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photo by Quest Diagnostics

The enrollment form will help Austin Public Health focus limited resources and track where cases are clustering. (Quest Diagnostics)

Austin Public Health will debut an enrollment form next week that will screen residents for COVID-19 testing, allowing them to bypass an appointment with a physician to get the necessary referral to a testing site. Physicians will still be able to refer patients to testing outside of the city's new system.

Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said during a virtual press conference earlier today that the form will make testing access more equitable across the city and also allow APH to better track test capacity, interest and results.

"We do expect a significant increase in those who sign up for testing because we're decreasing that barrier," Dr. Escott said.

The enrollment form will help APH focus its limited resources—such as test kits and personal protective equipment—and track where cases are clustering. While improved surveillance was touted as a benefit of this new system, Dr. Escott said the information collected from patients is confidential.

"We want people to be comfortable in sharing that information and signing up for testing," he said.

With more laboratories processing test kits and the rollout of rapid testing—expected to ramp up in the coming months—the new form system should increase access to tests and improve turnaround times, Dr. Escott said, adding that some people wait as long as 14 days to receive test results.

"It'll provide us better information—quicker information—which allows us to respond and isolate people quicker," he said.

The city's effort to flatten the curve appears to be working, Dr. Escott said. Yesterday, the number of cases in Travis County surpassed 1,000, but the doubling rate—or the amount of time it takes for the caseload to double—has slowed significantly, from two days last month to 10 days currently.

Area hospitals still have plenty of capacity to treat patients with COVID-19, Dr. Escott said.

As of last night, 79 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the five-county area, which includes Travis, Williamson, Bastrop, Caldwell and Hays. Of those, 39 patients are in intensive care and 30 are hooked up to ventilators.

Researchers at the University of Texas-Austin who have worked on modeling the spread of COVID-19 estimate that, in this five-county area, the total daily hospital capacity is 3,239 beds and the total daily ventilator capacity is 675 machines.

Dr. Escott indicated that this new system could help prepare for the reopening of local businesses.

"As we open the window to the economy again it's important for us to be able to continue to track folks effectively, to make sure that we're reaching out to them often to check on their status and that we know who they've had contact with," he said during the press conference. "This system … really helps cover all those bases to ensure that we do reopen the economy, gently, progressively, [and that] we do that safely."

On Monday, local elected officials extended the "Stay Home-Work Safe" orders through May 8.

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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.

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.

As Austin FC took the stage for their first-ever match, they appeared more experienced than their track record. The club held LAFC to a scoreless first half, keeping about equal possession of the ball.

In the signature style of Head Coach Josh Wolff, the team played with quickness and intensity, nearly connecting on several fast breaks.

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.

LAFC finally connected in the 61st minute of play as Corey Baird shot one in to 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.

Ingredients:

  • 750 ml Tito's Handmade Vodka
  • 16 oz strawberries

Directions: Drop sliced strawberries into glass container filled with Tito's Handmade Vodka. Let sit in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. Once desired flavor is reached remove fruit. Enjoy!

The long-awaited day is here; Austin FC takes the field with LAFC. (Austonia)

It's matchday! Austin FC—Austin's first major league sport team—kicks off its debut season in Los Angeles today after years in the making. We know how much this means to our beloved city and are taking you along with us as we journey to LA!

Austin FC writer Claire Partain and I are excited to bring you game-day coverage straight from the City of Angels. Check back here for updates, and visit our socials: @austonianews for the latest.

5 p.m: Kickoff!

It's finally here! Claire will be updating Austonia's Twitter account live. And we'll post her game recap after the game. Best of luck Verdes!

4:40 p.m: Excitement radiates back home

Watch parties are in plenty supply back home. Austonia's Laura Figi visited Circle Brewing Co. and found a crowd of excited supporters.

4:20 p.m: Austin FC supporters are in the stadium

Although the Banc of California Stadium is hosting the match at limited capacity, we see some green in the stands ahead of kickoff. Just moments away from the Austin FC's debut!

~3:20 p.m: Austin FC's team bus enters the stadium grounds

With a warm welcome from Los Verdes, Austin FC players were welcomed into the Banc of California Stadium.

~1 p.m: Los Verdes in LA

(Rigo Rodriguez/Los Verdes)

Austin FC supporters are making their presence known in LA, including the Los Verdes group.

Los Verdes members started having match-day fun around the area this morning with brunch. We'll be joining them about an hour before the game outside the stadium to share some of their excitement. We'll post immediately to Austonia's Instagram.

11:45 a.m: We landed!

View from hotel room where we're staying; the stadium digital sign can be seen in the right corner. (Sonia Garcia/Austonia)

Switching over to pacific time, we're here and it's almost like no time went by. It's 9:45 a.m. here.

We've been in contact with Los Verdes, an Austin FC supporter group, who is also here in LA counting down to kickoff.

8:20 a.m: LA bound

Like many of you, we've been looking forward to this moment for, let's just say, a very long time. Today, we woke up bright and early, headed to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and hopped on a flight to LA.

A gloomy day in Austin with a very quiet airport, we're headed to sunny skies in California.

As we wait for the game to start at 4:30 p.m., check out Claire's preview of the game with a predicted lineup and timeline of the long journey to get here.