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Current Events

COVID in Austin Update (July 9)

Other People To Listen To

I’m just a layman. I’m not in public health or anything. This is just me ingesting an unhealthy amount of news and needing to process it in a productive way. I’m glad so many people have told me it has helped them.

If you want to follow some experts who share fact-based, data-driven takes, here are a couple of suggestions. These are folks who I trust their read of the data and are apolitical.

On Facebook: Your Local Epidemiologist
On Twitter: Dr. Peter Hotez

Dr. Hotez is pretty vocal with criticizing the political response (like me), but he often rebukes attempts to make this political by trying to slam the governor more personally or the GOP.

New Orders

City of Austin

As mentioned yesterday, at today’s City Council meeting, the Council passed two resolutions allowing for a $2,000 civil fine for failure to follow health orders (e.g. wearing a mask) and instructing the city to levy a lawsuit against any business not following health protocols.

Due to the emergency nature of the pandemic, both are effective basically immediately and are on the books until December 31st. (Not that we must wear masks until December 31st, but that the Health Authority can create rules that can be enforced with fines up to $2,000 until then, unless modified by the Council).

Round Rock

Meanwhile, Round Rock reduced the penalty for lack of wearing a mask to a warning followed by a $200 fine. They also voted today to push the postponed May 2020 city council elections to May 2021. Abbott had ordered them postponed to November.

Governor Abbot

The Governor issued a proclamation to amend GA-27, the order prohibiting elective surgeries in a number of counties. It’s a lot of counties.

Now, all of the counties within the following Trauma Service Areas, as shown on the map below, are included in the restrictions. Areas J, K, M O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V and Dallas County. Basically, most of Texas except North Texas, Northeast Texas, the Panhandle and Lubbock areas, and El Paso.

State GOP Convention

🍿 I’m obviously won’t be heading to the convention either way, but yesterday, Houston cancelled their contract. Today, Montgomery County’s (Conroe and The Woodlands) Judge invited the convention to drive up IH-45 and the State GOP sued the City of Houston over the cancelled contract.

The district judge already ruled for Houston in the suit and the GOP has appealed directly to the Texas Supreme Court. As Mayor Turner said, it’s a bit ironic that the GOP is arguing it is safe for a 6,000-person in-person convention while the courts are still meeting virtually.

Houston’s Hospitals

I haven’t said much about Houston lately. Just too much locally. But, they’re still in the same position. ICUs are at 105% of capacity at the Texas Medical Center as they’re solidly in “Phase 2”. Phase 1 is their normal ICU beds. Phase 2 is their first level of supplemental capacity. They still have a lot of room in these supplemental phases, but of course, you can only run on supplemental for so long..

Sports!

There’s been a lot of chatter on the sports front. Most of it is more national in scope so I haven’t worried about covering it. The short of it is the NBA, MLB, and MLS are all in various stages of their beginning play. MLS have started games. MLB teams are working around again for a start later this month. NBA teams are now reporting to their “bubble” at Disney World.

Notable, there has been testing problems where MLB teams haven’t received results in a timely matter and MLS kicked FC Dallas out of the first tournament due to too many players testing positive.

But now, eyes are looking toward the big one for us in Texas. Football.

On the college front, for those who didn’t realize it, the Ivy Leagues still play football, but not this year. They’re cancelling all of the Fall sports.

The Big Ten announced they are only playing their conference games this Fall. None of the other major conferences have joined them (yet), but ACC did announce that if more conferences went that route, they would help ensure Notre Dame has games—6 of Notre Dame’s games this season are against ACC teams already. ND is independent for football, but in the ACC for the rest of their sports. Either way, ND’s AD isn’t really expecting the season to start as schedule.

Ohio State’s AD is even less optimistic.

Locally, Big 12 said it is too early to talk about such things, though word is spirit groups and bands won’t travel to away games this season.

Dallas ISD’s superintendent isn’t expecting there to be high school football either.

Some schools are going to go to esports instead? If that’s your thing, cool.

Stats

State of Texas

We’re not seeing any improvement on the state numbers. 9,782 new cases today. The “good” thing is this is the second day in a row it has declined. But, this is the 3rd highest daily value and still 1500 higher than the 4th highest daily value. We’re bringing in 14% of the country’s positive results.

For hospitalizations, we’re at 9,689, a new record yet again. The only ray of sunshine is the increase is lower than we’ve been seeing.

On the death front, it’s bad news. We hit 105 deaths, a record for the 3rd day in a row. Also bad news, our positivity rate is a new high at 15.56%.

