Some rules were waived awhile ago that basically allowed restaurants to sell sealed spirits (e.g. the small bottles of liquor) along with mixers, beer, and wine. This expands it to allowed businesses to mix and “seal” the drinks for off-site consumption. There are a few rules involved, such as the bar selling must also have permanent food service and must serve the alcohol with food. The notice does clearly state that there is no ratio of food to alcohol required.
On the statewide data front, new cases were still high—but not a record—5,747. Thursday’s record stands with this coming in second.
Hospitalizations set another record today with 5,523.
Positivity rate jumped up, which isn’t good, so now we’re at 13.23% for the last 7 days.
Travis County (Austin)
Mayor Adler announced that Austin Public Health will not be testing asymptomatic folks anymore—just too much demand for testing. Another bad sign that we don’t have the testing capacity to really stay on top of understanding this virus.
With the data today, there was no report yesterday, so this is since Thursday at 6 p.m.
Since Thursday, we had 728 new cases. For daily counts, I’m considering this 728/2, or 364 for each of the last two days. Technically, this is the single highest new count we have, but being over two days is cheating a bit. 364 a day would make both days third (we had a 506 and 418 last week).
We’ve had 117 total deaths (up from 116) and we currently have 316 hospitalizations, a new record from Thursday’s record at 293. 114 are in the ICU and 47 are on vents.
We had 46 new hospitalizations today (after yesterday’s 59), which has moved our 7-day average to 48.9 a day.
Bars are now closed (as of Noon today). To-go service is still allowed, so, for example, a brewery can still sell beer for at-home consumption.
Restaurants must limit indoor dining to 50% of capacity, effective June 29th. Previously 75%.
Outdoor gatherings of more than 100 are banned, unless specifically allowed by the mayor or county judge. Previously, it was gatherings of 100+ could be regulated by local authorities. Prior to this week, it was 500+.
Rafting and tubing businesses—like going to go tubing down the river—are closed.
As before, generally, everything is open at 50% capacity with the same exceptions as before (salons, etc can exceed as long as there is proper distance, outdoor venues are not capped except for pools, et al).
To stay positive, at least it is something to try to get this under some type of control. The downside is we won’t really know for another 9-16 days how effective these efforts are and if they are enough. My understanding is contact tracing in Texas was not at the level the Governor said we would be at for this phase of reopening, which is especially problematic now, since that hurts our ability to suitably understand where the transmission vectors are. Bars and restaurants logically make sense.
On a personal front, us and my in-laws have formed a “bubble” where we agreed to the same standards—no direct personal interactions with folks outside the bubble else a 14-day waiting period, etc—so we now interact with each other like before. The kids go to their house, they come over like before. I appreciate total isolation for 100 days is hard, but there are ways to expand that very conservatively.
I realize this hurts businesses, which does mean it hurts individuals, friends, and family. Most businesses aren’t the huge international seemingly faceless companies. Without getting into a broader political question, this is the time where emergency failsafes are to be used. If we should be paying more or less taxes, more or less regulation, whatever, those are fine political conversations, but this would be the time to use the ability of government to try to keep the ship afloat. Anyhow.
A qualified voter is eligible for early voting by mail if the voter has a sickness or physical condition that prevents the voter from appearing at the polling place on election day without a likelihood of needing personal assistance or of injuring the voter’s health.
Texas Election Code 82.002
There was additionally a second argument that 82.003—”A qualified voter is eligible for early voting by mail if the voter is 65 years of age or older on election day.”—is violating the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 26th protects the right to vote will not be “denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.”
Justice Sotomayor thought that was interesting and should be considered before the general election, but not within the context of an emergency request today.
In short, if you were hoping to be able to vote-by-mail in Texas for the run-off and special state senate election next month and didn’t already qualify to do so, you still won’t. There’s no further recourse for this election. 😬
Harris County (Houston) issued a “Stay-at-Home Advisory“. Since the Governor’s statewide orders overrule a county or city’s ability to do almost anything, Judge Lina Hidalgo issued a largely unenforceable advisory that mirrors the Stay-at-Home orders from earlier in the pandemic. Basically, Harris County has determined they should shut everything down, but can’t.
Good news? We didn’t set a record for new cases today (5,707, down 289 from yesterday’s record) and positivity is very slightly down—still 11%.
Hospitalizations set another record for the 15th straight day. We broke the 5k mark to hit 5,102.
