Meanwhile, the Texas chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Texas Pediatric Society, released a statement today supporting re-opening of K-12 schools in the Fall. Basically, the mental health concerns of continued isolation and lack of the informal education that takes place in school points towards returning kids to a “normal” environment. Our family is really torn on this as I know many families are wrestling with this too.
State of Texas
The big one: Texas has officially confirmed over 200,000 cases.
We “only” had 5,318 new cases today, but we’ll see how things shake out post-holiday.
We did hit, yet again, a new record high for hospitalizations with 8,698.
I hadn’t reported on this, but we have a record number of ICU patients as well, with 2,517 throughout the state.
Harris County continues to see a higher percentage of their ICU census coming from COVID patients.
Looking at a breakdown of the state’s Trauma Service Areas, here’s how we looked on June 1st, June 15th, July 1, and July 6 for total hospitalizations:
Lower Rio Grande Valley
Amarillo and El Paso were known hotspots early—Amarillo because of the meatpacking plants. Both areas were part of the delayed group of counties that reopened about a week later than the rest of the state.
From hospitalizations, it does appear there are areas of the state hit harder than others, which is probably part of the hesitancy from some on the state level to act. I guess that’s fine (it isn’t), but not giving local officials any ability to act either doesn’t jive with me.
Of course, areas like Brewster County, TX has a population of ~9800 and now has 140 cases. That per capita… Anyhow.
Williamson County (Round Rock/Georgetown)
I wanted to highlight Williamson County since they didn’t report numbers over the weekend.
A good jump there.
Travis County (Austin)
Since yesterday’s report, we had a record seven deaths reported, putting us at 144 total. My hope has been that we wouldn’t see this number rise. Even if the ratios look better, as our counts continue to increase, it only makes sense that deaths will too, sadly.
Seven deaths today increases our 7-day rolling average to 3.29 deaths/day, which obviously is an increase from the previous highs.
With cases, “only” 247 reported. Testing is back to regular schedule, so let’s see what happens.
Hospitalizations topped a new high again at 466. ICU census still under the high from last week—140 vs 156 on the 4th of July. Our ventilator use jumped a bit to 83. Up 11 from yesterday and 250% what it was two weeks ago.
New hospitalizations were 69, which isn’t itself a record, but does push our 7-day average to a new high of 64.6 admits/day.
Mayor Adler (Austin) was on WFAA in Dallas and proposed a 35-day lockdown. This is something he doesn’t have the authority to do with the governor’s orders, but he’s part of a choir of local officials asking Governor Abbott to reverse his previous declarations limiting local officials.
As expected, with the holiday, the testing data is going to be weird.
On the state-level, the bottom fell out as we dropped to 3,449 new cases, the lowest in two weeks. Austin saw a similar drop yesterday, but given today’s local numbers, I’d bet the state’s numbers will spring back up tomorrow.
Hospitalizations set another new record at 8,181.
Travis County (Austin)
Yesterday’s 122 new cases was definitely related to the holiday as today we saw 548 new cases (5th highest).
New hospitalizations has not returned to Thursday’s record, but still very high: 59 new hospitalizations.
We’ve set new records with 446 in-patients with 72 of them on ventilators. Our ICUs were able to send a few people home, so that dipped down to 137.
I’m curious to see how the holiday weekend will impact that (people waiting longer to go into the ER and are going to be sicker when they get there? Maybe the holidays won’t have any obvious effect. 🤷♂️)
I’m taking the day off so holding off on most of my news reading. I’m assuming not much is going to break on the holiday. (I’m writing this part on the 3rd)
I did want to cover what exactly I do. I’m not a journalist nor an expect in public health or anything related to this. I like having clear information and data and I like having it as close to the source as possible.
With this virus, following along with the news, then reviewing information myself, I’ve found often there are disconnects between the reporting and the actual information. Sometimes, these seem more extreme (“masks are pointless!” as seen on some cable news shows) and sometimes, it is subtle things.