I want there to be good news, I do. We should expect deaths to continue to increase.

Travis County (Austin)

Before touching on today’s numbers, as mentioned the other day, Austin Public Health tweaked how new hospital admissions are calculated after they realized an error on their part. They updated the data on the public sets now. The noteworthy thing was a retroactive new record for hospital admits goes to July 2nd with 92 new admissions, which is a hell of a lot higher than the number we had before (in the 70s).

On to today’s update. For the second day in a row, we had over 700 new cases. 703, to be exact.

Good news—after three days of record-high deaths, we had none reported today. Hospital census and ICU census also declined again. Not by a lot and looking at the 7d-rolling average for hospitalizations is still increasing, so no celebrations or anything.

We still have 91 people on ventilators, though. Same as yesterday’s record setting number.

We’re still in Stage 4. According to the UT models presented, we may be slowing things down, but models lack confidence. In other words, the data is mixed enough it doesn’t obviously support pushing for a 35-day shutdown. The models do suggest that COVID positive kids will be heading to the classroom if they open as they’re scheduled to open, even if we did have a 35-day shutdown. Local officials are asking Governor Abbott to roll back to Phase 1 reopening.

Also, the data indicated that ICU capacity would be the first to be hit. Generally, they had be focusing more on the 1500-bed total available, but the 331-474 ICU beds will run out first. The KXAN article linked above pretty accurately reports what they said during the meeting today for the parts that I was able to catch.

In the end, we still have a fighting chance. Wear a mask. Stay home as much as possible.

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Current Events

COVID in Austin Update (July 8)

News

New Orders Coming

The Austin City Council is meeting in special session tomorrow to look at two things, specifically:

  • Declaring any site (e.g. business) that does not comply with minimum safety standards a “public health nuisance” upon whom a civil suit can be filed by the City upon request of the Health Authority.
  • Creating a civil fine of up to $2,000 for any violation of a public health safety rule created by the Health Authority.

The first item is really an extension of the previous “requiring businesses to require masks” style of force and also includes things like requiring certain cleaning, washing hands, etc. Child care sites, individual homes and whatnot are exempted.

The second item allows the Health Authority to make rules (such as you must wear a mask) which can be enforced with a civil fine of up to $2,000. Unlike the Gov. Abbott’s GA-29 mask mandate, there is no required first warning. So, under this combination, the first time you’re found without a mask, you can be given a $2,000 civil fine and a state warning. If they come to visit you again on the same day, you’d get a $250 criminal fine from the State’s order.

Per the Statesman, Abbott is okay with it. GA-29 did specifically strike out GA-28’s “no jurisdiction can impose a civil or criminal penalty” for lack of a mask.

State GOP Convention Fight

Houston’s Mayor Turner directed the city-owned convention center to cancel their contract with the State GOP. Mayor Turner did not want to exercise the contract’s cancellation clause—he didn’t want to make this a political thing—but after repeated failed attempts to convince the GOP to move to a virtual convention, he opted to direct Houston’s legal department to proceed with the cancellation. Read the letter to the GOP.

The State GOP is reviewing their legal options, so this isn’t the last word.

Diocese of Austin

This isn’t new, but something I hadn’t reported on. The Diocese of Austin on July 1st released updated protocols for liturgical services.

Frankly, I’m disappointed.

As you may recall from the Governor’s Executive Orders, church services are exempt from most COVID regulations. The Diocese had set a 25% capacity limit, which was increased to 50% with the July 1 protocols. The new protocols also require parishes to resume their pre-pandemic Mass schedule no later than August 1.

Meanwhile, the Travis County Health Authority and Catholic himself (if I recall correctly from Q&A sessions with him), while acknowledging that he’d rather go to Mass in person too, is asking for us to stop attending. (Apologies for the non-primary source, the City hasn’t uploaded the recording to their YouTube channel yet).

I can appreciate the slow reopening that we started, but as things are getting worse, we absolutely should not be increasing capacity.

Talking to multiple priest friends of mine, off the record, there is a lot that has gone into making the return to Mass safe and it is hard to do the work needed to turn around the facilities between Masses, with fewer volunteers than before.

This will be impacting us for awhile to come and I’d wish we would focus, as a Church, on how to make more accessible to people. How do we do catechism classes in the Fall? Doing Zooms are the time isn’t the answer—props to one of my kiddos’ catechist who did that—but that’s a short-term immediate answer, not a sustainable long-term one.

