Austin officials ask people to cancel New Year’s Eve plans as COVID positivity rate reaches shutdown levels
City of Austin officials are asking residents to cancel their New Year's Eve plans and stay inside unless absolutely necessary under the threat of hospitals reaching maximum capacity.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott announced that Austin's positivity rate jumped up more than two points to 12.7% and the ICU is dangerously close, a little over halfway, to hitting capacity.
Once hospital ICU utilization hits capacity, it impacts the ability to take in patients that need emergency care for other reasons, like heart attacks or car wrecks, Escott said.
"Certainly the lesson learned from El Paso and Lubbock and Abilene and the other places that have faced a significant surge already, is that once you run out of ICU beds, you run out of ICU beds for everybody," Escott said. "That means that all these other people who need critical care will not have it because the hospitals are overwhelmed."
Simultaneously, Texas hospitals are seeing record hospitalization numbers. The state hit a high of 11,351 COVID-19-related hospitalizations on Monday, breaking the previous record of 10,893 in July.
With other major counties in Texas seeing similar surges, outside help might not be an option if the time comes. Escott said he expects ICUs to exceed capacity during the first week of January and the positivity rate to jump higher as cases resulting from holiday and new year celebrations.
"As the disease transmission increases in the community, it increases the likelihood that transmission will happen," Escott said. "Defenses become a lot more difficult when more people are capable of transmitting this disease so we need to limit that risk as much as possible."
Although a curfew has not yet been confirmed, Austin Public Health officials have already asked restaurants to abide by a 10:30 p.m. curfew and discussed implementing one for individuals, possibly by the end of this week.
"If we take individuals who are exposed during Christmas gatherings, and put them in boxes on New Year's Eve, and pack them together for hours, the projection is going to be overwhelming," Escott said. "It's gonna happen very, very quickly. I do not think we could afford to take that risk."
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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."