After a steep incline of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the Austin metro for over a month, the curve could finally begin to flatten.
At a special joint session between the Austin City Council and the Travis County Commissioners, local health officials gave an update on the COVID situation in the area; here are five takeaways.
It's back-to-school season. How will that affect COVID in the area?
The Austin area is seeing early signs of the curve flattening that Austin's Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes is attributing to a change in COVID precautions taken. Since hitting Stage 5 last month, health authorities have emphasized the need to mask to stop the spread of the Delta variant and have ramped up vaccination efforts.
With Austin ISD and other area school districts employing that students and staff wear a mask, despite ongoing court battles in other Texas cities, Walkes said she hopes to see the curve continue to flatten.
"To curb the spread, we must encourage the kids and staff at our schools to wear a mask."
How many ICU beds are available?
Across the state, ICU beds have been extremely limited. "There's not a lot of transfer that's occurring between major metropolitan areas at this point," Walkes said.
The number of ICU beds in the 11-county Austin metro has fluctuated in the single digits for over a week now; on Sunday, only one ICU bed was available. As of Monday, there are 665 currently hospitalized and only nine ICU beds available.
The age group seeing the most hospitalizations is 50-69 year-olds.
A majority of ICU patients have been unvaccinated, according to Walkes.
Will an alternate care site open?
An alternate care site, like the one that opened at the Austin Convention Center in December, could open sometime soon to support the need of the community, according to Walkes. "We have plans ready to go for that," Walkes said.
The need comes as ICU capacity is projected to be limited across the state. More details, such as location and when it could be set up, were not revealed.
What's else is new?
A new regional infusion center for monoclonal antibody therapy opened on Monday. This facility will treat those at risk for severe illness, hospitalizations and death. The treatment is also used for post-exposure prophylaxis, when an immunocompromised person is been exposed to COVID.
To get this treatment, a local provider will need to refer patients. It is meant to keep these patients out of hospitals by treating them ahead of severe symptoms.
Who is eligible for a booster shot?
As of Monday, the CDC and FDA began recommending immunocompromised people get a third shot of the Pfizer or Moderna, known as a booster shot. Austin Public Health is following the guidance and recommending immunocompromised Austinites seek out a booster shot. Booster shots were approved by the FDA for Pfizer and Moderna only.
Boosters are recommended for those:
- Receiving treatment for solid tumors or blood cancers
- Taking immunosuppression medications after a solid organ transplant
- Within two year of receiving CAR-T therapy or stem cell therapy
- Who have primary immunodeficiencies
- With advanced or untreated HIV
- Taking high-dose corticosteroids, alkylating agents, antimetabolites, chemotherapy, TNF blockers
- With certain chronic medical conditions
- Receiving dialysis
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A Union Pacific cargo train hit a man in his 40s, killing him Thursday morning, Austin police said.
The train's driver called the police after the train hit the man at around 12:45 a.m. in the 300 block of Orchard Street, nearby Fifth Street and Lamar Boulevard.
Police have not released the identity of the man.
Over a year after they took the stage for the first time in Los Angeles, Austin FC returned to Banc of America Stadium to snatch the No. 1 spot from LAFC in a 2-1 statement win late Wednesday night.
Austin FC, which has flirted with the top spot in the MLS West this season, has now solidly reached the summit just a year after its second-to-last first season finish. The new top dogs are now 7-2-3 overall.
Here's a look at three highlights from the match:
Flashback in LA
For many Austin FC fans and naysayers alike, the match was more than a fight for the MLS West throne: it also served as a symbol of how far the team has come.
The two clubs first met on the Banc of America pitch as Austin FC saw its first game and first loss all at once in a 2-0 battle last April. It was an exciting but shaky start to the club's first season, and the loss seemed to set the tone for the rest of its inaugural year as the club dipped to second to last in the conference.
If Austin's first season was hallmarked by its first match, then its second-year success was foretold by its back-to-back five-goal victories to kick off the season.
Since then, the club has battled its own first-year shadow, claims of "bonus games" and a few unexpected obstacles—both on and off the pitch—but it has almost always come out on top.
That fight to the top was fully realized Wednesday, even as the club played its toughest opponent yet. Even with a man down in the middle due to Daniel Pereira's red card last game, the club kept its cool through even the trickiest moments of the match. Jhojan Valencia, who patched the Pereira hole in midfield, got his first MLS start and first MLS assist as Ruben Gabrielsen scored the first goal of the game.
Gabrielsen came to Austin FC as a potential hero for the team's center back position, but the club's resident Viking has already nabbed two goals in his first season with the team.
"That's center forward material," Austin FC announcer Adrian Healey said as Gabrielsen took control of Valencia's pass, paused to fake out the defense, and calmly tucked the ball into the left corner to complete the first goal of the match.
Even as LAFC dominated possession for much of the match, Austin FC saw another wide-open goal opportunity crumble as midfielder Diego Fagundez's shot hit the corner goalpost in the 23rd minute.
But Fagundez wasn't finished. The midfielder was short on his Verde hair dye but full of surprises as he nimbly sunk a shot over LAFC defense to make it 2-0 with 10 minutes to go.
Fagundez, who has spent more time setting up goals for his teammates (becoming the No. 1 assister in the MLS in the process), finally took the center stage with his second goal this season.
Owen Wolff, head coach Josh Wolff's own son, had a scoring opportunity of his own foiled by the goalpost as he started his first MLS match as one of the youngest starters in the league this season.
But Austin FC wouldn't score again; instead, LAFC powerhouse Carlos Vela made the win a bit trickier in the 86th minute as he got past Austin keeper Brad Stuver to cut the lead in half. The other Wolff quickly subbed in a five-prong defense as the club kept steady for the final 10 painstaking minutes to win the match.
BONUS: Stuver's career-making match
Six saves on the night in LA for Brad Stuver! 🚫 pic.twitter.com/02V6hcUd3Y— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 19, 2022
After two weeks on the bench due to a knee gash, Austin's star keeper Brad Stuver had the Stuver-iest match of all time (yes, we're making it a word) as he pulled off six saves to help his team to No. 1.
Stuver looked like a pinball machine as he pulled off save after save with his feet, hands and body to keep it nearly 100% clean on the back end.
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