On April 3, a map showed the city's COVID-19 cases clustered around UT and West Austin, as well as part of South Austin. (Travis County COVID-19 Public Dashboard)

Last week, county data showed positive COVID-19 test results were more concentrated in the ZIP codes 78703 (Tarrytown), 78704 (Central-South Austin), 78705 (West Campus), 78731 (Northwest Hills) and 78746 (West Lake Hills and Rollingwood) than in other areas of Austin.

The latest data shows cases remain concentrated in those areas, but other ZIP codes—particularly in Southeast Austin—now shade darker on the accompanying heat map.

What's going on here?

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Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt provided an update on social distancing efforts at a Commissioners Court meeting Tuesday. (Courtesy Travis County Commissioners Court)

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt provided an update earlier today on local social-distancing efforts.

According to the updated modeling from researchers at The University of Texas at Austin—expected to be released to the public later today or tomorrow—and other data, including Google's community mobility reports, Travis County has reduced its trips to transit stations by 72%, to retail and recreation facilities by 54%, to the workplace by 44%, to grocery stores and pharmacies by 29%, and to parks by 19%.

"I'm happy to report that ... we do see a significant reduction in our activity," Eckhardt said, speaking at the Commissioner's Court meeting. "However, it does appear that we may have plateaued, and so I would ask people to do more."

Eckhardt added that a 50% reduction in trips is not enough. An earlier modeling report from the UT researchers, released on March 26, estimates that at this rate, the Austin-Round Rock metro will see more than 1.56 million coronavirus cases and more than 6,000 deaths by mid-August.

According to the report, social distancing will need to be at the 90% to avoid overwhelming hospitals in Travis, Williamson, Bastrop, Caldwell and Hays counties.

The team of researchers—led by Dr. Lauren Ancel Meyers, a professor on integrative biology, statistics and data sciences—estimate that Austin's coronavirus caseload peaks will depend on the rate at which nonhousehold contact is reduced.

For example, with no social distancing, the researchers expect the city to hit its peak around late April to early May. With a 50% reduction in nonhousehold contact, that peak is pushed back to mid-August.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington predicts the state of Texas will hit its peak resource use on April 19. The IHME does not expect a hospital or ICU bed shortage in Texas at the time, but it does predict a deficit of 605 invasive ventilators. Its modeling does not extend to the city level.

In a video posted to his website yesterday morning, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the city has slowed its doubling rate—the time it takes for the number of coronavirus cases to double—to five days. In the March 26 UT report, researchers modeled their projections according to a doubling rate of four days.

"New York and the United States, we're looking at a doubling every two days," the mayor said. "And that's where we started off. Right now, we're probably doubling every five days, and that's a really good number, but we need to continue to do better."

Left to right: Mike Brode, Jay Doran, Bo Overstreet (partially hidden), Phil Aboussie, Ariston Awitan III. (Joanne Foote)

The Men's Group of St. Mark's Episcopal Church usually meets around the middle of the month, and for the 40 or 50 who gather in the parish hall on Barton Hills Drive, a good time is had by all. Mike Brode might serve as head chef (leading the Hitchman team) and Ross Ramsey as bier meister.

The tradition has gone on for many years. And it will continue. But the April 13 meeting will be "virtual."

Group leader Bill Kibler sent word recently that the meeting "will be held on April 13, as scheduled. You'll have to buy your own beer and make an order up of your own food, but conviviality will be assured by Father Zac (Koons), who will organize a Zoom meeting."

And so it is across Austin and the nation. Faith-based, fraternal, neighborhood, social and so many other gatherings—not just business meetings—are "Zoomed," with hosts emailing invitations and attendees clicking on links to see video boxes of others popping up on their screens.

The Zoom meetings are an opportunity, said Ramsey, in a recent tweet, to see what kind of ceiling fans your friends have. And also what kind of beer they're drinking. Not in the business meetings, though, please.

Travis County may begin announcing the number of people hospitalized with coronavirus rather than the number of positive tests, the mayor said Monday.

In a video update posted to Austin Mayor Steve Adler's website on Monday morning, he said the city may start reporting the number of patients hospitalized as a result of COVID-19 rather than the number of positive tests.

"We're tracking the number of people who we test positive, but I think we're going to start showing a different number here shortly and start talking about the number of people who actually get hospitalized," Adler said. "Because the people who are confirmed are in part dependent on the number of tests we give ... so [hospitalizations are] probably a more objective number to look at over time."

He added that currently the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the Austin area is in the low 70s.

The officer did not return to the Del Valle facility until testing negative for COVID-19. (Charlie L. Harper III)

A Travis County correctional officer has returned to work after recovering from COVID-19, officials said Monday.

The officer tested positive for the disease caused by the new coronavirus in mid-March after experiencing symptoms upon returning from a trip to Europe, said Kristen Dark of the Travis County Sheriff's Office.

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