On Wednesday, local officials held a press conference for the first time this month to provide a coronavirus update and answer questions.
While Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott addressed some of the big ones—about ventilator capacity and contingency plans, for two—others remain.
Here are some of the answers we're looking for at Austonia—and please share the ones you're looking for by emailing email@example.com.
1. When will Austin see its caseload peak?
Modeling by researchers at the University of Texas-Austin shows that this is a moving target. The better Austinites comply with local Stay Home-Work Safe orders, and the more we wear our masks in public, the later this peak will occur.
Additionally, these actions will help suppress the total caseload peak and allow more time for researchers to develop a vaccine and treatment, Dr. Escott said Wednesday.
2. The city announced a surge plan—to be implemented if hospitals hit capacity—and announced supplemental care sites. Where will those sites be?
The city has identified supplemental care sites, Dr. Escott said Wednesday, but has not yet named them. The types of facilities being considered—locally as well as at the state level—include outpatient surgical centers, former hospital buildings, arenas and convention centers.
3. Will there be a dedicated hospital for COVID-19 cases, like we are seeing in some other cities?
Right now, multiple hospital networks are reporting cases, including Ascension, Baylor Scott & White, Seton and St. David's HealthCare. The city has not indicated whether this will change moving forward.
4. What is our exit plan?
"It's not clear what the long term looks like for this virus," Dr. Escott said Wednesday. "It seems unlikely that it's going to disappear. That's just not going to happen. We're going to have to face this at some point—at some stage. Our preference is to take care of cases a little bit at a time, to never exceed the capacity of our health care system, to take good care of those individuals. If we can do that, we can fight this battle for a long time. We can ensure that we are saving as many people as we can."
5. How many tests have been conducted in Austin?
Only state-level numbers are available. As of Thursday afternoon, 106,134 Texans—or 0.37%—had been tested for the coronavirus, per the Department of State Health Services.
Even without knowing the number of tests, there are limitations to the data we have.
For one, there is a delay—the impact of decisions the city makes today might not appear in caseload data for another two weeks, Adler said in a second video posted on Wednesday.
Additionally, test access is limited, and results may be delayed up to a week.
Dr. Escott said last month that there could be seven to 10 times the number of coronavirus cases in Austin as those confirmed with test results.
On Thursday evening, the city reported 642 cases, up 45 the day prior. However, deaths did not increase; hospitalizations went down by three cases, to 72; and an additional 22 people were reported recovered.
"The more tests we give, the more confirmed cases we're going to see," Adler said Wednesday. "We could actually be decreasing the number of infections that are occurring in our city but still have a number going up because we're just giving more tests.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that guaranteed a constitutional right to an abortion, Friday morning. Moments later, Austin City Council set a special meeting for next month to pass a resolution aimed at decriminalizing abortion.
The GRACE Act, which stands for guarding the right to abortion care for everyone, is a twofold plan submitted by council member Jose “Chito” Vela. It recommends that city funds shouldn’t be used to surveil, catalog, report or investigate abortions. It also recommends that police make investigating abortion their lowest priority.
Council Member Vanessa Fuentes, who co-sponsored the resolution along with council members Paige Ellis, Kathie Tovo and Mayor Steve Adler, said the importance of the GRACE Act cannot be overstated.
“By introducing this resolution during a special session, City Council is doubling down on fighting back for reproductive health,” Fuentes said. “Items like the GRACE Act will promote essential healthcare while enabling individuals to exercise their bodily freedom.”
The act takes an approach similar to when former council member Greg Casar moved to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Ultimately, state law doesn't allow city officials to order police chiefs to adopt specific enforcement policies so the resolution would be a request to Police Chief Joe Chacon. In May, Politico reported that Vela is having "ongoing conversations" with Chacon about the proposal.
Austonia contacted Attorney General Ken Paxton for comment on the GRACE Act but did not hear back by time of publication. On Friday, Paxton celebrated the overturning of Roe and announced an annual office holiday on June 24 in recognition of the high court's decision.
In a press release, Vela said the Texas state government has a history of overturning municipal protections of human rights. Thirty days after the Supreme Court’s ruling, Texas will ban all abortions, with exceptions only to save the life of a pregnant patient or prevent “substantial impairment of major bodily function.”
Still, Vela expressed hope for the GRACE Act’s longevity. Council’s special meeting on it is set for the week of July 18.
“We know this resolution is legally sound, and Austin is not alone in this fight,” Vela said. “We are working with several other cities who are equally horrified by the prospect of an abortion ban and want to do everything they can to protect their residents.”
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Despite a 2-0 deficit, there was a pot of gold for Austin FC after all as it celebrated its annual Pride Night with rainbows and a 2-2 comeback draw to FC Dallas Saturday night.
After three FC Dallas losses last season, the Dallas derby draw marks the first time Austin FC has tied against its Copa Texas rival. Austin continues to edge over FC Dallas as it sits at 3rd in the MLS West.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the match:
A somber start
Decked out in colorful hues for LBGTQ+ Pride, Verde fans started the match on a somber note as they held up banners to take a stand against gun violence before the match.
As the national anthem began, fans held up banners with the names of each child that was killed in the Uvalde school shooting and a plea to "end gun violence."
The supporters' section was also dotted with Pride flags and a "Bans off Our Bodies" banner in protest of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
FC Dallas earns a 2-0 lead
That sober tone continued onto the pitch. With midfielder Daniel Pereira's absence due to a red card, the Verde and Black lost two goals to FC Dallas by the 70th minute of play.
FC Dallas played it sneaky for the first half of the match, giving Austin FC plenty of room to hold possession as it waited to strike on a Verde error. That mentality proved dangerous for Austin as Dallas' Paul Arriola took advantage of Brad Stuver's deflection to score the first goal of the night in the 57th minute of play.
Dallas struck once more as Brandon Servant pushed past the Verde line to score the second goal of the match.
Austin FC strikes back
But energy quickly returned to Austin's favor thanks to Designated Player Sebastian Driussi, who scooted past several FC Dallas defenders alongside Moussa Djitte to snag an unlikely first goal for Austin.
A full Verde comeback
Austin's subs proved deadly as momentum returned to the home team toward the end of the match. A well-placed cross from Nick Lima—and a diving header from a fresh-legged Danny Hoesen—helped the team secure the draw with a second Verde goal in the 84th minute of play.
Hoesen, who was Austin's first starting striker last season, has now scored two goals with the team after a yearlong injury stuck him on the bench.
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