Austin COVID hospitalizations reach highest point in months as four Delta variant cases are confirmed
COVID-19 hospitalizations are on the rise in Austin, likely fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant and overwhelmingly affecting unvaccinated individuals.
There have been four confirmed Delta variant cases in Travis County, Austin Public Health announced Wednesday.
Meanwhile, there were 24 new admissions in the five-county Austin metro on Tuesday, bringing the seven-day moving average to 19—its highest point since April 29, according to Austin Public Health's risk-based guidelines.
This puts the metro squarely in stage three, where APH recommends that high-risk unvaccinated individuals—namely those 65 years or older—avoid any non-essential activities to mitigate risk.
Overall, 100 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the metro as of Tuesday, with 39 in the ICU and 19 on ventilators.
More than 90% of the hospitalized patients are unvaccinated, Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes told KXAN last week, mirroring trends around the country.
The Austin metro is now in stage three of APH's risk-based guidelines based on new hospital admissions. (Austin Public Health)
New reported cases are also trending upwards. More than 200 cases were reported Tuesday, bringing the seven-day moving average to 85, up from 33 a week ago, according to APH.
Walkes told Travis County commissioners on Tuesday that the likely culprit behind these trends is the more contagious and deadly Delta variant, which now accounts for about 58% of all COVID cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. In late May, Delta was estimated to account for approximately only 3% of new cases in the U.S.
Although Travis County is approaching the threshold for herd immunity—which experts have estimated is around 70%—it has not yet reached it, meaning that the disease is still circulating and evolving to become more contagious, pushing the threshold further up. There are also still subsets of the population that are not yet eligible for the vaccine, including young children.
More than 70% of Travis County residents 12 and older are partially vaccinated, and more than 61% are fully vaccinated, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Local health officials continue to implore residents to get vaccinated if they haven't already. "Existing vaccinations are still more than 90% effective in keeping individuals safe," Interim APH Director Adrienne Sturrup said in a July 2 press release. "It is more important than ever to have these discussions around vaccinations and why they are so important for families and our community in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19."
Information about where to find a free COVID vaccine can be found here.
This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. to include how many cases of the Delta variant have been confirmed in the metro.
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As summer temperatures continue to increase, so does Austin's "Party Island"—a hundreds-strong army of kayakers and paddle boarders who gather each weekend in the middle of Lady Bird Lake.
Born from the pandemic, the swarm of paddleboarding partiers has continued to grow each summer and can be seen from the nearby Lamar Boulevard Bridge. And while "Party Island" certainly lives up to one half of its name, it's not actually an island at all: instead, it's located at a shallow sandbar near Lou Neff Point.
With beers, burgers from portable grills and even DJ turntables in hand, more friends and strangers continue to beat the heat in new ways at the distinct Austin hangout.
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If you are a committed, grunge-wearing resident of the Pacific Northwest, it is easy–almost automatic–to look at Texas as an extraordinarily dry, hot and culturally oppressive place that is better to avoid, especially in the summer. Our two granddaughters live with their parents in Portland.
Recently we decided to take the older girl, who is 15, to Dallas. Setting aside the summer heat, a Portlander can adjust to the vibes of Austin without effort. So let’s take Texas with all of its excesses straight up. Dallas, here we come.
Our 15-year-old granddaughter and her sister, 12, have spent summer weeks with us, usually separately so that we could better get to know each individually. In visits focused on Austin and Port Aransas, the girls seemed to be developing an affection for Texas.
Houston and Dallas are two great American cities, the 4th and 9th largest, each loaded with cultural treasures, each standing in glittering and starchy contrast to Austin’s more louche, T-shirts and shorts ways.
Three hours up I-35, Dallas loomed before us as a set of gray skyscrapers in a filmy haze, accessed only through a concrete mixmaster of freeways, ramps and exits. I drove with false confidence. Be calm, I said to myself, it will all end in 10 minutes under the hotel entrance canopy. And it did.
The pool at the Crescent Court Hotel in Dallas. (Crescent Court Hotel)
We stayed three nights at the Crescent Court Hotel ($622 a night for two queens), a high-end hotel in Uptown, patronized by women in white blazers, business people in suits, and tall, lean professional athletes, their shiny Escalades and Corvettes darting in and out, and other celebrities like Bill Barr, the former attorney general who shoe-horned his ample self into a Toyota.
Each morning as I walked to Whole Foods for a cappuccino, a fellow identified by a bellman as Billy the Oilman arrived in his Rolls Royce Phantom. Where does he park? “Wherever he wants to. He likes the Starbucks here.”
We garaged our more modest set of wheels for the visit. We were chauffeured for tips by Matt Cooney and Alfonza “The Rev” Scott in the hotel’s black Audi sedan. They drove us to museums, restaurants and past the enclaves of the rich and famous. In Highland Park, The Rev pointed out the homes of the Dallas Cowboys' Jerry Jones and Troy Aikman along with the family compound of the Hunts, oil and gas tycoons.
The Dallas Museum of Art’s “Cartier and Islam” exhibit (until Sept. 18) attracted an older crowd; the nearby Perot Museum of Nature and Science was a powerful whirlpool of kids’ groups ricocheting from the Tyrannosaurus Rex to the oil fracking exhibit. Watch your shins.
A Geogia O'Keeffe oil painting called "Ranchos Church, New Mexico" at the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art. (Rich Oppel)
For us, the best museum was the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, a 50-minute, madcap drive away via a 75 mph toll lane along I-30. Don’t try it during rush hour. The Carter has an exquisite collection of Remington paintings and sculptures and an excellent array of 19th and 20th-century paintings as well. Pick one museum? The Amon Carter. Peaceful, beautiful, uncrowded, free admission and small enough to manage in two hours.
The Fort Worth Stockyards, a place of history (with a dab of schmaltz), fun and good shopping, filled one of our mornings. The 98 acres brand the city as Cowboy Town, with a rodeo and a twice-daily (11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.) cattle drive. We shopped for boots, drank coffee and watched the “herd” of 18 longhorns. So languid was their progress that if this were a real market drive the beef would have been very tough and leathery before it hit the steakhouse dinner plate.
The cattle drive at the Fort Worth Stockyards. (Rich Oppel)
But we could identify: the temperature was 97. “I saw a dog chasing a cat today,” said the emcee, deploying a very old joke. “It was so hot that both were walking.”
With limited time, we chose three very different restaurants:
- Nobu, in the Crescent Court Hotel; Jia, a modern Chinese restaurant in Highland Park; and Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth. Nobu’s exotic Japanese menu set us back $480, with tip, for four (we had a guest), but it was worth it.
- Jia was an ordinary suburban strip mall restaurant, but with good food and a reasonable tab of $110 for four.
- Joe T.’s is an 85-year-old Fort Worth institution (think Matt’s El Rancho but larger), a fine Mexican restaurant where a meal with two drinks was $115.
Sushi at high-end restaurant Nobu. (Crescent Hotel)
It was all a splurge for a grandchild’s visit. Now we will get back to our ordinary road trips of Hampton Inns, where a room rate is closer to the Crescent Court’s overnight parking rate of $52. And to corner cafes in small towns.
Did Dallas change our 15-year-old’s view of Texas? “Yes. I think it’s a lot cooler than I did. The fashion, the food.” So, not only Austin is cool. Take Texas as a whole. It’s a big, complex, diverse and wonderful state.