The summary is a study out of South Korea indicate that children 10-19 can spread the virus at least as well as adults. It suggests that children in that age group there actually spread it more than adults, but there may be behavioral things in play (e.g. they spread as much as adults plus less likely to comply with behavioral rules regarding spacing, hand-washing, as adults… at least Korean adults. Their kids might be on-par with some Americans, but I digress.)
7 new deaths — this puts our 7-day rolling average to a new high of an even 5 per day. This also puts us at over 200 deaths for Travis County.
77 new hospital admits (70.8 7day-avg).
151 in the ICU.
105 on ventilators (new record).
I learned today that The University of Texas at Austin has their own dashboard for specifically tracking the university community. The UT community has had 500 cases via self-reports (I presume people who were tested off-campus and reporting it to the university) or students/staff who were tested at UT Health (the clinical arm of the med school) or University Health Services (student clinic). Per Megan Menchaca, the managing editor of the student The Daily Texan, in the last 10 days, there are 120 new student reports and 45 new staff/faculty reports.
Considering in-person classes aren’t meeting, that’s interesting. Dorms open August 20th.
This is a Twitter thread worth reading by Andy Slavitt, former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from 2015-2017.
TSA’s teased revised rules finally dropped. Basically, instead of three weeks to transition to on-campus learning (what districts have generally used to delay the start of on-campus), the TEA extends that to four weeks with an additional four weeks allowed if there is a school board vote.
They are also going to have some hold harmless calculations for the funding of the first two six weeks. The TEA notes this is the same processed used after Hurricane Harvey, which is basically calculating the expected attendance based on the past few years worth of data and using that as a minimum-level of support.
Lastly, the TEA does specifically fund hybrid models. Before, while their documentation mentioned hybrid learning, it wasn’t clear how attendance would count toward funding.
Private Education Update
Religious schools, to be specific, hit the news today. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released a letter to religious to let them know that either the TEA rules nor local health authority orders. Really.
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 guidanceat the end of the month.
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.
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.
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.
Starting on October 19th, parents can choose in-person or virtual instruction for the remainder of the fall semester or the entire school year—ending June 11, 2021. Whichever option, parents are committing for the six-week grading period.
From experience at conferences, I ate all my meals at a conference with nearly 1,000 people in an outdoor tent in September in Florida that was fully enclosed with AC. I’m not sure exactly what they’re buying, but “tents” can be relatively fancy.
Texas saw a record high number of new cases and deaths today. 10,491 new cases. 110 new deaths.
Our positivity rate stays very high. Practically tied with yesterday’s record. 16.89% yesterday, 16.81% today.
Hospitalizations remain high at 10,471, down 98 from yesterday’s record high.
Travis County (Austin)
In a briefing today, Austin Public Health confirmed that the Austin Convention Center Field Hospital will be operational next week. It will not have ICU capabilities, but will be able to take regular COVID patients. Hospitals can send to the ACCFH to help make more space on-site for more critical COVID patients or to possibly expand their ICU capacity. The latter always sounds good, but relies on having staffing.
While our hospitalizations have flattened a bit, it did so at still really high levels, so long-term, it is straining.
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.
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.
Everyone has been pretty focused on the local state senate election and the primary run-offs. I’m not going to cover them except to say that currently Sarah Eckhardt is up in the State Senate 14 special election. She was the Travis County Judge who had announced pre-pandemic she would resign to run for the empty seat. She delayed the resignation due to the pandemic, then resigned and was appointed the COVID point-person for the county.
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.
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).
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).