As a Catholic, whenever the press writes about the Church, they usually get some little things wrong. I can tell someone who was an outsider wrote it
Plenty of time, the media is correct, but there’s enough mess like the above out there that I follow the idea of “trust, but verify”—the Russian proverb that was made famous in the states by Ronald Reagan.
I have my national news outlets that I usually read for general information, such as the New York Times or the Washington Post. I would read the Wall Street Journal to help provide some different angles, but even their all digital subscription was too expensive the last I looked. I follow Austin’s public media station, KUT, closely and the Texas Tribute for Texas political issues. I skim the Statesman and local TV media sites.
Generally, if they have some piece of news that is interesting to me regarding a topic that I care about—like the coronavirus—I try to find an original source. For example, yesterday’s story about the July Bar Exams being cancelled, I looked up the Texas Supreme Court’s site and found the press release. Same thing when someone reports TABC closed something down.
Remember the movie, Men In Black, when Tommy Lee Jones picks up the tabloids from the news stand as his “hot sheets”?
That’s me with the real media. 😀 Find a tip, then dig into more primary sources when I can with relative ease. Yay the Internet! The New York Times has a really in-depth county-by-county dataset for cases and deaths, but you better believe I spot-checked a few counties to make sure the NYT data matched the official data before I used it as a data source. Trust, but verify.
In addition, I have a few experts I follow that when they give opinions, they link the data behind it, whom I trust their opinions and I verify their data makes sense to me—not that I’m an expert, but I have a little statistics training, so trying to spot obvious-to-me flaws.
Lastly, I follow various primary sources directly.
The only thing I have on the news front is to ask for prayers for my family. No one locally, but members of both sides of our family in the last 24 hours have either been tested due to showing symptoms or received a positive result back. My little branch of the family tree is very physically far removed from those branches, but the first family cases we’ve had that I know about.
In the State of Texas, we had a record-setting 8,258 new cases with a still high 13.15% 7-day positivity rate. Hospitalizations set another record today with 7,890.
For the Travis County/Austin, as expected, we’re seeing new cases go waaay down. CommUnity Care, the clinic handling free testing for Austin Public Health, closed their drive-up testing locations yesterday and today, resuming operations on Monday. I appreciate their staff has been worked to the bone and I get it is a holiday. Personally, I’d liked to have seen some way to keep it going (National Guard? Medical volunteers that have offered through the State system?), but not so.
They last took a testing day off on Memorial Day.
Anyhow, new cases are down to 122, which would have been record-setting three weeks ago.
Now, the numbers that won’t change because of the testing closure.
We saw two deaths in the last 24 hours (136 total), putting our 7-day average at 2.71/day, which is the highest we’ve seen at any point in the pandemic. The daily death count for the last 7 days: 0, 4, 3, 4, 5, 1, 2.
New hospitalizations remain high at 64, pushing our 7-day average to a new high of 61.7.
Total hospitalizations is at 434 with ICU census at 156 and ventilator use at 70. All three are records (ventilators tied with the count a few days back).
To give you a sense of growth, last Sunday, we were at 351, 114, and 60 respectively.
That’s it for me today. Going to watch some fireworks on TV.
As expected, yesterday’s executive order allows local authorities to now limit outdoor gatherings of 10 or more people. The executive order gives the authority to counties for unincorporated areas and mayors for incorporated areas.
Travis County and the City of Austin has prohibited outdoor gatherings of 10 or more. With a quick skim of the previous executive orders, I think this is the first one that states that county judges and mayors have equal authority with outdoor gatherings and other cities in Travis County (Lakeway, West Lake Hills, etc) announced the 100-person prohibition as “per County order”.
Today was pretty quiet. I suppose a lot of folks were on holiday today. Speaking of the holiday, I know testing in Austin will be taking a holiday so I would anticipate an immediate dip in new cases in the next few days to account for that. I’m not going to read much into any decrease in new cases until later next week.
Just as a reminder to my Catholic friends, the obligation to attend Mass in the Diocese of Austin is still dispensed for those concerned about getting the virus. Additionally, you can attend a Mass without receiving communion. There is absolute spiritual grace in attending Mass without receiving. Priests are people too, so let’s keep their safety in mind too. Fr. Henry Cuellar at St. William’s in Round Rock announced he has a positive test result. Keep him, and all impacted, in your prayers tonight.
