As Travis County's COVID-19 caseload and related hospitalizations continue to surge, Austin Public Health is grappling with its limited resources—and recently announced that it will restrict testing and contact tracing to specific cases.
"Austin Public Health, the city and the county simply don't have the resources, the personnel, to provide for everybody everything they need," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott told Travis County commissioners Tuesday.
In response, APH is shifting its pandemic strategy.
APH opened up its free testing service to all residents on June 5, following mass protests, but announced last weekend that it would scale back, only offering tests to those who are symptomatic, live in group settings like nursing homes, or are members of other vulnerable populations.
Dr. Escott said APH is also looking to transition at least some of its testing load to private companies, and asked residents with health insurance to seek out testing from their doctors rather than through APH's free service.
"We're going to have to return to duty—to investigate other disease outbreaks: HIV, STDs, foodborne illnesses," he said of APH staff. "There are a lot of other things that public health do normally that we can't really do very well right now because we're all invested in COVID-19."
Testing can be subcontracted out to private companies more easily than other public health services, Dr. Escott said.
APH is also rethinking its contact tracing strategy in the face of uncontrolled community spread, focusing on those patients with the most recently conducted tests and who live in group settings.
"For the vast majority of cases we can't tell [where they originate]—and we can't tell because we have hundreds and hundreds of people a day who are testing positive," Dr. Escott said Tuesday. "And those hundreds and hundreds of people have contacted at least dozens and dozens of people."
Another concern is an antiquated reporting system among labs, which means that some test results are faxed to APH and require manual input into an electronic database. This leads to delays between when people are tested and when contact tracing can begin.
"Getting results in 7 to 10 days is relatively useless," Dr. Escott said.
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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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Hours following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that guaranteed a constitutional right to an abortion, on Friday, about 1,000 people gathered in Republic Square with signs calling for change.
The rally, organized by the group Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights Texas, started at the federal courthouse on Republic Square on Friday at 5 p.m. before the crowd marched to the Texas Capitol. More protests are expected to ensue over the weekend.
People showed up with all types of signs like Mindy Moffa holding up, "Keep your filthy laws off my silky drawers."
Austin joined cities across the country that saw protests for a women's right to an abortion after the ruling.
According to a recent UT poll, 78% of Texas voters support abortion access in most cases.
Sabrina Talghade and Sofia Pellegrini held up signs directed at Texas laws. A Texas trigger law will ban all abortions from the moment of fertilization, starting 30 days after the ruling. When state legislators passed the trigger law last summer, it also passed laws for more protection of firearms, including the right to open carry without a permit.
Lili Enthal of Austin yells as around 1,000 Texans marched to the Texas Capitol.
From the Texas Capitol, Zoe Webb lets her voice be heard against the Supreme Court ruling.
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