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).
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.
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.
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?
Remaining ICU Beds
Lower Rio Grande Valley
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.
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 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.
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%).
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.