On the baseball front, unrelated to Texas, there was a video on Twitter of how the Red Sox are keeping their players spaced out. They have converted their box suites into mini-locker rooms for a couple of players each.
If you’ve been watching MLB news, they did change a few playing rules this season. Some are more gameplay related (extra innings start with a runner on 2nd to help games not extend into too many innings), but others are very obviously virus-related. Get within six feet of an umpire to argue a call? You’re out of the game.
While I do strongly feel it is not worth trying to play youth sports right now—my little baseball league simply doesn’t have the financial or human resources or the educational knowledge to pull this off well, in my opinion—maybe, maybe some pro sports can figure out something.
State of Texas
New record for hospitalizations, again. 7,652 are in the hospital statewide. We had two tiny decreases on two separated days, but otherwise, we’ve setting a new record daily since June 8.
We had 7,555 new cases. The third-highest amount after yesterday’s 2nd highest, and Wednesday’s current record.
We had 50 deaths since yesterday. That’s the 4th highest daily number all-time, so not the obvious upward record-setting trend that we’ve had with cases and hospitalizations, but trending higher slowly.
Travis County (Austin)
While noting it is a holiday, so some testing locations are closed and there will likely be weird results for the next few days, here are today’s counts.
Our new daily count is the lowest all week with 314 new cases, putting us over 11,000 total cases.
We had one more death, pushing our 7-day average to 2.57/day. Not the highest, but still creeping up.
We’ve set a new record for both regular bed and ICU census counts at 418 and 151 respectively. Our new hospitalizations today was 65, which helped pushed up the 7-day average to 59.1 (highest we’ve seen).
Nothing terribly new to say about this. Keep wearing a mask. Enjoy the 4th at home with a couple of beers and some hamburgers on the grill with your family.
While eating, drinking, exercising (while keeping distance), driving alone or only with your family, swimming, giving a speech, etc.
Religious services, though still encouraged.
Voting, though still encouraged.
When security requires you to show your face (e.g. a bank, TSA checkpoint at an airport, etc).
Personal care to the facial area (e.g. dentist appointment).
Or a county with less than 20 active cases. Which aren’t any around here. Counties have to opt-out of it with a form to the state, it isn’t automatic.
Penalties include a fine, but no jail. Though, if a business asks you to leave for not wearing a mask, normal trespass laws still apply, so if you’re a punk about it, be aware. But don’t be a punk about it.
Parks and Rec to, basically, close for the month of July. After the holiday weekend, trails are open with distancing required. Playground, pools, etc will be closed.
Austin Resource Recovery (sanitation) will again suspend curbside bulk pickup. Regular trash, recycling, and compost service continues without change. If you got a notice that your curbside service is coming up, they will still honor those notices. If you didn’t get a postcard yet, you won’t for the time being.
Across the state, things seem pretty quiet. A lot of park closures for the holiday weekend. I’m expecting a flurry of convention cancellations after the State GOP convention came into the spotlight with the Texas Medical Association asking them to go virtual. Nothing moving there.
On the state level, we set another new record of hospitalizations at 7,382 (+478). Thankfully, the state’s daily new cases slightly declined to 7,915 (-161), which is still the 2nd highest daily count by a thousand. Positivity is still high—over 13%.
Hays County (San Marcos)
After the initial shocking spike, things seem to be quieting down, though still very high. I’m glad they aren’t increasing and setting new case records right now, but let’s hope that downward trend goes way down.
Williamson County (Georgetown/Round Rock)
Similarly, new cases aren’t rising, but they aren’t really going down all that much yet either. Today was the lowest number in awhile. I don’t know if there’s an underlying reason (e.g. testing access?) or what. We’ll see how it trends over the next week or so.
The county reported a record-high hospitalization level. I don’t pay close attention to Williamson County since Austin/Travis County includes the five-county MSA, including Williamson.
Travis County (Austin)
So. I wrote the above about Hays and Williamson County before Travis released their daily numbers. I was feeling a little good seeing a little tiny bit downward motion.