Hays County (San Marcos)
Cases are still very high, but seems to be only bouncing around a bit—not pointing straight up like they were there a week ago or so.
Hays does have a “businesses must require masks” order.
Williamson County (Georgetown/Round Rock)
Similar to Hays, new cases are still very high, but without the rate of increase we saw a short time ago.
Williamson does not have a mask order.
Travis County (Austin)
There’s not much to report hyperlocally today. Austin Public Health is upgrading their dashboard and said they are updating their daily dashboard. Like last time, I’m expecting them not to have a number for new cases today and that they’ll combine them for tomorrow’s report.
Last time they did this, Mayor Adler released some numbers (and ended up misstating one of them!), so I’ll append those here later tonight if he does that again. Last time, he announced total hospitalized and new entries, so we’ll see if we get that again. I’m not going to wait on it though.
On the news front, two things.
Pong Fest, some silly party of 300 teenagers, took place which included, what it sounds like, multiple positive cases in Lakeway (a suburb about 20-30 miles out of downtown Austin). While the county is helping with contact tracing, KUT noted that there are too many people to actually trace.
Governor Abbott is pausing the reopening of Texas. Since we are in this situation because of the reopening, simply pausing it won’t do anything in and of itself, but it is something.
Gov. Abbott issued GA-27, an order to suspend elective procedures at hospitals 📄 in Travis (Austin), Bexar (San Antonio), Harris (Houston), and Dallas (Dallas) Counties. This was done statewide in March and lifted in April, if hospitals could vouch they would retain a percentage of beds for COVID cases and not need to acquire PPE from the state.
Quick aside: Governor Executive Orders, like Texas Attorney General opinions, are numbered using the officeholder’s initials and the sequential number of the order. GA-27 is the 27th executive order issued by Greg Abbot. The more you know. 🌟
New records again. 5,996 new cases. 4,739 hospitalized . The official positivity rate is 11.76%. We had 47 deaths since yesterday, which is the highest daily number is just over a month. With the hospitalization rate increasing—and the ICUs being at capacity/surge in some areas—I’m fearful we’re getting very close to a NYC situation where people will die unrelated to COVID due to capacity issues.
This is old news, but I’m only hearing it now second-hand. The Diocese of Austin was planning (over a week ago) to require parishes return to their usual Mass schedule for July 5th. I’m happy to have not heard it from an official parish source and I hope that date changes, much like the City changed when employees need to return. I do know that St. Ignatius, my parish, is not utilizing altar servers through the month of July.
Next county over, San Marcos is closing their river parks to limit access to tubing on the river as of 8 p.m. Both Hays and Williamson County has continued on their increased trend of new cases.
In Austin, we’ve “only” had 183 new cases today. Which would be a bananas high number if the last week or so didn’t happen. Our hospitalizations are up again to 293 (+19). 109 (+3) in the ICU. 49 people went into the hospital, making our 7-day average 44.6.
In Texas news, Gov. Abbott is now mandating (again) COVID protocols in child care centers. These were protocols that were originally in place once they were allowed to reopen to non-essential employees, but a week or so ago, the state made them optional. Without going into great detail since I don’t want to contradict what your child care center may be doing, it includes things like no family-style meals, temperature checks, limits of people in a room, limits to who is allowed into the building, etc.
We did pull our twins out of their pre-school—they were already scheduled to move to the elementary school in August anyhow—and opt to not enroll our one-year old as we originally planned. We’re amazingly privileged that we both work from home with arrangements flexible enough to make that work. My heart goes out to everyone who must navigate child care right now and to the child care providers trying to keep the doors open. If I recall correctly, my girls’ preschool saw a 97% decline in attendance in the first couple weeks they were allowed to reopen and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP, the federal business relief money) wasn’t meant to last this long.
On the data front, I had heard some excitement regarding OpenTable. The reservations app has regularly released data of reservations that have been a fair proxy to see how many people are relatively eating out versus the same day last year. The data recently released shows a new decline—after increasing since Texas reopened—but I’m not going to give it much stock yet since Father’s Day falling on a different date every year. In another week or so, hopefully the decline is a trend.
As a reminder, any changes in behavior will have a couple weeks until we start seeing that change hit the cases, hospitalization, etc numbers. The behavioral changes can help us understand if we may be seeing greener pastures ahead.
Greener pastures, though, is not what is in front of us right now.
New cases in the State of Texas slightly beat out yesterday’s record: 5,551.