As a counter-example, the Diocese of El Paso never resumed Sunday Masses with daily Masses at 25% capacity, plus weddings and funerals, etc. With the increase of cases they’re seeing there as well, they’re backing up a bit and have again suspended public funeral and wedding Masses. They will continue to have graveside services, but with a limit of 10 individuals.

I truly hate that I haven’t been to church since the 3rd Sunday of Easter—I lectored for our parish’s livestream that weekend—but in good conscience, it doesn’t make sense. I don’t care that bars reopened so “why can’t churches‽‽‽”. Just because we enjoy the legal ability to do doesn’t mean we need to exercise that ability.

Let’s help teach people how to pray at home and how to pray together virtually. Mass is all about presence. The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and us being in that presence. In my opinion, that falls apart trying to “do Mass” virtually. It doesn’t compute. As a Church, we have centuries of liturgical and devotional tradition. Liturgy of the Hours. Stations of the Cross, lecto divina, and so on. Things that we can do together but physically apart without distinction.

Related, if I started a daily midday prayer and reflection thing, would anyone join? I’ve been toying with it, but hadn’t invited anyone to join yet.

Austin is still Stage 4

With yesterday’s data, we have entered the data range to move to Stage 5 mitigation as a City. Much of this mitigation isn’t legally enforceable because of the State, but Austin Public Health is not yet moving us to Stage 5. The idea was between 70 and 123 new admits a day (7-day average), we would move into stage 5, but it depended on how the trajectory and projections look.

Depending on how our ICU bed projections are looking, we may enter Stage 5, but they’re going to look at additional data before suggesting becoming stricter than the data suggests we have to be.

Education

I won’t go into much after yesterday, but teacher groups are pushing back on in-person classes come Fall. NYC, as the sake of an example from the country’s largest school system, will only have kids in the classroom between 1 and 3 days a week in a rotating fashion.

There’s word that El Paso is preparing an order to keep schools closed until after Labor Day. There’s a lot of open questions on what that would impact, so will be interesting to see how that comes down.

Testing Delays

We’re back to a point of seeing nearly two-week delays in getting results back. That’s just ridiculous.

Houston Seeing Increased “Dead on Arrival” Calls

Texas Tribune and ProPublica published an article today reporting on the increase of DOA calls fielded by Houston paramedics. We saw this in New York City where the number of people who died at home jumped during the horrible pandemic phase they faced earlier. This spike is going back toward March, so I don’t want to draw an immediate “this is why we shouldn’t have reopened” conclusions from it—more that this pandemic sucks because it is killing people pretty fast sometimes.

Stats

State of Texas

After breaking 10,000 for the first time yesterday, we saw 9,979 new cases today. The positivity rate, after spending a few days at 13.5-ish% jumped up to 15.03%.

Statewide deaths, after setting the record of 60 new deaths yesterday, we saw 98 new deaths today.

We have set another new hospitalization record at 9,610.

Travis County (Austin)

On the one positive note I have, we have seen a decreased in the number of hospitalized individuals for the first time in over two weeks: 458 after yesterday’s 469.

ICU is still under the record, but up one from yesterday—149. Previous record was 156 on the 4th of July.

We have a record 91 people on ventilators.

Ventilator use, raw daily number.

67 people went into the hospital, increasing our 7-day average to 75.1.

We set a new daily record of 753 new cases reported. Previous record was 636 on Sunday, June 28th.

We set a new daily record of reported deaths at 8. Previous was the last two days at 7 each. That puts us at 4.4 deaths/day on a 7d average.

7 day rolling average deaths per day.

Not really anything more to say. Wear a mask. Stay home, except go vote. Early Voting closes on Friday, then election day is Tuesday, July 14.

Categories
Current Events

COVID in Austin Update (July 7)

News

Today was a pretty solid news day, so let’s jump to it.

Returning to School

“Returning justly or just returning”. I saw that on something unrelated earlier and stuck with me. The Texas Education Agency released their guidelines for reopening schools in the Fall.

Masks will be required in counties more than 20 cases (per the Governor’s order) and PPE will be provided to schools.

Parents can opt for in-classroom instruction or virtual learning. Parents can opt to change their decision too, with a suggested two-week notice period before the change. Schools can ask that parents commit to it for a period (e.g. the six-week grading period, etc).

From a Facebook friend who is working with Austin ISD’s health and safety group, relatively late in the draft period, TEA decided that they would not fund that. In reading the funding section of the Remote Learning document📄, I don’t see reference to funding hybrid, but there are mentions of it later in the document. 🤷‍♂️

There’s a lot of different small bits coming out of TEA at any given moment that I don’t have the bandwidth to really follow and understand, to be honest.

