Yesterday UT models projected an early November surge in Austin. Today they dramatically say otherwise.
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin estimate there is a 38% chance the COVID-19 pandemic is growing locally, down from an estimated 100% chance yesterday.
What accounts for this 62% overnight drop?
Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said it reflects the relatively low number of COVID-related hospital admissions reported over the last couple of days.
On Monday, 11 people were admitted to hospitals in the Austin metro, far below the seven-day moving average of 26 at the time. Yesterday, 13 people were, and the moving average had fallen to 19.
The seven-day moving average number of daily hospital admissions has declined over the last two days, from 22.3 to 19.1.(Austin Public Health)
Escott attributed the drop in admissions to increased vigilance among Austinites after he and other local health officials sounded the alarm last week.
"As people respond, as people take more protective actions … we see an impact on transmission," he said on Wednesday. "We see an impact on cases. We see an impact on hospitalizations. That's exactly what we want to happen."
While updating council members and county commissioners on the local COVID situation yesterday, Escott cited the latest projections from the COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, which estimated there was a 100% chance the pandemic was growing locally.
But researchers hadn't yet included the latest hospital admissions data in their model, Escott explained. Once they did, it estimated there is a 38% chance the pandemic is growing locally.
This is "fantastic news," Escott said Wednesday. He also added that the projections are subject to change as people recommit to protective behaviors, such as masking and social distancing, or abandoning them.
For example, researchers at the consortium projected last month that Austin could reach a Stage 2 level of risk by October. "Unfortunately that was too optimistic, and we missed that mark," Escott said.
(COVID-19 Modeling Consortium at the University of Texas at Austin)
Although the projections now suggest around 250 hospital beds will be needed for COVID patients in the metro by Thanksgiving, down from 700 yesterday, Austin isn't out of the woods yet.
The consortium currently estimates there is a 79% chance the pandemic is growing in the Dallas area and an 88% chance it is in the El Paso area, where hospitals are already at capacity and a countywide curfew is in effect.
"This is certainly something we have to pay attention to because, as we saw this summer, surges in other jurisdictions across the state often predated surges of our own," Escott told commissioners Tuesday.
Another concern is a significant increase in the number of new COVID cases reported at long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.
In the last two weeks, Austin-Travis County facilities reported 40 new cases—or four times the number reported in the previous two-week period.
Metro hospitals are preparing for a possible surge, and the field hospital at the Austin Convention Center "stands ready to take on additional patients," Escott said Wednesday.
In the meantime, local health officials stressed the importance of increased vigilance—despite pandemic fatigue—as the holiday season gets underway.
"We can't all surge at the same time," Escott said.
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Samsung might soon be making more moves in the Austin metro.
The tech giant, which made waves as it announced plans to build a $17 billion chip plant in Taylor in late 2021, might be looking to expand in the Northeast Austin area, according to an Austin Business Journal report.
ABJ said the South Korean company is seeking more tax breaks from nearby Taylor and Manor school districts. The company filed documents requesting Chapter 313 incentives related to the breaks Saturday, and ABJ said each district will review the requests separately on Tuesday.
"While we do not have specific plans to build at this time, the Chapter 313 application process is part of our long-term planning to evaluate the viability of potentially building additional fabrication plants in the U.S.," Samsung Austin Semiconductor LLC.'s director of communications, Michele Glaze, told the ABJ.
But Samsung has made headlines for more than just the $17 billion plant: In early 2022, the company caught heat for two separate spills of millions of gallons of wastewater into tributaries near its semiconductor plant.
While no expansion is promised, ABJ speculates that expansions could occur at the 1,200 acre planned Taylor factory or near the chipmaking factory on Austin's East Parmer Lane. Both expansions could bring even more revenue and job opportunities to Samsung's Texas home.
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A first minute error gave Austin FC an early setback, but with the help of two red cards and two second-half goals, the Verde and Black still forced a last-minute tie in a messy home battle against Orlando City SC Sunday night.
With the 2-2 draw, Austin dropped from No. 1 in the MLS West conference but still earned a point in the standings thanks to a penalty kick goal from Sebastian Driussi and a breakthrough shot from striker Moussa Djitte, who scored his first goal with the club in the final minute of play.
Here are the top three takeaways from the match:
A fateful mistake
Just days after his highlight reel-worthy LAFC performance, Austin keeper Brad Stuver scratched heads as he gave away a goal seconds into the game. Stuver's fateful pass went straight to Orlando's Junior Urco, who was already in the box and tapped a quick pass to Ercan Kara to score the first goal of the match.
The mistake forced Austin to chase a tie for the rest of the match, especially as center back Ruben Gabrielsen benched himself in the 20th minute. The team later said Gabrielsen has come down with something similar to a stomach bug.
Orlando would score two minutes later, and Austin FC left the first half looking like the opposite of its "Best in the MLS" self from just days prior.
The two red cards
By the 60th minute of the match, however, the tides had turned. Orlando's Rodrigo Schlegel, who had already racked up a yellow card on a handball, was ousted from the game two minutes later for yet another handball, this time in the penalty box.
Austin's main man Sebastian Driussi took the kick and sent it in for his eighth goal of the season to make it 2-1.
And just over five minutes later, Orlando's Cesar Araujo was the second man in purple kicked out of the match after he kicked Alex Ring on a slide tackle near the box. Austin was left with just over 20 minutes, and just nine opponents left, to try and tie it up.
The 'Mouss' is loose!
As the whistle blew and regulation time ran out, Orlando seemed to have won the match. The team had withstood many, many close calls—including two shots off the post from Austin FC's Diego Fagundez and Maxi Urruti—as Austin FC flooded the box with 22 cracks at a goal.
But thanks to the chaotic nature of the game, Austin FC was given nine extra minutes to tie it up. Moussa Djitte was the one who finally broke through five minutes into stoppage time, earning his first goal in Verde to put a 2-2 cap on the wild home match.
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