Then, I saw today’s Travis County dashboard.
We added 571 new cases, making it five days above 500.
We saw 5 new deaths, putting us to 133 total. Seeing daily numbers of deaths at 4, 3, 4, 5 is worrisome, like I mentioned yesterday. We did have one time hitting six in a single day earlier in the pandemic, so it isn’t a record. But, I’m nervous. I really really am hoping that our deaths won’t begin to increase and that our care of the elderly will be the difference.
We had a record 71 new hospitalizations, putting today’s census count at 415, jumping up from yesterday’s 376.
We’re also at a record 145 in the ICU and 70 on vents.
We’re probably going to see a bit more of this trend until the more recent changes (bars closing and now masks) make an impact, so hold on tight.
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Harris County (Houston): ProPublica and NBC News reported that while Houston-area hospital executives said everything was fine, the situation on the ground was not. The long and short of it from this article and hearing reports from the local ABC station—running out of room and medications in the hospitals, ERs were full of folks waiting transfers to other hospitals, which ended up causing issues where EMS had to regularly wait over an hour to release a patient to the ER.
Austin Public Health had a press conference today. I wanted to highlight one particular point to start this topic.
Hospitals are running at about 70% capacity right now—general beds. They usually run at 85%. While the number of hospital beds for COVID patients is increasing, between cancelling elective procedures, fewer accidents (e.g. fewer people are driving, so fewer crashes), etc, we are currently doing okay for general capacity. A lot of what we’re talking about is where we are trending. We are trending to a place where the above is no longer true, but we’re not there yet. We’re still able to change our behavior to change the outcome, but we are running out of time.
KXAN investigated hospital capacity and (like me) wished there was more transparency about it. The reason we don’t know capacity—it’s partly about raw number of beds, but it’s also about staff. There are a few moving pieces, so Travis County and the hospital themselves are being pretty quiet.
Williamson County is at 87% ICU capacity and the article has a hospital-by-hospital breakdown.
For the overall area, the hospital chains say their 483 ICU beds are 80% full, after being at 70% last week. They are not providing hospital-by-hospital breakdowns. KXAN shared some projections suggesting that Dell Seton (UT Medical Center) and St. David’s on 32nd may run out of ICU beds this week. I haven’t seen the site that KXAN cites for these projections used elsewhere, so I don’t have a sense how much credit to give it. From earlier reports, in my head, I had 150 COVID ICU patients as a magic number of when we may be getting into a bad situation.
I think it is fair to say that this is a very fluid situation, we are definitely on the edge, and the more we can do right this second, the better that chance will be that we won’t fall over the edge.
The data includes through the weekend and the two zero marks in the chart were days that Austin did not report. I don’t know if they account for the spike following actually being over two days. In any event, assuming nothing changes, we could be seeing 1000 cases per day in Austin by the end of the month by their math. Hopefully closing bars will help flatten that down some.
Local officials will be sending texts and robocalling landlines and registered cell phones alerting everything to play it safe this weekend (e.g. stay home). They are using the Warn Central Texas system which is a collaboration of a number of counties and cities in the local area. I just got my robocall at home (yes, I have a landline) at 4:55 p.m. and my cell phone right at 5:00 p.m.
State of Texas
In terms of new cases, we blew past yesterday’s record. We had 8,076 new cases yesterday.
In the category of news that hadn’t been all that bad before that is worrisome. We had 57 deaths in Texas since yesterday. This is the second-highest daily number since we had 58 on May 14th.
For hospitalizations, we have 6,904 as of today. As usual, a new record.
Travis County (Austin)
Before getting into the current counts, I was asked about demographics of those in the hospital. From yesterday’s release of raw data tables from Austin Public Health, we can see the age breakdown that is updated weekly. (The public dashboard reports this. There was an issue that kept it from being updated for the last two weeks, but after I reached out to them, they updated it).
For the period ending on June 30th, here’s how the breakdown works out.
