

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.


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
Wichita Falls00112135239
El Paso10994177218277382
San Angelo02152841187
Bryan/College Station2329545258172
San Antonio105165109113131490657
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
Wichita Falls0065915
El Paso575570709136
San Angelo0127813
Bryan/College Station981012811
San Antonio365127738242260
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.

Current Events

COVID in Austin Update (July 11)


I mentioned yesterday or a couple days ago about the “Your local epidemiologist” that I follow on Facebook. She shared a very interesting study.

The study, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked 143 individuals who were released from the hospital, who now tested negative to see how they were doing ~60 days later. Only 13% had no symptoms. The majority had 3 or more symptoms still (none had fever indicating an active infection). Here’s the results section of the abstract:

Patients were assessed a mean of 60.3 (SD, 13.6) days after onset of the first COVID-19 symptom; at the time of the evaluation, only 18 (12.6%) were completely free of any COVID-19–related symptom, while 32% had 1 or 2 symptoms and 55% had 3 or more. None of the patients had fever or any signs or symptoms of acute illness. Worsened quality of life was observed among 44.1% of patients. The Figure shows that a high proportion of individuals still reported fatigue (53.1%), dyspnea (43.4%), joint pain, (27.3%) and chest pain (21.7%).

This is different than the flu.


The Texas Tribune covered more in-depth what I talked about yesterday concerning Governor Abbott’s political struggle needing to act more while getting flack for it.

On the State GOP convention front, the Republican Attorney General’s office through the Solicitor General to support the City of Houston. (It’ll be available after the SCOTX website does the nightly update. See the briefs at the bottom for the eventually-will-work link).

On the topic of Houston, I didn’t see anything particularly notable new. A couple weeks ago, the forecasts suggested that Houston could become the most impacted city—overtaking New York if the trend continued—and there’s a little about that in this Twitter thread.

Down in the Rio Grande Valley, Hidalgo County (Edinburg/McAllen), the 7th most populous county in Texas, is getting hit hard. The San Antonio Express-News covers the story, including 20 deaths and 1,274 cases being reported in a day. As mentioned yesterday, the hospitals down there have requested hospital beds in Austin to send patients.

In terms of cases and deaths, we passed 250,000 total cases with a single-day record new cases for Texas today. 10,351 new cases.

We saw 99 new deaths in the last day. Our positivity rate set a new record at 15.81%.

We set a new record for hospitalizations of 10,083.


Austin ISD released a video about the current plan for the next school year.

As previously shared, there will be a 100% virtual and a 100% physical option offered. There’s no mention of a hybrid option, so I’m assuming that’s currently off the table coupled with the TEA documentation not explaining how hybrid funding would work.

Some notable things from the videos: School buses that usually hold 60 kids would be limited to 12-14. For teachers who “can’t” teach in-person, they will be augmenting virtual learning. The video didn’t define what “can’t” means—can teachers opt-out or for those who are older or with pre-existing conditions? It wasn’t clear.

On the health front, Austin Public Health, using federal funding, has purchased 1,000 oximeters that they’ll distribute to folks who are recovering at-home from the virus who are at a higher risk to help them self-monitor. One thing we’ve seen are people who seem to be doing okay can quickly go downhill and one indicator that someone appears healthy who won’t be long is their blood-oxygen levels.

On the data front, frankly, it was a pretty good day.

“Only” 318 new cases, continuing the decline from 753 on the 8th. We declined by 3 the number in the hospital to 435. We increased the ICU census by 1, but one less on a ventilator.

The sad news is two more people died in the last day.

With the holiday last weekend, I don’t want to put too much stock of the microtrend of the past couple days. I hope it continues, but in either case, this doesn’t mean anything in terms of being able to loosen up. We were doing okay, then we reopened too early. We can’t do that again.

Current Events

COVID in Austin Update (July 10)


I’ve been critical of Governor Abbott and his response to the pandemic. He acted slow in the beginning, relying on local officials to try to contain it. Then, he swooped in, removed local officials’ authority, and did what they were doing—taking credit for it along the way. Then, he reopened too early, reopened more too quickly, said he’d use data, then didn’t, and make it all a political thing with the salon owners. Now, he’s doing too little too late.

Of course, once he mandates masks, 4 county GOP parties have censured him for it. He’s damned either way. Meanwhile, Sen. John Cornyn—who has accused me of being against free speech—sat for an interview where he stated he wasn’t sure if kids could get the disease and that “no one under 20 has died from it” on why schools should open in the Fall. Heaven help us.

As of tonight, I haven’t heard any news out of the Texas Supreme Court regarding the State GOP Convention lawsuit. The first meetings were to be Monday, so the GOP is looking for a quick response.

The State of Texas

Technically important but practically not, Gov. Abbott extended the disaster declaration in Texas for another month. His emergency powers are only in play with a declaration in effect and they only last 30 days without being renewed. This is him just resetting the 30-day clock.

Today, Fiesta San Antonio announced that their April-delayed-until-November 2020 event would not happen this year at all. This was after the Dallas-based Texas State Fair held in the fall (during which the Texas-Oklahoma game is played) will also not be held in 2020.

In terms of new cases, we saw 9,765 today. A little less than yesterday

We also had 95 die in the last da after yesterday’s record 105. As a reminder, Texas only counts a death when there is a lab-confirmed positive test. If someone dies at home or before a test is sent off, they may not be counted. And we may be really undercounting them.

We set a new record with statewide hospitalizations at 10,002.

Governor Abbott told KLBK in Lubbock that those passing away generally caught the virus in late May and that things are going to get worse before they get better. He said to expect next week to have higher numbers across the board. He’s also throwing around “lockdown” more as something we can expect to see.

Abbott’s extending the declaration and warning of it’s going to get worse. Current deaths are those who caught covid at the end of May. Lockdowns will come if things don’t turn around.

We’re going to see more national news and headlines that isn’t good looking at Texas. We’re already seeing ambulances being turned away from hospitals whose ERs are full because there is no room to send folks upstairs to the ICU.

The State of Travis County (Austin)

How are hospitals in other areas of the state dealing with their filling hospitals? Austin has received requests from hospitals, namely in the Rio Grande Valley, to take patients from there. Austin Public Health reported that it is up to each hospital how to respond to those requests.

The hospital systems did report that they’re at 86% ICU capacity as of this afternoon.

In terms of numbers, Austin saw 440 new cases today and 7 deaths. This puts us with the highest 7-day rolling average we’ve seen at 4.57/day.

Our hospitalizations dipped again. Net -2 to 438. The 7d average is still increasing, but we’ve been slowing dropping for four days now. 133 (+1) are in the ICU and 88 (-3) are on ventilators.

We saw 66 new hospitalization admissions today.

Our hospitalizations dipping over the last few days is giving me some cautiously optimistic hope. Maybe misplaced, but I’ll take it.

Keep wearing those masks.

Current Events

COVID in Austin Update (July 9)

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..


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.


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.