Austin residents, worried about contracting COVID-19 themselves, are avoiding local emergency rooms.
St. David's HealthCare, which operates six ERs in Austin, has seen a nearly 50% decrease in ER visits this month compared to April 2019. Cardiac-related visits are down 55%, and stroke visits 44% for the same period.
Baylor Scott & White Health locations are seeing a similar trend, ranging from a 30% to 50% decrease in ER admissions, Round Rock Emergency Department Director Dr. Ross Tobleman said.
This drop may be partly attributable to a decrease in minor injuries, such as those caused by car accidents and falls, as people stay home, Dr. Tobleman said. But both hospital systems said the main reason is patients are afraid of being exposed to COVID-19.
While ER admissions are down, those patients who do seek emergency treatment are exhibiting more severe symptoms.
"Patients are waiting until conditions are too much to bear, and then coming into the emergency department at a much later stage, and so [are] suffering more and are more likely or more susceptible to actually succumbing to the disease," said Dr. DeVry Anderson, chief medical officer at St. David's South Austin Medical Center.
This is particularly concerning for patients with symptoms consistent with heart attacks or strokes, for whom waiting to seek treatment may lead to long-term damage—or even death. "We have great interventions that can reverse those disease processes that are very time-sensitive," Dr. Tobleman said.
In addition to concerns about exposure to COVID-19, patients may also be avoiding ERs because they are intimidated by safety procedures—such as universal masking and visitor restrictions—or concerned about heeding local stay-at-home orders.
"I think people are not wanting to be a burden," Dr. Tobleman said, adding that BSW emergency departments have plenty of capacity to treat patients. "People are saying, 'There are sicker people out there than me.'"
Area urgent cares are also seeing a drop in admissions.
FastMed, which has nine urgent care locations in and around Austin, has seen "a significant downturn" in patients, Area Medical Manager Megan Fox said. She attributed the change to patient fears about contracting COVID-19 and an increased willingness to seek out telemedicine.
Fox said that FastMed has implemented new policies, such as online check-in and having patients wait in their cars to limit the number of people inside the clinic. "I really think that patients can have peace of mind visiting one of our clinics when they need to," she said.
This trend is hardly specific to Austin. More than four in five Americans said they considered visits to medical facilities risky because of potential exposure to COVID-19, according to a Gallup poll conducted between March 28 and April 2.
And a forthcoming article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that, at nine hospitals with high-volume cardiac catheterization laboratories, there has been a 38% reduction in patients being treated for a very serious type of heart attack, known as a STEMI, in which one of the heart's major arteries is blocked.
In New York City, deaths are six times higher than normal—which is likely due to an undercount of COVID-19 cases as well as to other indirect effects of the pandemic, such as an increase of at-home deaths as people avoid hospitals.
"We don't want that here at St. David's South Austin Medical Center," Dr. Anderson said. "We are encouraging patients to choose care over fear."
St. David's has implemented visitor restrictions, screening measures such as temperature checks and universal testing of all surgery patients, and increased cleaning protocols; patients with COVID-19 symptoms are separated out to reduce spread. BSW has implemented similar changes.
Both doctors urged patients to seek out care—and to feel safe doing so.
"Aside from remaining in your own home, the hospital is the safest place you can be because of the incredible protocols we've put in place to protect our patients and to protect our staff," Dr. Anderson said.
- A dentist closing clinics waits for money from the feds as private ... ›
- City will require wearing 'fabric face coverings' in public under ... ›
- Austin's new contact tracing tech aims to curb the pandemic - austonia ›
- Baylor Scott & White Health announces 1,200 layoffs - austonia ›
- Baylor Scott & White Health announces 1,200 layoffs - austonia ›
- Telemedicine serves Austin patients amid pandemic - austonia ›
- Doctors worry the coronavirus is keeping patients away from US ... ›
- Americans Think Doctor Visits Substantial Raise COVID-19 Risk ... ›
- Doctors and Patients Turn to Telemedicine in the Coronavirus ... ›
- During Coronavirus Outbreak, Virtual Doctor Visits Are Encouraged ... ›
- What to Do About Routine Doctor Visits During Coronavirus | U.S. ... ›
It may not come as a surprise that dating app use surged during the pandemic when many had to swap the benefits of in-person dating for on-screen connections. Bumble revenue swelled to $337.2 million in 2020 compared to $275.5 million, Hinge revenue tripled in the same period and Tinder users broke two records from January to March of 2021.
