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Austin Current Events

Back to Normal?

I miss normal too.

Today, Texas Governor Abbott teased that he’s going to make a big statewide announcement tomorrow while speaking to the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce. Here’s my guess as to what’s going to go down.

First, he teased this news on Twitter. That means he thinks it is a positive thing. It’s too soon to make any new announcement regarding the energy sector (it’s already a legislative priority, so out of his hands) and Lubbock isn’t a place that such an announcement would mean much. Except for maybe some wind farms, but we know he’s not going to celebrate new wind energy right now.

So, the other thing is, obviously, Covid. He has also teased the idea that maybe the mask mandate has run its course.

My first guess is he’ll lift the mask mandate. While cases are definitely looking better than January, we’re only slightly better than we were in early July when the mandate was issued. Back when we thought 10,000 cases in a day was mindblowing and seeing the increase above 5,000 spurred the mandate in the first place.

He’s speaking in Lubbock. Eyeballing it, I think Lubbock may have the highest percentage of vaccinated folks in the state.

Tomorrow is also Texas Independence Day—yes, that’s a holiday that majority of native Texans know and, dare I say, many of us celebrate in some form. Lifting the mask mandate on Texas Independence Day is what I’d expect from Gov. Abbott. Since wearing a mask is oppressing my freedom. Y’all can join me in protesting at the every building with a sign saying “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” later.

I’m tired of wearing masks too, but businesses can operate fairly normally with a mask mandate in place. He’s going to make the announcement at a Chamber of Commerce.

He’s going to lift the capacity limits for businesses. With rhetoric about freedom and trying to boost the Texas sales pitch for business (after the state leadership absolute failure in supporting businesses when we couldn’t keep the lights on and water flowing), he’s going to rip off the chains of caring for our fellow man—what a silly concept that is—and basically “reopen Texas”. Which is what he said at the end of May before saying “whoops, shouldn’t have reopened bars. My bad!”

I’m sure he has Texas’ best interest at heart and this has nothing to do with him teasing this while sharing a tweet showing him with better polling numbers than Ted Cruz. And has nothing to do with Ted Cruz getting more love at CPAC than he did.

Y’all, hang in there just a bit longer. I’m tired of all this too. I’m holding on to the hope that, come fall, things may be looking more normal. But, we still have plenty of time to screw this up.

Categories
Current Events

A New Record

I’m not going to resume my daily COVID posts that I did over the summer (at least not yet), but wanted to interrupt my non-programming to share that Texas hit a new record high number today.

10,865 new cases reported in the last 24 hours.

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Current Events

First Case at a Kid’s School

One of my kiddo’s schools has their first positive COVID case within the building. They announced this via a letter to parents today.

Stay safe, everyone. I hate this and hope we can overcome this soon.

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Current Events

Bars To Reopen Next Week

Gov. Abbott has ordered that bars can reopen starting October 14th if the county judge opts-in and only in areas where the COVID hospitalization rate is under 15%.

Here’s the current status of that:

TSA RegionMain City% Hospitalization
for COVID, Oct 7
AAmarillo15.8%
BLubbock13.5%
CWichita Falls4.3%
DAbilene6.6%
EDFW7.6%
FParis16.9%
GLongview/Tyler11.9%
HLufkin16.8%
IEl Paso14.0%
JMidland/Odessa8.6%
KSan Angelo0.8%
LBelton/Killeen3.8%
MWaco14.1%
NCollege Station8.7%
OAustin2.9%
PSan Antonio5.5%
QHouston4.4%
RGalveston9.8%
SVictoria17.4%
TLaredo21.9%
UCorpus Christi9.8%
VRGV14.6%
Statewide7.6%

As of today, those in the Amarillo, Paris, Lufkin, Victor, or Laredo regions couldn’t reopen whether or not the county opts-in. Lubbock, Longview, El Paso, Waco, and the Rio Grande Valley are borderline, but under 15%.

You can watch Gov. Abbott’s announcement on his Facebook page:

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Current Events

COVID in Austin Update (July 28)

Education (aka What The Hell, Texas?)

To preface, a reminder that the Attorney General in Texas is a totally separate elected official from the Governor. Unlike on the Federal level, the AG does not serve the chief executive.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a non-binding letter regarding local heath authority’s abilities to close schools. Paxton—whose name may ring a bell as he’s under indictment for felony securities fraud—said that the local health authorities ability to wholesale close schools down does not exist and those orders are not legal.

The Texas Education Agency, which had revised their funding guidelines to indicate the schools closed upon order of local health officials would continue to receive funding as long as they continue virtual instruction, revised their guidelines again to say that schools that close due to health authority orders would not get funding (outside of the TEA’s stated phase-in period).

Whether or not the AG’s opinion is right (I have to admit, in just reading the text of the statute, it sounds like a bit of a stretch that the legal grounds for the order intended to be used in such a broad way), with schools slated to start (in some form) in just a few weeks, this constant flip-flopping on what may or may not be allowed is inexcusable at this point.