Note: These notes below are based on the State’s guidence that local schools will convert into actual policy. Just because it is stated below doesn’t mean your particular school will offer anything in particular.

Looking at virtual education 📄, they will fund either a synchronous or asynchronous method. The synchronous method is basically like in-person school, just held online. You have to be logged in at a specific time to be counted as present, you need a certain number of instructional minutes per day for it to be a school day, etc. This will be an option for 3rd grade and up.

Asynchronous is more like what my kids experienced at the end of last school year—using software like Blend/Canvas—and is more self-guided. Students do need to be “engaged” every school day—you have to do something each day.

There is a third option for high school students, the existing TXVSN system of online high school course or completely full-time online high school. I believe this is used often in schools where they may not be able to offer a course for a particular students, so can lean on the remote offering. Funding in this case only will be given if a student passes. No pass, no play money.

In either case, while schools are required to offer an in-person option, they are not required to offer a virtual option. BUT, if they need to close because of the virus, they will not be given a waiver for missed instructional time unless they have a virtual program in place (in which case, they would be credited for the number of minutes—because, yes, Texas counts school time by minutes—their on-campus schedule would have been if they weren’t closed forcing everyone onto the virtual track.

For reference, the existing AISD documentation is still online, but I would imagine something new would be coming once the powers that be digest this a bit📄. TEA issued a Planning Guidebook 📄 to help districts prepare.

New Testing Sites in Austin

Austin Public Health is standing up some new testing sites in neighborhoods harder hit.

The testing sites — run by Austin Public Health — are at Southeast Branch Library, 5803 Nuckols Crossing Road, and Little Walnut Creek Branch Library, 835 W. Rundberg Lane.

The third site is scheduled to open Monday at Givens Parks, 3811 E. 12th St.

Austin Convention Center Field Hospital to be ready July 20

Former County Judge and now the County Covid Czar Sarah Eckhardt told the Statesman that—if needed—the field hospital will be able to open on July 20th. The local hospitals currently report about 75% of the general beds and 85% of ICU beds occupied.

The County is preparing based on exceeding 1,500 general patients and 250 ICU patients across the area hospitals. Area hospitals, though, say they will be able to squeeze more people in after that.

Politics

A few political things today.

State GOP Convention

Will continue in-person still, but local officials will give their speeches virtually instead of in-person. Okay.

Speaker Bonnen

Just a couple of politically-minded things on the state side, I wanted to note. Speaker of the Texas House Dennis Bonnen tweeted out remarks he made a couple weeks ago regarding how he’s infuriated with people who aren’t wearing masks.

I’m glad he’s mad about it. It gives me pause that he is mad about people not wearing masks because it could kill the economy. Not about not wearing masks infecting other people, killing some.

Governor Abbott

I’ve tried to not get too political on these updates. I really don’t think majority of the COVID-19 issues need to be political. But, remember, I can break my own rules and, speaking of being infuriated, Governor Abbott made me so after his interview last night with KFDM, the CBS station out of Beaumont.

The opening question, which the Governor seems very prepared for, asked about those county judges and mayors who are asking for additional authority—like they had earlier in the pandemic before the State responded at all. His response floored. It’s the first question, his answer starts around the 45 second mark on the video linked above.

He blasts local officials saying that if only they enforced his existing orders first, everything would be fine. He accused them of “absenteeism”! I’m shocked!

Whether you agree or not with putting someone in jail (I don’t think jail is advisable), remember, he’s the one who threw down because a judge in Dallas ordered the salon owner—who openly refused to comply with shut down orders—to jail on contempt. Jail time was specifically authorized by the Executive Orders in force at that time!

When local areas started mandating masks, his response was to ban those local authorities from being able to issue any penalties to individuals for lack of compliance.

Governor Abbott failed to lead on the mask issue. He berated local officials for not being able to divine how to weasel around his lack of granting enforcement power, then acted like that was in plan all along. (Narrator: it wasn’t in the plan). That plan? Local business regulation. From the governor who has taken every possible chance to strike down any business regulations coming from the City of Austin.

So, Kraft, you’re amped up about this. Let’s just take it at face value. Local officials should enforce the orders that in place now before getting more. Ha!

