With new COVID cases rising across Texas and the U.S., local health officials advised Austinites to take more precautions—and advocated for a possible rollback of restaurant capacity limits—to avoid another surge.
"We're not at the stage of recommending a lockdown, but certainly we need people to take less risk in the coming weeks," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said on Monday.
Travis County is now reporting a moving average of 135 new COVID cases each day, around a 40% increase since Nov. 1.
The Austin metro is also seeing an increase in COVID-related hospitalizations. The moving average is 25, as of Sunday evening, compared to 17.4 on Nov. 1.
Escott compared the current situation to that of the region on June 17, two weeks ahead of its peak.
"We are in a precarious spot right now," he said.
Despite expressing hope last month that bars could reopen in the near future, Escott revised his recommendation to include not only keeping bars closed but also rolling back capacity limits for other businesses.
"The discussion we should be anticipating in the coming weeks is, 'Do we need to scale back on risk? Do we need to ask restaurants to move back 50% to 75%?'" he said, adding that the logical next step may be to ask the governor to do so.
Although local trend lines are concerning, Travis County is faring better than other metropolitan areas across Texas—with fewer active cases per capita than Harris, El Paso, Dallas, Tarrant or Bexar counties, according to the Department of State Health Services—and the country as a whole.
In the last two weeks, the U.S. has reported more than 111,000 new COVID cases a day—a nearly 60% increase compared to two weeks ago—and Texas has reported more new cases in the last week than any other state other than Illinois, according to the New York Times.
Local hospitals have already accepted "a handful" of COVID patients from other jurisdictions that have exceeded their capacity, such as El Paso, which occurred during the previous surge and stresses the state's response plan.
If cases in Austin continue to rise, the area will not be able to offer aid to other parts of the state, either in the form of hospital beds or medical professionals, Escott explained.
Additionally, the upcoming holiday season is a concern.
Austin Public Health Chief Epidemiologist Janet Pichette said case investigations have traced some recent cases to Halloween festivities.
"I would anticipate that Thanksgiving would have a similar impact, which is why we're trying to stress these prevention measures," she said.
The COVID-19 Modeling Consortium at the University of Texas at Austin now estimates there is an 88% chance that the pandemic is growing in Austin and projects daily hospital admissions will begin to increase more steeply in late November, based on the current rate of transmission.
(COVID-19 Modeling Consortium at the University of Texas at Austin)
Along with potential policy changes, local health officials emphasized that Austinites could help flatten this curve by redoubling their adherence to protective measures, limiting their interactions to members of their own households and avoiding unnecessary trips.
"We don't have to have a second surge," Escott said.
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Despite a 2-0 deficit, there was a pot of gold for Austin FC after all as it celebrated its annual Pride Night with rainbows and a 2-2 comeback draw to FC Dallas Saturday night.
After three FC Dallas losses last season, the Dallas derby draw marks the first time Austin FC has tied against its Copa Texas rival. Austin continues to edge over FC Dallas as it sits at 3rd in the MLS West.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the match:
A somber start
Decked out in colorful hues for LBGTQ+ Pride, Verde fans started the match on a somber note as they held up banners to take a stand against gun violence before the match.
As the national anthem began, fans held up banners with the names of each child that was killed in the Uvalde school shooting and a plea to "end gun violence."
The supporters' section was also dotted with Pride flags and a "Bans off Our Bodies" banner in protest of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
FC Dallas earns a 2-0 lead
That sober tone continued onto the pitch. With midfielder Daniel Pereira's absence due to a red card, the Verde and Black lost two goals to FC Dallas by the 70th minute of play.
FC Dallas played it sneaky for the first half of the match, giving Austin FC plenty of room to hold possession as it waited to strike on a Verde error. That mentality proved dangerous for Austin as Dallas' Paul Arriola took advantage of Brad Stuver's deflection to score the first goal of the night in the 57th minute of play.
Dallas struck once more as Brandon Servant pushed past the Verde line to score the second goal of the match.
Austin FC strikes back
But energy quickly returned to Austin's favor thanks to Designated Player Sebastian Driussi, who scooted past several FC Dallas defenders alongside Moussa Djitte to snag an unlikely first goal for Austin.
A full Verde comeback
Austin's subs proved deadly as momentum returned to the home team toward the end of the match. A well-placed cross from Nick Lima—and a diving header from a fresh-legged Danny Hoesen—helped the team secure the draw with a second Verde goal in the 84th minute of play.
Hoesen, who was Austin's first starting striker last season, has now scored two goals with the team after a yearlong injury stuck him on the bench.
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Hours following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that guaranteed a constitutional right to an abortion, on Friday, about 1,000 people gathered in Republic Square with signs calling for change.
The rally, organized by the group Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights Texas, started at the federal courthouse on Republic Square on Friday at 5 p.m. before the crowd marched to the Texas Capitol. More protests are expected to ensue over the weekend.
People showed up with all types of signs like Mindy Moffa holding up, "Keep your filthy laws off my silky drawers."
Austin joined cities across the country that saw protests for a women's right to an abortion after the ruling.
According to a recent UT poll, 78% of Texas voters support abortion access in most cases.
Sabrina Talghade and Sofia Pellegrini held up signs directed at Texas laws. A Texas trigger law will ban all abortions from the moment of fertilization, starting 30 days after the ruling. When state legislators passed the trigger law last summer, it also passed laws for more protection of firearms, including the right to open carry without a permit.
Lili Enthal of Austin yells as around 1,000 Texans marched to the Texas Capitol.
From the Texas Capitol, Zoe Webb lets her voice be heard against the Supreme Court ruling.
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