Escott warns if COVID-19 caseload doesn’t improve, a curfew could follow as soon as by the end of the week
As the holiday season comes to a close, Austin Public Health is asking people to stay home for New Year's Eve in a last-ditch effort to flatten the curve and keep people out of hospitals. Otherwise, he warns, Austin may find itself facing an unprecedented surge and a curfew to boot.
Since Austin officially entered Stage 5 guidelines on Wednesday, APH officials have urged people to cut out all nonessential travel and avoid contact with others as much as possible. With hospital admissions up 106% and a 62% ICU increase from the beginning of the month, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott painted a bleak picture of what the new year will look like.
"Our projections forward into the new year continue to look worse and worse day after day," Escott said. "I think right now it appears that we're going to enter 2021 in a state of emergency. I can't stress enough the importance of us taking note today, us changing our behavior today."
In the throes of the holiday season, several holidays back-to-back, a lax attitude toward safety guidelines and parties on New Years Eve could lead to a huge spike, similar to what was seen after Thanksgiving gatherings.
Escott said he is disappointed that bars are still allowed to be open. He said the city's number one concern heading into the new year should be people crowding in bars and clubs on New Year's Eve.
"(Bars) have been packed, people are not masked," Escott said. "We need them to close."
If the upward trend in cases and hospitalization continues, Escott said a curfew could go into effect at the end of this week.
"We can't enforce our way out of a surge. It requires each of us as individuals as businesses to understand that the threat is real, and that it means hospitalizations, and it means to potential loss of life," Escott said. "We don't have much capacity left in our hospitals and our ICUs to take a lot of chances this weekend."
According to Escott, hospitals are nearing dire straits and ICUs could run out of beds as early as next week, which would mean calling in trailers to store the extra patients and a worsening low-staff situation.
In the meantime, vaccines are still being distributed in Phase 1A and Austin residents are urged to wear a mask, wash their hands, continue social distancing and avoid touching their faces.
Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden said she hopes people make the decision to stay home for their community.
"What is going to be very important is that you can think about doing something today by staying home over the next couple of weeks, and not going out to bars to celebrate whether it's New Year's Eve or New Year's weekend," Hayden said. "Our hope is that you will make a better choice and not go out to be in that type of environment."
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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.
Salute the support. 👏
It's only the beginning for @AustinFC. pic.twitter.com/TduorqYr2y
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 18, 2021
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.
In the signature style of Head Coach Josh Wolff, the team played with quickness and intensity, nearly connecting on several fast breaks. It was harder for them to stay in front, however, something that Wolff credits with quick decision making and a tough LAFC defense.
"We have a quick attacking team, but I think when you make quick attacks and it fizzles it's just about some decision making," Wolff said. "Are we in position to finish attacks? If not, can we reestablish our attack and get stuff better?"
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. He didn't have much time to prepare, either: in the first 30 seconds of play, Stuver had already made a save to keep the match 0-0.
LAFC finally connected in the 61st minute of play as Corey Baird shot one into 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.
While the scoreboard tells one story, Wolff said that the team did well considering the skill of LAFC and the pressure of their club debut.
"We've got to be realistic," Wolff said. "This is the first time this organization has been in front of TV with an opportunity to show itself and I think there were some promising moments. And we're going to maximize those and continue to try to develop those, but there's lots to build on."
The team may have lost, but it still won the support of thousands of Verde fans, dozens of which made it to watch their team's first match. When Stuver and the team made it to bthe stadium, Los Verdes fans were already there to show support, and Stuver said his wife saw the same back in Austin.
"The moment that we pulled into the stadium, we saw Black and Verde fans cheering us on as we got to the stadium," Stuver said. "During warm up, you can just look around and see different groups sitting in different sections of the stadium and it's just truly amazing to see the support in our first game. We know that we want to give the fans everything, because this we play for the city and we play for them."