Hospitalizations declining, Mu variant, vaccine hesitancy: 5 things to know about COVID-19 in Austin
Waning off a summer surge, Austin is seeing declining hospital admissions in the wake of a high number of deaths and as the new Mu variant is in town.
Here's what you need to know to be caught up with the COVID-19 situation in Austin.
In the past several weeks, hospital admissions for COVID have been on a week-on-week decline for all age groups, Austin Health Authority Desmar Walkes said at a Tuesday special joint meeting between the Travis County Commissioners Court and Austin City Council.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the most hospitalized age group has been those in the 50-69 age group.
Pediatric cases continue to be a concern to health officials as there are 133 kids hospitalized with 15 admissions on just Monday. None of the hospitalized children were vaccinated, although only those 12 and older are eligible.
Deaths peaked this month with a record 23 COVID-related fatalities on Sept. 8. Since the start of the year until Sept. 10, there has been a total of 447 deaths.
The rise in deaths is being attributed to those unvaccinated and the Delta variant, according to Walkes; 7.3% of vaccinated people have died of COVID between Jan. 1 to Sept. 10.
Of the deaths, 50% have been Hispanic and 58% have been male.
Mu vs. Delta
The Delta variant continues to be the predominant variant in the community at 99% of cases.
The Mu variant, discovered in Colombia back in January, has spread across the U.S. Research suggests it is more transmissible and vaccine-resistant than the Delta variant. However, it currently makes up .1% of lab-confirmed cases in Travis County.
Austin health officials continue to encourage the community to get vaccinated to have protection against variants. Research shared by Austin Public Health shows those vaccinated were 5 times less to contract the Delta variant, 10 times less likely to be hospitalized and more than 10 times less likely to die from it.
Of the 750,000-plus that are fully-vaccinated in the county, 5,964 have had breakthrough cases. APH's disease surveillance team interviewed 1,378 of those with breakthrough cases and found only 59 were hospitalized, or 1%. Thirty two of those cases resulted in death from ages 17-98.Those hospitiziiled as a breakthrough cases ranged from ages 19-96. Here's the breakdown of what vaccine they had:
- 13 Johnson & Johnson
- 18 Moderna
- 28 Pfizer
Why some are vaccine hesitant
APH conducted a survey in Austin-Travis County among those unvaccinated and found that 68% of survey respondents were vaccine-hesitant.
Of that number, the top reason for hesitancy was not sure if safe (55%), followed by not sure if effective (49%).
APH is continuing with outreach efforts to reach the herd immunity threshold.
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If the idea of the metaverse makes you feel more scared than excited, you’re not alone.
In a recent poll on the metaverse, a third of respondents leaned toward feeling more scared about it. It’s a response fitting for a tool that’s in its infancy stages, where it’s not uncommon for some to find it elusive or irrelevant, or require a virtual reality headset.
Amber Allen, founder of metaverse company Double A, has noticed these concerns. Now with the Austin-based company, she’s working on advancements in the metaverse, which may see progress in business use before it becomes mainstream in the general public. But getting to that point involves demystifying misconceptions over it, like that we’ll all put a headset on and avoid real life.
“A lot of people are talking about the metaverse and like what it could be in 10 or 30 years. And they're not talking a lot about what it is right now. And I think that's what scares people and confuses them,” Allen told Austonia. “I'm just very passionate about what is the metaverse now. It's the next wave of the internet. No, you don't need to wear a VR headset.”
She broke this down last week in Forbes, writing about what is hype versus what’s actually happening with this phase of the internet.
Allen sees how eventually, the metaverse could become a part of how we play and interact. But before the Metaverse extends to the average consumer, many predict that it will be popular in business first.
It’s why some think Microsoft may have an edge over Facebook turned Meta in the industry. And why Allen has designed for work that’s 3D, interactive and business to business, garnering interest from companies like General Mills, Dell and Chanel.
She points to how many workers now prefer a hybrid work environment, but says the business tools are not there right now. It’s not just within the workplace, however. Double A also offers tools for boosting sales and generating brand engagement through activities like watch parties and meet and greets.
With companies like Allen’s, corporate metaverse use could see wider adoption. Double A has hired 13 people this year, adding to the ranks of nearly 30 employees plus dozens of contractors. Some are remote workers outside of Texas while others use the office in East Austin with graffiti art that includes popular gaming figures like Zelda and the Mario Brothers.
Allen takes great pride in working in her home state, saying that she’d like to be a great ambassador for Austin. She said she wants people new to the city to feel welcome. She has meet ups from time to time so that new people who have moved in can get face time with others who have been in Austin for a while.
Still, her work is bound to extend outside of Austin as she aims to create products that will have global reach.
“I want to change the world,” Allen said. “You got to think localized. If I'm creating something, how does this work for Europe? How would this work for Asia? How can they build on things?”
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The record-breaking heat seen last week is officially coming to a halt as some much-needed rain is expected in Austin from Monday through Wednesday.
The National Weather Service has issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook for Central Texas as thunderstorms headed this way could be strong to severe.
Thunderstorms are forecast to begin in the west around 6 p.m. Monday, bringing about a half-inch of rain through the night. Then Tuesday, thunderstorms will likely begin after 1 p.m. lasting through the night. Temperatures on Monday and Tuesday will be in the mid-80s before dropping to the mid-70s on Wednesday. Wednesday will also bring rain and thunderstorms in the morning before clearing out.
Rainfall chances will increase today beginning in the west before spreading east. Rain chances remain elevated through tonight and then again tomorrow and tomorrow night. Strong to severe storms and locally heavy rain will be possible from the stronger activity. pic.twitter.com/f8OpN50dkX
— NWS Austin/San Antonio (@NWSSanAntonio) May 23, 2022
The rain comes after a dry spring that has pushed drought conditions from moderate to severe, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Lake Travis has dropped to its lowest level in almost 4 years as a result.