The seven-day moving average for new daily COVID-related hospital admissions in the Austin metro appears to be plateauing, and the doubling time—or the number of days it takes for current caseload to double—is now at a record high of 45.4 days.

ICU occupancy—which local officials have described as a "pinch point"—has fallen from 89% to 83% since last Thursday.


"These are both positive notes and undoubtedly a result of the community's engagement in this mission to decrease the transmission through the protective actions of masking, the personal hygiene and the social distancing," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott told county commissioners during his weekly update on Tuesday.

New confirmed cases

The number of new confirmed cases is also declining. The current seven-day moving average of new confirmed cases is 335, down from 503 a week ago.

Dr. David Rubin directs the PolicyLab at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, which has modeled the spread of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. He looks for at least two weeks of declining daily new confirmed cases before assuming there is any evidence of a flattening curve.

As of Monday evening, Travis County reports three consecutive days of decline.

Dr. Escott said Austin residents need to adhere to precautions for at least the next month to keep transmission down and increase the likelihood that students can return to school.

"Our focus now is really getting us in a better situation to open schools that is not going to lead to immediate outbreaks as we saw with the opening of businesses," he said.

Hospital capacity concerns

While hospitals in the Austin metro are seeing a plateau in the number of daily new admissions—which has held steady for the last two weeks—Dr. Escott said there are still concerns about capacity.

"[Admission rates are] not going in an upward direction anymore, but the hospitals are impacted right now," he told commissioners. "Our health care workers, our nurses, our physicians, our allied health professionals in the hospitals are busy, and they're tired."

Austin's three hospital systems—Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White and St. David's HealthCare—reported an overall occupancy rate of 75% on Tuesday, up from 74% last week, and an ICU occupancy rate of 83%, down from 89%, among their 483 collective beds.

In addition to capacity, staffing is another concern. Most hospitals in the region are dealing with staff absenteeism related to COVID-19, either because their own employees are sick or because they are caring for family members who are, Dr. Escott said.

As a result, hospitals and local officials are requesting state and federal support to find additional personnel to care for COVID patients in hospitals before staffing the convention center, which is outfitted as a field hospital for non-ICU patients but remains empty.

Dr. Escott said the opening has been delayed to ensure that hospitals are adequately staffed before attempting to staff the convention center.

Because of more severe outbreaks in southern Texas, Austin will likely need to recruit workers from outside of the state. "I think the funds are available," he said. "The challenge is finding the people."

(The Austin Bulldog)

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