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Austin and Travis County officials announced today that if daily new hospital admissions for COVID-19 exceed 20, on average, they would move to reinstate some pandemic restrictions.


"If we get to 20, then we're on a path to overwhelm our hospitals, and we're going to have to pull back, and no one wants to pull back," Austin Mayor Steve Adler said a virtual press conference earlier today.

Hospital admissions have oscillated between around eight to 10 per day, on average, since early March, when the first Austin cases were confirmed, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said at the same event.

hospitalizations covid coronavirusHospitalizations will determine local response to COVID-19, officials say (Austin Public Health)


Since Texas Gov. Greg Abbott allowed businesses to start reopening May 1, local officials have expressed concern about the potential for an accompanying surge in cases.

If hospitalizations drop to five admissions or fewer on average, those officials said they will ease up on certain recommendations, such as limiting gathering sizes, per the risk-based guidelines issued by Austin Public Health earlier this month.

(Austin Public Health)

It remains to be seen, however, whether they will be able to intervene to prevent such an outcome. Abbott "has stripped away" their enforcement mechanisms, Sarah Eckhardt, special assistant to Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe, said at the press conference.

While Adler and Dr. Escott said they believe the state will allow intervention should a surge occur, the state has recently used its authority to trump local control efforts, such as those concerning masking mandates, construction bans and mail-in voting.

Without authority to enforce restrictions, Adler hopes Austin residents will observe recommendations voluntarily. "It's got to be something that we do to protect one another," he said.

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