What may be more intriguing, however, is that many apps anticipate more growth into 2022. Hinge expects to double its revenue by the end of 2021, while Tinder has announced several new features to meet new demands in time for what some are calling a "third surge" of COVID-19.
Vaccinated Austinites who had been eager for "Shot Girl Summer"—a season of in-person dating, going out and making up for time lost—may have to get back on the apps, at least partially, as cases rise higher than they've been since February and mask recommendations reenter the picture.
Austin-area resident Chloe Mohr, a 22-year-old recent college graduate, had sometimes used Tinder before the pandemic. While the app wasn't a supplemental replacement for deeper connections during stay-at-home orders, it did help her stay in the dating game and continue meeting new people.
"Using dating apps during the pandemic was easy when wanting something casual or entertaining," Mohr, who now works in marketing, said.
Chloe Mohr turned to Tinder more during the pandemic to stay connected to people. (Chloe Mohr)
Sixty percent of members came to Tinder because they felt lonely and wanted to connect with people, a Tinder study revealed, and chats were 32% longer during the pandemic.
But dating during a pandemic is no walk in the park when there's fear about contracting COVID, Mohr said. She had fears at the beginning
Tinder, Bumble, Hinge and OkCupid have responded to the new dating criteria, adding vaccination badges to profiles in partnership with U.S. and British governments.
In order to meet the demand for a stricter screening process and the superficial nature of swiping, Tinder has also introduced new features that allow users to add videos to their profiles and chat with others before they've even matched.
The new add-ons could be beneficial for the app as interest continues to swell—Google searches for "dating" have hit a five-year high, according to NPR.
But the future of dating could be vastly different—and stay different—even well into the next decade.
According to a Ypulse study, 43% of dating app users said the apps made them feel less lonely in the pandemic. Even post-pandemic, 40% of Tinder users say they plan on video-chatting with their matches before they meet, and being honest, authentic and respecting boundaries have become big talk on the app in the past year.
While it's unclear how the pandemic will shape dating for good, signs show that Austin residents and those nationwide may lean on dating apps once again if social distancing returns to the norm.
- New nonstop flights for Shot Girl Summer: Take our news quiz ... ›
- Rejoining the dating world: Making out with high school ex in Austin ... ›
- Austin's four richest self-made women in America, Forbes - austonia ›
- Bumble: 2 out of 3 people say you can fall in love before meeting ... ›
- Rejoining the dating world: Making out with high school ex in Austin ... ›
- Austinites are getting back into in-person dating in 2021 - austonia ›
- Why Bumble's IPO means Austin will get a billion dollars richer ... ›
- Pandemic dating is no walk in the park, Austin residents say - austonia ›
- How dating app The Round launched during the pandemic - Austin ... ›
- Austin Is Nation's Best City For Dating Amid Pandemic: Report ... ›
- PANDEMIC DATING: Outbreak has dating app makers like Austin's ... ›
- The Austinites Guide to Better Dating | by Kristina Modares | Austin ... ›
- Is Austin really the worst city when it comes to ghosting? | KXAN Austin ›
- A frank view of Austin dating in HBO documentary 'Swiped' - News ... ›
With more research done on the COVID-19 Delta variant, Austin Public Health is upping its goal of 70% vaccinated to at least 80% due to the extreme virality of the strain.
As more Delta cases are identified—up to 29 cases are confirmed in Travis County—health officials are urging the unvaccinated to get their shots to contain the spread and relieve hospitals from reaching full capacity.
Austin-Travis County surpassed the Stage 5 threshold on Friday and has reached a seven-day average of 61 hospital admissions. However, Austin health leaders have yet to make an official shift as the Delta variant calls for new guidance, APH Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said at a joint Travis County Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday morning.
The new guidance has yet to be released, but Walkes said it will take into account the viral load of Delta on both unvaccinated and vaccinated people.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed the Delta variant was as contagious as chickenpox, which has a herd immunity threshold of at least 90% vaccinated.
