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COVID death toll is higher now in Austin than it was this time last year

Austin's weekly death toll is now higher than it was this time last year, according to data from the City of Austin.(Shutterstock)

As local ICUs exceed capacity in a third surge, Austin COVID deaths have surged past numbers from this time last year.

At 19 deaths for the past week, this is the first time this summer that deaths were higher than last summer, according to the latest data from the City of Austin.

There were three weekly COVID deaths in Austin for all but two weeks starting in mid-June, with four deaths in the week ending July 16 and six the week ending July 30. By Aug. 13, the number had tripled to nine deaths, followed by 12 deaths in the week of Aug. 20 before hitting 19 this past week.

Last summer's surge swelled to 38 deaths in the week of July 23, but by the week ending Aug. 26 had fallen below this year's weekly toll with nine deaths this time last year.

The weekly death toll is also the highest it's been since the winter surge, when deaths peaked at 59 for the week ending Jan. 30. By March 6, the number had fallen to 12 deaths.

The numbers released by the City of Austin come as hospitalizations due to COVID surpassed the rate from the first summer surge in Texas. Available ICU beds reached a pandemic low in the state on Friday afternoon with just 303 available beds, with just seven available in the 11-county Central Texas region that includes Austin.

Austin Public Health said on Friday that ICU resources are being "stretched to the max," with 239 patients in the ICU for the 200-bed capacity.

A number of factors have contributed to the surge affecting hospitals. The more contagious Delta variant has led to more spread of the virus in the community, especially affecting the unvaccinated population. ICU patients with COVID complications have mostly been unvaccinated people, according to APH. Additionally, a nurses staffing shortage has kept the city and hospitals from offering more beds for ICU patients.

Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Department of State Health Services announced the deployment of additional medical personnel and equipment to assist hospitals Thursday, while APH once again urged Austinites to get vaccinated to help prevent hospitalization and alleviate the strain on the city's health resources.


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