For the 13th day in a row, the State has set a hospitalization record: 4,389.
Today, the Texas Tribute reported that our positivity rate is now over 10%. The goal for positive test results is 6% or under and 10%+ was Gov. Abbott’s “alarm” level. Positivity is used as a proxy to ensure we’re testing enough. The idea is if we are testing enough people that our positivity rate is low, then we likely have a better idea of the prevalence (e.g. how many people really have it). If we are testing and getting back 10%+ positive, that implies that our testing is missing a lot of people and we are undercounting true positives and not realizing the true situation.
To say it plainly, “we test more so we are going to get more positive tests” is faulty. If that statement is true, that means we aren’t testing enough. We need to test until we stop getting so many positive results back.
Austin/Travis County held a press conference with local-area doctors about the hospitalizations. The medical institutions covered the other local counties too, so I’m skipping the other counties today. If you’re in Hays or Williamson, etc, wear a mask and stay home.
The medical professionals on-hand included the medical directors of all of the major players—Ascension/Seton; St. David’s; Baylor, Scott, and White, etc—wanted to assure everyone that if you need a hospital, they are there. If you’re having a heart attack or stroke, please come to the ER. If you’re having cold/covid symptoms, please call ahead and head to a primary care facility first if possible.
Additionally, if you have insurance and need a coronavirus test, consider a private clinic—like Austin Diagnostic Clinic—to help Austin Public Health/CommUnity Clinic (the once-public-but-now-non-profit clinic system from the county) put resources most toward those who don’t have other form of access to tests. In all cases, if you need a test, get tested somewhere.
A lot of the other details were things we have already covered here in my reports previously (the demographic changes, the Austin Convention Center field hospital plan), but Dr. Escott shared a projection chart from the UT folks (thanks to Audrey McGlinchy with KUT grabbing and posting it on Twitter):
The overall point of the conference was act like a shelter-in-place order is in place, stay home, wear a mask.
Austin’s latest numbers continue the trend. We had 318 new cases reported with 2 additional deaths. For the second day in a row, we had 56 new hospital admissions, putting our 7-day average at 43.4.
We now have 274 COVID inpatients of which 106 are in the ICU and 42 are on ventilators.
While today’s press conference mentioned that 1500 is a reasonable count for our hospital capacity, they did not share how many non-COVID beds are used at any given moment. I presume the 1500 includes the two children’s hospitals.
I’ll close with a quote from Dr. Mark Escott, the Austin/Travis County Interim Public Health Authority, during today’s conference:
Don’t go to a bar. Now is not the time. I’d love to be in a bar myself, but now is not the time.
First, thanks everyone for reading. I heard from a reader that these posts are your daily reads to catch up about the virus. That’s humbling to me. Thanks.
As a reminder, I try to stay pretty limited to the Austin area, or at least to Texas. I’m not going to usually comment on things said by Dr. Fauci or coming out of the CDC or Washington, DC unless they are immediately applicable to us. National trends (which have been looking good) don’t matter much when the trends aren’t looking good locally. Likewise, reports that “we may have a vaccine by the end of the year” don’t really mean much about what we do today, next week, or next month. If you want to hear about tennis great Novak Djokovic has the virus, look elsewhere 🙂. That said, this is still my site so I have license to break my own rules.
Starting light, and breaking my own rules, the MLB owners are going to force a 60-game season starting in late July. I’m a big baseball fan, but the owners and players have been going back and forth for awhile now—not about whether it is safe to return to play, but about money. Baseball fell out of favor with me after the 1994 strike when little 10-year old Brandon was heartbroken that his Rangers were actually doing relatively well, but the season was axed. I’m not very forgiving about long contractual battles.
Of course, if you look at some of the states that aren’t looking great right now—Texas, Florida, Arizona, California—they are home to 10 of the 30 teams. I’m not getting my hopes up that I’ll have anything more than the Korean Baseball League to watch this year.
Let’s jump into the state roundup.
On the State level, another record-setting day. We broke 5,000 new cases today for the first time—5,489. Previous high was Saturday’s 4,430. For the 12th day, we’ve set a hospitalization record at 4,092.
For those that want some other stats to chew on that helps us to know if we should be worried or not, there’s the Rt value.
