Austin health officials ask residents to stay home for July 4th as field hospital prep gets underway
Heading into the Fourth of July weekend, Austin health officials begged residents to stay away from each other to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
"You really must stay home right now," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said during a media call Wednesday.
Since the state began reopening in early May, the rate of new cases and related hospitalizations has grown exponentially, threatening testing and hospital capacity.
Officials expect Travis County's confirmed caseload to surpass 10,000 later today.
A second shutdown
Dr. Escott provided a threshold for when he will recommend that Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe issue new stay-home orders.
"If [the seven-day moving average for new hospital admissions] surpasses 70, then I will make that recommendation," he said.
Right now, the moving average is 55, according to the county's COVID-19 dashboard. Yesterday, 67 patients were admitted to area hospitals with COVID-19. Dr. Escott said that he may make the recommendation sooner, especially if surrounding jurisdictions seem poised to exceed their hospital capacity—which would likely cause spillover into Travis County facilities.
"I'm concerned about our neighbors in San Antonio and Bexar County, who are reporting more than 1,000 cases a day right now," he said.
Flattening the curve
As of yesterday, Austin's three hospital systems—Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David's HealthCare—reported that 72% of their collective 2,470 staffed hospital beds are occupied and 80% of their 483 ICU beds are.
Dr. Escott is less concerned about hospital capacity—which he said is normally within the 85% to 95% range—than he is with the increasing rate at which new cases are being reported in Austin and elsewhere.
"We cannot afford to have major fires burning in all of our major cities [in Texas] and expect to be able to provide hospital beds to everyone who gets sick if we don't make serious changes right now," he said.
To this end, Dr. Escott asked Austinites to stay home when possible and to be vigilant about masking, social distancing and hygiene when not.
"We cannot afford missteps right now," he said. "Not this weekend."
Convention center prep
In response, Dr. Escott has issued a request for federal funding to build out an alternate care site. Although the city has not officially announced its location, local officials have said it will be hosted at the Austin Convention Center.
"It will take several weeks for us to build it up in such a way to start taking patients," Dr. Escott said, adding that it will be outfitted in installments to match the demand for care.
The total capacity of the site, as detailed in the city's surge plan, is around 1,500 low-acuity patients.
If staffing the alternative care site, or area hospitals, becomes an issue, Dr. Escott said he has received confirmation from the White House that it will provide additional medical personnel through the U.S. military.
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An Austin-based firm that’s established itself as one of the top Bitcoin miners in North America is set to go public.
On Thursday, the company, known as Core Scientific Inc., announced it’s now trading on Nasdaq as $CORZ. The stock opened at $9.74 per share then peaked at $10.48. The company was assigned a $414 million market cap.
"As one of the largest publicly-traded blockchain infrastructure providers and digital asset miners in North America, we are focused on growing our capacity, defending and securing the blockchain ecosystem and building long-term shareholder value," CEO Mike Levitt said.
As reported by Yahoo News, investors approved a plan for a public debut through a $4.3 billion merger with special purpose acquisition company Power & Digital Infrastructure Acquisition Corp. The deal arrives as Austin sees its crypto scene soar, with increased activity in the NFT economy and groups pooling their money together through DAOs.
Core Scientific was established in 2017 and relocated its headquarters from Seattle to Austin last year. It has a site in Downtown Austin on 106 E. 6th St. and data centers in Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and North Dakota. More than 100 full-time employees are in the U.S., but it's unclear how many are in Austin.
Now, they say they are the biggest Bitcoin miners based on processing power, with claims that the combined mining capacity on the Bitcoin network exceeds that of competitors. And SEC filings from earlier this month show it's in the process of acquiring Blockcap, Inc., which moved to Austin last year.
The company describes itself as a leader in high-performance, carbon-neutral blockchain infrastructure in an industry that catches flak for its energy use.
Aside from mining, the company provides internet hosting services for other large-scale miners. In fact, it derives about half its revenue by helping big customers mine, a quality seen in what’s often referred to as an “institutional-grade” miner.
Looking ahead, Core Scientific seems optimistic about the year ahead even as Bitcoin falls from its all-time high.
“We’ve worked hard to lay the groundwork that will enable us to achieve our 2022 projections,” Levitt told Yahoo News. “Our objective is to be the best. Being the best means doing all that we can for our business, the industry in which we participate and for the Bitcoin network.”
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Watch some Cricket
When: 5:30-10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: The Crossover, 1717 Scottsdale Drive
What: Looking for a new sport to obsess over? Attend one of Sports Movement’s indoor cricket matches.
Le Garage Sale
When: 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Rd.
What: Find over 100+ boutiques, brands and designers at Le Garage sale. Shop leisurewear, accessories, menswear, children’s apparel, home decor and more. Tickets start at $10.
See a movie at the drive-in
When: 6:25-8:45 p.m., 9:15-10:50 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Globe Drive-In Theater, 8017 Cele Rd.
What: This weekend you can see Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at 6:25 p.m. or you can see The Cabin in the Woods at 9:15 p.m. at the drive-in. Tickets cost $16 per car.
Museum of Ice Cream
When: 11:30 a.m Saturday and Sunday
Where: Museum of Ice Cream, 11410 Century Oaks Ter.
What: The Museum of Ice Cream is featuring 12 never-before-seen instillations celebrating the enjoyment of ice cream. View tickets here.
The Austin Flea
When: 12 p.m. Sunday
Where: Meanwhile Brewing, 3901 Promontory Point Dr.
What: Find handmade items, vintage wares, food and drink and more at The Austin Flea at Meanwhile Brewing. Vendors are handpicked for each show to guarantee a great selection of items to shop for.