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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. 🤷‍♂️)

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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.

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Current Events

COVID in Austin Update (July 3)

New Orders

As expected, yesterday’s executive order allows local authorities to now limit outdoor gatherings of 10 or more people. The executive order gives the authority to counties for unincorporated areas and mayors for incorporated areas.

Travis County and the City of Austin has prohibited outdoor gatherings of 10 or more. With a quick skim of the previous executive orders, I think this is the first one that states that county judges and mayors have equal authority with outdoor gatherings and other cities in Travis County (Lakeway, West Lake Hills, etc) announced the 100-person prohibition as “per County order”.

From a technical standpoint, I think each little city needs to issue their own declaration for their own incorporated boundaries. From a practical standpoint, just assume outdoor gatherings of 10 or more are prohibited everywhere. (Let’s also ignore places like Collin County north of Dallas that specifically issued a proclamation allowing all outdoor gatherings of 10 or more.)

News

On the baseball front, unrelated to Texas, there was a video on Twitter of how the Red Sox are keeping their players spaced out. They have converted their box suites into mini-locker rooms for a couple of players each.

If you’ve been watching MLB news, they did change a few playing rules this season. Some are more gameplay related (extra innings start with a runner on 2nd to help games not extend into too many innings), but others are very obviously virus-related. Get within six feet of an umpire to argue a call? You’re out of the game.

While I do strongly feel it is not worth trying to play youth sports right now—my little baseball league simply doesn’t have the financial or human resources or the educational knowledge to pull this off well, in my opinion—maybe, maybe some pro sports can figure out something.

Data

State of Texas

New record for hospitalizations, again. 7,652 are in the hospital statewide. We had two tiny decreases on two separated days, but otherwise, we’ve setting a new record daily since June 8.

Statewide hospitalizations keep going up.

We had 7,555 new cases. The third-highest amount after yesterday’s 2nd highest, and Wednesday’s current record.

We had 50 deaths since yesterday. That’s the 4th highest daily number all-time, so not the obvious upward record-setting trend that we’ve had with cases and hospitalizations, but trending higher slowly.

Travis County (Austin)

While noting it is a holiday, so some testing locations are closed and there will likely be weird results for the next few days, here are today’s counts.

Our new daily count is the lowest all week with 314 new cases, putting us over 11,000 total cases.

We had one more death, pushing our 7-day average to 2.57/day. Not the highest, but still creeping up.

We’ve set a new record for both regular bed and ICU census counts at 418 and 151 respectively. Our new hospitalizations today was 65, which helped pushed up the 7-day average to 59.1 (highest we’ve seen).

Nothing terribly new to say about this. Keep wearing a mask. Enjoy the 4th at home with a couple of beers and some hamburgers on the grill with your family.

Categories
Current Events

COVID in Austin Update (July 2)

New Orders

Masks! Masks! Masks!

Governor Abbott has issued a statewide mask mandate. GA-29 requires masks in all public areas—inside or outside—with some exceptions:

  • Under 10 years old.
  • Medically unable to wear a mask.
  • While eating, drinking, exercising (while keeping distance), driving alone or only with your family, swimming, giving a speech, etc.
  • Religious services, though still encouraged.
  • Voting, though still encouraged.
  • When security requires you to show your face (e.g. a bank, TSA checkpoint at an airport, etc).
  • Personal care to the facial area (e.g. dentist appointment).
  • Or a county with less than 20 active cases. Which aren’t any around here. Counties have to opt-out of it with a form to the state, it isn’t automatic.

Penalties include a fine, but no jail. Though, if a business asks you to leave for not wearing a mask, normal trespass laws still apply, so if you’re a punk about it, be aware. But don’t be a punk about it.

Separately, he also issued a proclamation to amend a previous executive order allowing local authorities to limit outdoor gatherings of 10 or more. Currently, Travis County (following the previous allowed amount) has prohibited gatherings of 100+, so a new order from the locals will probably come later today or tomorrow I’d reckon.

City of Austin to close parks for July

After already closing down park features for the holiday weekend, the City announced that they will close park features and city-run summer camps for the month of July.

As part of a memo to the mayor and council, the city manager reports a few changes. There are more, but the notable ones to me:

  • Parks and Rec to, basically, close for the month of July. After the holiday weekend, trails are open with distancing required. Playground, pools, etc will be closed.
  • Austin Resource Recovery (sanitation) will again suspend curbside bulk pickup. Regular trash, recycling, and compost service continues without change. If you got a notice that your curbside service is coming up, they will still honor those notices. If you didn’t get a postcard yet, you won’t for the time being.

Other News

Data

State

On the state level, we set another new record of hospitalizations at 7,382 (+478). Thankfully, the state’s daily new cases slightly declined to 7,915 (-161), which is still the 2nd highest daily count by a thousand. Positivity is still high—over 13%.

Hays County (San Marcos)

After the initial shocking spike, things seem to be quieting down, though still very high. I’m glad they aren’t increasing and setting new case records right now, but let’s hope that downward trend goes way down.

Williamson County (Georgetown/Round Rock)

Similarly, new cases aren’t rising, but they aren’t really going down all that much yet either. Today was the lowest number in awhile. I don’t know if there’s an underlying reason (e.g. testing access?) or what. We’ll see how it trends over the next week or so.

The county reported a record-high hospitalization level. I don’t pay close attention to Williamson County since Austin/Travis County includes the five-county MSA, including Williamson.

Travis County (Austin)

So. I wrote the above about Hays and Williamson County before Travis released their daily numbers. I was feeling a little good seeing a little tiny bit downward motion.

Then, I saw today’s Travis County dashboard.

We added 571 new cases, making it five days above 500.

We saw 5 new deaths, putting us to 133 total. Seeing daily numbers of deaths at 4, 3, 4, 5 is worrisome, like I mentioned yesterday. We did have one time hitting six in a single day earlier in the pandemic, so it isn’t a record. But, I’m nervous. I really really am hoping that our deaths won’t begin to increase and that our care of the elderly will be the difference.

We had a record 71 new hospitalizations, putting today’s census count at 415, jumping up from yesterday’s 376.

We’re also at a record 145 in the ICU and 70 on vents.

We’re probably going to see a bit more of this trend until the more recent changes (bars closing and now masks) make an impact, so hold on tight.

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