Percentage of those Hospitalized
It’s about evenly split between men and women (52.7%/47.3%), but 60.6% of those hospitalized are Hispanic. This again ties into the theme that the virus is both a public health issue and an economic justice issue. In Austin, Hispanic folks are more likely to be in lower economic brackets, working in essential jobs (construction, janitorial, etc), living in close quarters, and generally not have the same ability as more economically-advantaged folks.
The CommUnity clinic test result data (which I don’t like sharing the actual numbers since it is only a subset of Travis County data and a subset that does skew toward lower socioeconomic groups. It’s interesting, but incomplete) does show a substantially higher positivity rate for Hispanic vs White Non-Hispanic and a substantially higher positivity rate for those on Medicaid or uninsured vs those with commercial insurance or Medicare. I don’t know if this really means something, but everything added up, it’s still interesting to me.
To repeat myself from the State data section, today sucks.
We added 597 new cases to put us over the 10,000 mark. We set new records for hospitalizations (376, +7), ICU (133, +1), and vents (67, +3).
We did see 4 more deaths today. We’ve had 11 deaths over the last three days and our 7-day average is sneaking up—1.7 now. We’ve had worse. We had a 3-day 12-person death run back in May and we went as high as 2.71 for a 7-day average when we had 19 people die within a week. So, straight looking at the numbers, we’ve been worse off on the deaths front, but three days of 3 or 4 in a row is different enough for this “reopening wave” for me to take note. If we keep on this 3-4 per day thing, we’d be seeing record levels of fatalities. Deaths have been pretty random, numbers-wise. Even last week, we had 1 death over four days, then all of a sudden 4, 3, and 4 in a three-day span.
In short, I hope this is just a random blimp, but my ears are perked up.
Wherein I just ramble a bit
How are y’all doing?
Following the progression of this virus isn’t bothering me. Even the the stuff that should scare me—like the story about the increases in cases at child care centers—don’t bother me. My wife, Vanessa, is concerned about the next school year, but I’m not. Not because I think it is safe nor that I expect us to go back to a more or less normal school year. Mainly, that’s still six weeks away and seeing how quickly things changed back in March and April, I can only take some of these things one day at a time and that isn’t on today’s agenda.
What gets under my skin is the deniers.
People of good faith can disagree. We can discuss policy, how to stimulate the economy while staying safe. We can talk about how virtual conferencing has changed our society and whether that will continue long-term or not.
But, when people deny the basic facts. I don’t get that. The people who can’t seem to accept even a little hardship for the greater good. I can’t process that without feeling just a little hopeless. “I have to keep on living my life” where that life means eating out—inside a restaurant. “I can’t wear a mask because it fogs my glasses so I’m not going to.”
No one is happy about wearing masks.We might find some silver linings out of it, but without this event, we wouldn’t be having a conversation about mask fashion trends. But, the data says it is a small thing we can do to help prevent the spread of the virus AND be able to return to some venues of pre-pandemic life. Why not wear one then?
It’s hard. The few times I’ve left the house, I’ve had to go back inside every single time because I left without grabbing a mask from the table by the front door. Maybe you feel silly trying to tie this pink polka dot mask while someone is outside your door knocking. It’s not all that comfortable. It’s Texas, it’s hot outside. This isn’t the time of the year I’m trying to add clothing.
Like, why not wear one? I mean, really? Look at what life is like in Austin in 2020. No SXSW. No ACL. No UT graduation. No Austin Symphony Fireworks. Our internationally-renowned Central Library has been empty for 100 days. No Barton Springs or Deep Eddy. No drunken bachelorette parties on 6th (okay, maybe that one we’re fine not having).
We’re in a situation where we do need to not have these things right now. It sucks. I don’t like it. But, if by wearing a stupid mask, we can get back to normal faster, why not wear the stupid mask? If skipping a 4th of July BBQ this year means that maybe things will be better by Labor Day instead of Christmas, why not skip the BBQ? If ordering takeout instead of dining in helps everyone dine-in sooner, thus saving who knows how many local restaurants, why not order takeout instead?
Anyhow, closing thought is from Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO. No matter your opinion of the WHO right now, it doesn’t change the accuracy of the statement :