Austin Public Health issues color-coded, 5-stage risk chart as number of new COVID cases remains stable
In an effort to balance COVID containment with economic stability, Austin Public Health debuted a color-coded chart that identifies the local risk of coronavirus spread and issues recommendations for high-risk individuals, the public at large and the workplace.
"This document is not designed to guide policy," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said at a virtual press conference Thursday morning. "This document is designed to guide individual behavior based on their risk."
The Austin metro is currently at Stage 3, with Stage 5 being the highest. At this level, APH recommends people continue to maintain social distancing, wear masks, restrict social gatherings to 10 people or fewer and limit visits to reopened businesses.
APH developed the chart in collaboration with the city's expert panel, researchers at the University of Texas and elected officials. The local risk level is now included in the Travis County COVID-19 dashboard and will be updated daily based on a number of factors.
"As much as we'd like to identify one highly reliable trigger, there are lots of triggers," Dr. Escott said, comparing the local COVID-19 forecast to predicting the weather—a lot of factors come into play.
Texas businesses began a phased reopening May 1. So far, local data does not indicate a new surge has begun. The doubling rate is now 23 days, and the daily increase in new confirmed cases has remained relatively steady for about six weeks.
"This is why we're willing to accept more risk," Dr. Escott said.
But he continued to urge Austin residents to keep up certain precautions, including social distancing and wearing masks while in public, and said we likely won't see the full impact of recent policy changes for another couple of weeks. "What we are seeing in the flattening of the curve is the effect of the treatment," he said. "The treatment has to continue."
At Stage 1, the guidelines allow for gatherings in large groups, the reopening of all businesses and an end to social distancing and masking. But Dr. Escott said we are unlikely to return to normal until a vaccine is widely available.
Like the local Stay Home-Work Safe orders, the chart's guidelines are largely unenforceable.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt (who has since stepped down) extended those orders last week, despite Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's advancing reopening plan. On Tuesday, Attorney General Ken Paxton's office sent a letter to the local officials asking them to "correct" their orders, which he said conflict with state rules, and threatened litigation.
In a video update posted to Facebook, Adler said the letter politicizes the pandemic. "I will not follow the attorney general's office down that path," he added.
Dr. Escott said he believes this chart system complements the governor's orders and is in service to the goal of preserving public health while also supporting the economy.
"I know there's been a lot of controversy regarding masks," he said. "I think it is a small step that individuals can take to protect other people—to protect themselves. It is really something that is critical that we consider if we really want to keep business open; if we want to protect workers of those businesses; if we want to protect ourselves and our families."
- Texas AG says 'Orwellian' local stay-home orders sow confusion ... ›
- Fabric face coverings will be 'longstanding requirement' in Austin ... ›
- Stay-at-home end may be in sight as local task force plans reopening ›
- Data projects June COVID-19 spike in Travis County - austonia ›
- Is Austin flattening the COVID curve? - austonia ›
- Austin COVID hospitalizations decline, but risk level remains - austonia ›
- Austin COVID hospitalizations fall, but risk level remains - austonia ›
- Austin-Travis County drops to Stage 3 for COVID risk - austonia ›
- Austin COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, deaths dashboard - austonia ›
- What's riskier: seeing a movie or air travel? Texas Medical Association chart provides answers - austonia ›
- Austin public health authority appointment extended, unpaid - austonia ›
- Texas Doctor's guide to avoiding COVID this holiday season - austonia ›
- Austin top doc: No Stage 5 yet, despite rising COVID numbers - austonia ›
- Austin downgrades to Stage 4 restrictions - austonia ›
Austin FC couldn't find the stamina to fight off a 2-0 loss against LAFC for their inaugural match on Saturday.
The match, which saw No. 21 Austin FC go head-to-head with No. 2 LAFC in Los Angeles, was broadcast nationally on FOX and FOX Deportes.
Salute the support. 👏
It's only the beginning for @AustinFC. pic.twitter.com/TduorqYr2y
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 18, 2021
Eleven players took the stage as Austin FC players for the first time, with five starters making their MLS debut. "Ringleader" Alex Ring took the captain's armband and wore it well. The defensive midfielder could be seen leading his teammates through their first ever match, but it wasn't enough to stage an Austin takeover in LA.
In the signature style of Head Coach Josh Wolff, the team played with quickness and intensity, nearly connecting on several fast breaks. It was harder for them to stay in front, however, something that Wolff credits with quick decision making and a tough LAFC defense.
"We have a quick attacking team, but I think when you make quick attacks and it fizzles it's just about some decision making," Wolff said. "Are we in position to finish attacks? If not, can we reestablish our attack and get stuff better?"
The club was given some generous breaks from No. 2 LAFC, who had one or both of their star DPs out for the half. While forward Diego Rossi is out for the entire match due to a hamstring injury, Carlos Vela was accidentally pulled too soon on what turned out to be a miscommunication.
"He gave us the sign that he needed to come off," LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley said on broadcast. "I can't say more than maybe it's my fault."
LA pulled some dramatics and slowly gained more possession throughout the half, but ATXFC's defense wasn't initially as shaky as it seemed in preseason. Jhohan Romana has pulled his weight in getting the ball out of goal, and a 34-year old Matt Besler held his own in center back.
As the second half commenced, however, it became clear that LAFC had the advantage over Austin's first major league team.
Goalkeeper Brad Stuver had his work cut out for him, fending off 24 shot attempts, 11 of which were on goal. He didn't have much time to prepare, either: in the first 30 seconds of play, Stuver had already made a save to keep the match 0-0.
LAFC finally connected in the 61st minute of play as Corey Baird shot one into the bottom right corner. The team capitalized off their momentum and put one past Stuver a second time, drawing roars of approval from the LAFC crowd.
While some last-minute attempts from Jon Gallagher and others were made, Austin FC didn't have the endurance to bring a tie. After seven additional minutes of stoppage time, the club lost their first match 2-0.
While the scoreboard tells one story, Wolff said that the team did well considering the skill of LAFC and the pressure of their club debut.
"We've got to be realistic," Wolff said. "This is the first time this organization has been in front of TV with an opportunity to show itself and I think there were some promising moments. And we're going to maximize those and continue to try to develop those, but there's lots to build on."
The team may have lost, but it still won the support of thousands of Verde fans, dozens of which made it to watch their team's first match. When Stuver and the team made it to bthe stadium, Los Verdes fans were already there to show support, and Stuver said his wife saw the same back in Austin.
"The moment that we pulled into the stadium, we saw Black and Verde fans cheering us on as we got to the stadium," Stuver said. "During warm up, you can just look around and see different groups sitting in different sections of the stadium and it's just truly amazing to see the support in our first game. We know that we want to give the fans everything, because this we play for the city and we play for them."