Austin-area hospitals have seen an increase in admissions. (Travis County COVID-19 dashboard)

Amid what he called a "massive outbreak" of new COVID-19 cases. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order suspending elective surgeries at hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties.


"These four counties have experienced significant increases in people being hospitalized due to COVID-19 and today's action is a precautionary step to ensure that the hospitals in these counties continue to have ample supply of available beds to treat COVID-19 patients," Abbott said in a statement issued this morning.

All hospitals in these areas are directed to postpone surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary.

Abbott implemented the same order earlier in the pandemic, which freed up hospital capacity but also led to a sharp drop in revenue for providers and 1,200 layoffs at Baylor Scott & White Health.

Austin's hospital capacity

Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said Travis County could see its caseload double in the next 18 days and area hospital capacity overwhelmed by mid-July at a virtual press conference yesterday.

Unless the rising curve of COVID cases is not flattened soon, Dr. Escott said he would have to recommend a second shutdown to local elected officials.

Austin's three major hospital systems—Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David's HealthCare—issued a joint statement Wednesday, before the governor's order.

The three hospital systems have 2,470 staffed beds, 71% of which were occupied as of Wednesday night; together they also have 483 ICU beds, 70% of which were occupied.

The surge plan

The systems can increase their total bed capacity to 3,250 beds, but "it would require staffing that exceeds what we typically have available for daily operations," per the statement.

The city released a three-stage surge plan in early April, which includes establishing additional hospital beds.

Although the city has not identified where field hospitals may be, local physicians said that hospitals have been planning for such a contingency for months.

"We do not want to provide care for you at the Austin Convention Center," Dr. Kirsten Nieto, an internal medicine and pediatric hospitalist at Dell Children's and Dell Seton, said at yesterday's press conference. "We want you to stay home."

Reopening

Abbott also announced Thursday that he is temporarily pausing the state's reopening.

"The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses," he said in a separate statement. "This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business."

This pause does not change any previous developments, which include allowing restaurants to increase capacity to 75% and amusement parks to reopen.

This article has been updated with the announcement about pausing the reopening process.

(Realtor.com)

The pre-renovated backyard of the Rogan house on Lake Austin.

Austin-based podcast host Joe Rogan, recently called one of the most influential media personalities in the country, paid at least $14.4 million for the luxury lake house he's now living in on Lake Austin, according to local real estate sources and a report by Variety magazine.
Keep Reading Show less
(Tito's Handmade Vodka)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 oz Tito's Handmade Vodka
  • 2 oz cloudy apple juice
  • 1/2 oz ginger syrup
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 4 ginger slices, muddled
Directions: Muddle ginger slices in a shaker. Add remaining ingredients and ice. Shake and strain into a glass over fresh ice. Garnish with an orange twist.

The Texas Longhorns will face off with the Texas Tech Raiders this Saturday.

On Saturday, the Longhorns will travel to Lubbock to face off against Texas Tech in the Big 12 season opener for both teams.

Keep Reading Show less

The November election is among us and here's what you need to know about propositions on the ballot.

In addition to voting for president, members of Congress and Austin City Council this Nov. 3., local voters will find two propositions at the bottom of their ballot with both addressing mobility issues in the city of Austin.

Keep Reading Show less

(Steven Joyner)

No city is perfect, but if we're just talking about looks, Austin—with its lush green nature spots and lakes—is pretty spectacular. Here's a look at what makes Austin the perfect place to "staycation."

Keep Reading Show less
(Photo by Maile Wilson)

Brené Brown is on to her next project, a podcast signed with Spotify.

Author and University of Texas professor Brené Brown signed a deal with Spotify for the platform rights to her new podcast "Dare to Lead," available Oct. 19.

Keep Reading Show less
(Austonia staff)

Barton Springs pool will reopen on Saturday after being closed since late June due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Barton Springs and Deep Eddy pools will reopen this Saturday on a modified schedule after being closed for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keep Reading Show less