Per KFDX, the local NBC station in Wichita Falls—the hometown that both Abbott and I share—spoke to the Wichita County Judge, Woody Gossom. Before linking or quoting, Wichita Falls is red. 72.9% voted for Trump in the 2016 election. Woody Gossom has been on the county court or the county judge since 1989. He’s solidly Republican. I’m not quoting from someone who is politically on the opposite side of Gov. Abbott.

KFDX shared that Judge Gossom isn’t really sure how enforceable the mask mandate will actually be. ““The clarity, it’s gonna be an interesting day in the courtroom to determine did that person get a warning before that,”

The mask order mandates that a first offense is a warning with second or following offenses result in a fine.

So, unless they visit the same person at the same place a second time, they’re not going to fine a person.

The goal isn’t fining people, no. The goal is voluntary compliance. There aren’t enough law enforcement officers to really enforce it, but in either case, Governor Abbott’s response to local authorities is absolutely nuts.

Gov. Abbott’s polling on how Texans think he is handling this is trending like our viral data — the direction Abbott doesn’t want. (April vs June polls).

Anyhow.

Data and Numbers

I hope this is the “going to get worse before it gets better” phase and not the “going to get worse before it gets more worse” phase.

State of Texas

Texas set a new single-day new cases record hitting five digits: 10,028. I hope this is just post-holiday lag after having low numbers the last two days. Our positivity rate has been pretty stable the last few days at 13.5% (way too high).

We also set a record on daily fatalities. This is new. May 14th was our previous record-setting day. Today, we had 60 new deaths reported (possibly including the first death in The University of Texas at Austin community).

It almost goes without saying that we hit a new hospitalization record too at 9,286 in the hospital.

Travis County (Austin)

We saw 482 new cases. We had 7 new deaths—tying the record set yesterday. I don’t like this trend.

New record hospitalization census at 469 with 148 in the ICU and a record 89 people on ventilators right now. By my quick look, this is the 16th day in a row we’ve set a hospitalization record for the Austin MSA.

We had a record-high 73 new hospitalizations today.

Austin Public Health announced a change. “Previous data sets did not retroactively adjust new hospital admissions for patients who were admitted to the hospital but did not receive a positive COVID-19 test result until after their initial admission date.

I’d like to have more explanation on this and see the updated data, but with their revisions, our 7-day rolling average admission average is 74.8, solidly putting us in the Stage 5 potential. Stage 5 is, basically, a shutdown, but the City/County lacks the authority to do that now.

The public data sets have the previously announced admissions numbers—not the revised—so we’re at a 7-day average higher than any single value. Heh.

How high are we going to go?

Wear a mask. Love Hamilton? Not sure about wearing a mask? Watch and wear.

Categories
Current Events

COVID in Austin Update (July 6)

News

I haven’t seen that much come across my desk today.

The Texas High School Coaches Association’s conference slated for later in July, bringing together 5,000 high school coaches to San Antonio, decided to do a virtual conference. Meanwhile, the State GOP convention next week in Houston is still a go, with Houston’s mayor reminding the State GOP’s executive committee that health inspectors will be on-site with authority to shut down the conference if protocols are not followed.

While The University of Texas at Austin currently will offer in-person classes with the option for a fully-online course load, ICE announced that if those in the country on student visas are taking fully online course loads, they have to leave the United States. Harvard announced today they are going to be fully online next academic year.

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.

Stats

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:

TSAJune 1June 15July 1July 6
Amarillo47162531
Lubbock14157286
Wichita Falls001121
Abilene201033
DFW58070114111607
Paris14283851
Longview/Tyler495579121
Lufkin16283546
El Paso10994177218
Midland/Odessa18235990
San Angelo021528
Belton/Kileen23295452
Waco253131
Bryan/College Station23295452
Austin89141404485
San Antonio10516510911313
Houston48273021392656
Galveston111154318364
Victoria171162108
Laredo14118293
Corpus Christi615163249
Lower Rio Grande Valley3787588954
Statewide Total1756232669048698

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.

So yup, we’re still on the upswing.

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Current Events

COVID in Austin Update (July 5)

I hope everyone has had a nice holiday weekend.

A few news items that caught my eye:

Data

State of Texas

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. 🤷‍♂️)

Categories
Current Events

COVID in Austin Update (July 4)

Happy 4th of July! 🇺🇸

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.

Sometimes, the news media deserves it: when CBS aired B-roll from hospitals in Italy where were completely overwhelmed at the time while talking about New York City hospitals or when Fox News photoshopped a man with a long gun into various pictures of Seattle.

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.

Data

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.