You’ve may have heard earlier about R0, pronounced “R-naught”. This value indicates the virus’ potential reproductive rate. A rate of 1 means that for every person who has the virus, they will give it to one other person. In that situation, we’d never get rid of the virus, but it won’t spike up either. If it under 1, then, eventually and slowly, the virus will go away. If it is over 1, we start looking at more rapid increases of count.
Rt is the effective reproductive rate at a given time. This value takes into account what’s actually happening right now with our masking, social distancing, et al proceedures.
The high off-the-chart value earlier is due to a few things:
No measure to curb the spread.
Few known cases and the ones we know about spread a good number.
With our stay-at-home measures, we went below 1 and were in a good place. With reopening, we’re started increasing again.
On the schools’ front, the Texas Tribune found some drafts of new year’s guidance on TEA’s website. It is only a draft, so not going to go too far into it except to say, statewide, few safety things mandated so keep pulse with your local ISD and communicate to them, and the State will allow virtual learning count toward attendance. This is big. State funding depends on attendance, which usually means a butt in a chair on site. If this holds and they will accept real-time or async virtual learning, that will be huge toward local distances being able to be more flexible.
If you’d like to dive into the Houston hospitalization numbers more, SETRAC, the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council, the entity responsible for coordinating public health/trauma services across that segment of Texas, has a nice dashboard.
Per that site, in Harris County alone, on June 16th there were 238 patients in a general bed and an additional 42 in ICU. Yesterday, 806 were in a general bed and an additional 399 in the ICU. UPDATE (6/25): Looks like I mixed suspected and confirmed census information and was moving too fast See below for the correct information.
Hays County (San Marcos) added another 130, putting them at 2001 total cases.
Williamson County (Round Rock/Georgetown) added 87 (2nd all time after the weekend) for a total of 1,498.
Austin/Travis County released a new set of orders last night that went into effect already. Nothing shocking, but it puts together the active orders into one and clarifies a few things.
Key notes from the latest sets of orders:
If you have tested positive OR are awaiting test results, your entire household is ordered to isolate at home and must notify any health provider, in advance, that you are or are potentially COVID positive before going to an appointment. (This is new, I think.)
Masks are mandated for everyone over 6 years old (without penalty, see below), except when alone with only your family in a non-common space (e.g. alone in your apartment’s mailroom? You need a mask.), if there is a physical or mental health concern from wearing a mask, if you need to be unmasked for communication with someone who is hearing impaired, when exercising, when you’re eating or drinking, or when you are having something done to your mouth or nose (e.g. dental visit, I presume).
Masks are required at city/county facilities. No mask, no access.
Masks are required at any business, whether or not it is open to the public or employees only. Penalty for violations is a fine of up to $1000 per day.
City deadlines: If you have a deadline with a City permit, it is extended to August 15th.
Dining establishments are still suggested to keep a log of in-premises diners.
In short, nothing really different. The clarity that you can unmask to eat or to have your teeth cleaned is nice. I’m sure there were a couple of dentists worried about getting a fine.
If you see a business not requiring masks, you can call 311 to report to Code Enforcement. If you are a business and someone will not leave after you told them they had to have a mask, you can call 911. I suppose it becomes a trespass issue at that point.
On the data front, Austin Public Health released a graphic about new cases:
A lot of young people! Per Dr. Mark Escott, this same demographic data is being seen with hospital admissions too. This may not be as fatal for younger people, but it is still a hell of a virus.
Austin added 257 new cases, which is high overall, but nothing like the 506 we added on Sunday. Two people died since yesterday.
But, the hospitalizations. We had 56 new hospital admissions today. Let me say that again for those in the back. WE HAD 56 NEW HOSPITALIZATIONS TODAY. The previous high (that I have; I have incomplete data until recently) was 36. Our 7-day rolling average is 39.3. Remember, an average of 20 was the big demarcation line we were trying to stay under 9 days ago.
That is, speaking of, one thing Austin Public Health is pushing for. Apparently, there isn’t a clear pipeline for regular hospital data into the county. They are getting Covid numbers, but overall bed availability, they don’t have the insight on that they’d like, namely from the private hospitals. This is why you haven’t heard anyone in Austin/Travis County mention hospital capacity because our health officials do not have confidence in the data to share.
I’m going to scream into a pillow for a moment.
It blows me away that there isn’t some better reporting systems in place. Each county publishes numbers a little bit differently. Often, there are slightly different definitions of things, namely state-by-state. The CDC is often pretty far behind with data, which surprised me when I first started caring about public health, but after trying to put together these updates for a couple weeks now… I struggle just with the local area. I digress.