While this news was breaking, Dr. Mark Escott, the interim health authority for Travis County/Austin held two briefings almost at the same time. He presented to the City Council, then jumped over to the Travis County Commissioners Court meeting.

In his comments to those bodies, he indicated he is advising schools to try to stay at or under 25% capacity when they reopen, to prioritize those who must in school.

He also expressed that he was surprised by UT’s announcement that they’re going to fill the football stadium to half capacity, which still ends up around 50k.

His goal is to advise districts on the

State of Texas

In some good news, Texas—as a whole—has the lowest Rt in the country right now. Rt as you recall is effective rate of transmission. It has some shortcomings—it depends on test results and can lag—but still worth noting.

Rt for Texas is estimated at being 0.89. This means that every infected person is expected to make 0.89 other people sick. The virus isn’t spreading all that fast right now.

On the bad news front, South Texas is kicking their ass kicked right now.

Hidalgo County (McAllen) saw 64 deaths today. To give you some sense of the scale, Hidalgo has a population of 869,000 as of 2019 and say 64 deaths today. Travis County (Austin) has a population of 1.3 million people hit a record this last weekend with 12 deaths.

Hidalgo has almost 900 hospitalized and 228 in the ICU. Mind-blowing.

8,342 new cases with 164 new deaths (using the new death certificate method). Positivity continues to drop—12.83% today. Hospitalization data is still messed up.

Travis County (Austin)

So far, so good.

  • 223 new cases.
  • 3 new deaths.
  • 370 in the hospital.
  • 133 in the ICU.
  • 97 on ventilators.

We’re making process, slow and steady.

Categories
Current Events

COVID in Austin Update (July 27)

After going nearly 40 days with daily updates, I’ve been a little lax. A combination of having a recuperating wife at home and news is a bit light on the weekends.

This is going to be here awhile.

Governor Abbott issued two orders today that helps underscores that he’s expecting the virus to remain an issue for sometime to come.

First, he waived certain grade-promotion requirements tied to the STAAR exam. The standardized tests in Texas public schools starting in 3rd grade become part of the requirements to promote to the next grade, but not this year. Kids have to take the exams, but 3-8th graders won’t be held back if they don’t pass.

Secondly, he issued a proclamation to extend Early Voting for the November elections an extra week. Gov. Abbott’s perspective has been that mail-in ballots are problematic, but we can mitigate the issues with the virus by extending early voting, thus allowing people to vote in less crowded conditions.

In either case, this is the first real sign that he’s not expecting things to be back to normal anytime soon.

Baseball

On the local front, the youth baseball league I help run received word from Austin’s Parks and Rec that our facilities will be closed through September 8th. Previously, we were ordered closed until July 31. In our case, we’re a private non-profit that has a contract with the City to run youth sports on city parkland at Bartholomew Park, so they can order us closed.

On the national front, I’m sure most of y’all saw that the Miami Marlins have a bit of an outbreak on their hands with about a dozen players testing positive. As of tonight, MLB says this isn’t the nightmare and play will proceed.

State Releases Nursing Home Data

After a bit of legal back and forth, the State via HHS will be releasing facility-level information on known cases. You can download Excel spreadsheets for nursing or assisted living facilities from the HHS site.

State of Texas Data

This has been frustrating over the weekend.

Due to changes in who and how hospitals report census information to, the State has had incomplete hospitalization information since July 23rd.

It’s kinda pointless to talk about it. We have at least 9,781 COVID hospitalizations in Texas, but that’s only with 82% of hospitals reporting.

Our statewide positivity rate continues to decline—13.22% now.

New cases seem to have peaked, with a 4,267 reported today.

On the deaths front, DSHS changed the way they tally these numbers. Before, each local jurisdiction reported deaths up to the state based on what they’ve confirmed to be a COVID death.

As of today, they are updating to only report those deaths that are listed as COVID on the death certificate using that data. The plus side means the state can have demographic data a bit faster.

However, it means we’ve been unreporting deaths as there are more based on the death certificate than the previous method. Yesterday, the tally was just over 5,000 deaths. Now, it is about 5,700.

Travis County (Austin)

Generally speaking, we’re still heading in a good direction and we’re probably the best-managed major city in Texas right now.

Today, we saw 240 new cases or 275.57 based on a 7-day rolling average. Yesterday’s 262 7-day average (yesterday was an incredibly low 79 new cases) was the lowest since June 23rd.

We have 390 in the hospital—lowest since July 1. We have 140 in the ICU and 97 on ventilators. Hospital admissions are down to 47/day 7-day averag—lowest since June 24.

Deaths continue to be at a high. Another double-digit day today with 11 deaths, keeping our 7-day rolling average above 6 deaths/day.

All in all, we are slowly looking a little bit better. I’m hoping that we al continue to use best practices to stop the spread and not require additional orders. 🤞