Although 63.42% of those eligible in Travis County are fully vaccinated, breakthrough cases—where vaccinated people are contracting COVID-19—are being identified. APH has identified 1,496 breakthrough cases of the roughly 800,000 vaccinated. Most breakthrough cases are showing less severe symptoms or are asymptomatic, according to APH.
Health officials are still asking residents to wear masks, although the city cannot mandate any masking orders due to an executive order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
"Our challenge is going to be whether we're going to stand as a community and everyone who can get vaccinated, get vaccinated, and everyone wear a mask—that's what it's going to take," Walkes said.
- Most patients hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated - austonia ›
- Unvaccinated Austinites at risk of Delta variant with hospitals seeing ... ›
- UT warn of full-capacity ICUs, up to 11,000 more hospitalizations ... ›
- COVID hospitalizations reach Stage 4 threshold - austonia ›
- Delta variant, unvaccinated fuel rise of Austin COVID cases - austonia ›
Save Austin Now police petition will reach November ballot after county clerk certifies 25,000 signatures
Save Austin Now is now 2-0 over Austin City Council after its petition to add more staffed police officers to the Austin Police Department was certified, garnering over the 20,000 votes needed to make it on an election ballot.
The petition calls for more police staffing per city resident, quicker response times and more training for city police officers in the wake of increasing violent crime rates nationwide and a year of limited APD staffing. The City Council will now decide whether to implement the ordinance outright or add it to the November election ballot; it will likely do the latter.
Over 25,000 of the 27,778 signatures racked up by the public safety petition were certified as valid, well over the 20,000-vote threshold required to be certified with the City Clerk. City Clerk Jannette Goodall placed the city's seal of approval on the petition on Tuesday morning.
The petition, by the same political group that got the camping ban reinstated through a petition in May, seeks to:
- Require minimum staffing of two officers per 1,000 residents
- Require a minimum standard of 35% community response time
- Add 40 hours of training
- Require city council members, Mayor Steve Adler and other city staff to enroll in the Citizens Police Academy
- Facilitate minority officer hiring through foreign language proficiency metrics
Austin's 160 patrol vacancies have dropped its staffing rate to 1.2 officers per 1,000 residents, according to the department. APD's response time has increased by about one minute and 50 seconds in a year.
The petition comes nearly a year after APD's budgets were slashed by city council following the summer's Black Lives Matter protests, which saw several demonstrators severely injured as millions called for justice in the police-related deaths of George Floyd and locally Mike Ramos, an unarmed Black man killed by APD officer Christopher Taylor, in April 2020.
Austin and the U.S. have experienced a widespread uptick in violent crime rates in 2021. The city has reached 49 homicides in 2021, higher than the total number of murders in all of 2020 and the 38 homicides in the city in 2019. Austin police officers have seen response times rise as the department suffers increased vacancies and fewer newcomers while cadet classes are being readjusted.
Opponents argue the ordinance would ramp up a policing budget while taking away from other departments including Fire, EMS, violence prevention, and mental health care. City Council Member Greg Casar, the Travis County Democratic Party and the Austin Justice Coalition have spoken out against the organization's latest public safety move, calling out the campaign as a "right-wing petition" that misleads those who sign.
🔥 PANTS ON FIRE: Republican-front group Save Austin Now is lying about their petition!
They say their measure is about police reform, when it's really about devastating our city budget - all for the benefit of the police union. Watch the video here ⬇️ #ATX pic.twitter.com/Z6QQSfhHfH
— Gregorio Casar (@GregCasar) August 2, 2021
The latest battle between city council and Save Austin Now will be decided by Austin residents in the Nov. 2 election.
- Austin City Council drags on homeless camping ban reinstatement ... ›
- Conservative Jennifer Virden announces run for Austin mayor ... ›
- No homeless public camping vote on November ballot for Austin ... ›
- Save Austin Now sues city of Austin over camping ban petition ... ›
- City files response to Save Austin Now lawsuit - austonia ›
- Save Austin Now tries again to reinstate camping ban - austonia ›
- Save Austin Now calls on attorney in fight over Austin no-camping ... ›
- Save Austin Now relaunches petition to reinstate camping ban ... ›
- Save Austin Now submits police staffing petition - austonia ›
- Save Austin Now launches petition against crime - austonia ›