All Adults Eligible

All adults in Texas will be eligible for the COVID vaccine starting on March 29th.

In some areas of the state, demand in the priority groups is dropping, but in Austin, we’re still seeing a lot of Phase 1 folks trying to get a vaccine.

In other words, just because the state is making everyone eligible, it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get an appointment. If you’re able to travel, the neighboring counties may not be a bad bet.

Texas 1C Announced

Effective March 15th, Texas will start offering vaccines to the newly announced Phase 1C group.

The new list of those eligible as of March 15th now includes:

  • Phase 1A
    • Health Care Workers, including “last responders” (mortuary)
    • Residents of Long-Term Care Facilities
  • Phase 1B
    • All 65+
    • Those 16 years old and older with at least one chronic medical condition that elevates their risk. To include but not limited to:
      • Cancer
      • Kidney disease
      • COPD
      • Heart conditions
      • Organ transplant recipients (I would assume living donors too, personally).
      • Obesity (30 kg/m2+)
      • Pregnancy
      • Sickle cell
      • Type 2 diabetes
  • “Federal Directive” Phase
    • Pre-primary, primary, secondary (Pre-K through 12th Grade) workers.
    • Head Start/Early Head Start workers (teachers, staff, and bus drivers).
    • Licensed child care providers.
  • Phase 1C, effective March 15
    • All 50+ years old.

Phase 2 and beyond classifications and timelines are to be determined.

While there are a lot of places to get the vaccine, I’ve seen the most success with Austin Public Health and UT Health Austin.

For Austin Public Health, pre-register on their website and follow them on Twitter or Facebook. They are releasing appointments for the week on Monday evenings and again on Thursday if they have available spots. From experience, if they say on social media they are opening the waiting room at 5:45 for a 6:00 p.m. drop, be there at 5:40. For me, those who joined at 5:55 p.m. were too late. With the drop on Monday, be prepared to wait for hours until your turn to get an appointment.

For UT Health Austin, see their website to request an appointment. For them, fill out the form and they’ll add you to their health management system when it is your turn. From what I saw, you’ll get the e-mail saying you’re in the management system and awhile later (the end of the day? the next day?), you’ll get the e-mail saying you can schedule your appointment. You can schedule from the system as soon as you get the e-mail saying you’ve been added. You don’t need to wait for the second e-mail.

Good luck y’all. Keep wearing a mask. Stay safe.

Update: Starting on March 29th, all adults are eligible.

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.

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:

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.