In any event, seeing our hospitalization number never hit 100 until June 10th and sits now at 236 is sobering. Seeing our ICU numbers basically stay sub-40 through the entire pandemic until recently and hitting 94.
The notable part to me is—this isn’t old people anymore. In the beginning, this virus was tearing apart nursing homes across the country. I think we aren’t seeing record deaths in part because nursing homes are doing a better job managing this than they did in March.
The new cases, the hospitalizations, and the ICU demographics are shifting younger now.
Even Governor Abbot today said stay home unless you had to leave.
Governor Abbott held a press conference this afternoon at the Capitol. To be direct, it contained nothing of note to anyone who has been paying attention.
If you want a few more words about what he said, he acknowledged numbers are trending all in the wrong ways. Positivity, per his numbers, went from ~4.5% at their lowest to currently ~9%. “COVID 19 is spreading at an unacceptable rate.”
He urges everyone to follow best practices—stay home if you can, when you leave home maintain social distance and wear a mask. As far as mandates or requirements go, nothing changes.
To soapbox, “stay home if you can” but we’re going to re-open youth baseball fields? I think that sends mixed messages that his conference today didn’t push back against.
He continued the refrain that we still have hospital capacity, but noted that if we continue this trend, in a month, we’re going to be screwed (my words, not his). On a good note, Chief Kidd (State’s Emergency Management Chief) said we have plenty of personal protective equipment (PPE), which is “one of the few times you’ve heard me say that”.
On the early voting front, the Governor has a lot of emergency power, so was asked about voting in next month’s runoff and special senate election. “Vote early, wear a mask.” That’s all. As a reminder, there have been a number of attempts to open up mail-in voting through both state and federal county. As of now, they all are waiting further appeal but as it stands, technically, it isn’t allowed.
At the same time, local election officials have no authority to validate if your request for a mail-in ballot is legit or not. They have to give you one. You’re taking on the risk of legal action if you vote-by-mail improperly or the risk of the virus if you vote in person.
Anyhow, not really local news, but opposite of, say, Texas Motor Speedway welcoming fans next month, cruises will be on hold longer.
The Cruise Terminal in the Port of Galveston will be quiet a bit longer.
Anyhow, on to the numbers. New cases for the state dipped a little, but still 3,280 (5th highest all-time, 1-4 the four days preceding). Hospitalizations increased yet again (11th straight day?) to 3,711.
In Williamson County (Round Rock/Georgetown), where they are not issuing orders to require businesses to require masks, they joined the Century Club yesterday marking their first day of 100+ new cases. Their top three new case days were yesterday at 100, Saturday at 78, and today at 74. Williamson County also set a hospitalization record with 18 total cases—6 in the ICU. Note that Williamson County hospitalization numbers are included as part of the Austin/Travis County report since that metric is looking at hospitalizations across our MSA.
Hays County (San Marcos) brought in 160 new cases, 2nd to the 210 new cases set on Thursday.
In Austin, we have a new “Austin, Let’s Be a City of Us” PSA coming out. Again, nothing new if you’ve been paying attention.
On the numbers’ front, for new case low, I think we’re seeing the Sunday dip of testing with the results. Travis County does not report the number of tests administered, but on the state level, it was only 22,829 compared to Sunday’s 62,782. I’m curious if that flows down to the county level too.
In either case, the number of new cases was only 129. We haven’t seen a number that low since last Tuesday. My guess is yesterday’s low hospital admissions (10) and today’s low new cases are related. Something akin to Sunday, fewer people to go Urgent Care/ER thinking they’d wait the weekend, thus fewer people checked on and admitted. With fewer tests done, add turn around time, that gets reflected with testing on Monday.
Anyhow, besides new cases being only 129, everything else is still bad. Hospitalizations up to 181, a new high, with 21 admissions today.
ICU is a new high at 86 and ventilator patient number is also at a new high of 32.
Keep wearing masks and be prudent.
Update: I mentioned above UnBARlievable being a place that it’d be fine to skip even after they reopen. Forgive the language and the ignorance that TABC is a state entity.
Comically dumb social posts from owners of Unbelievable, suspended by TABC over social distancing violations. One blames mayor and lauds governor, when its a state agency penalizing them. The other is decrying "fake news" & telling ppl 2 blast KVUE, when he means KXAN. Geniuses. pic.twitter.com/Ecf1It9a9N