Texas climbs to second-highest COVID caseload in U.S., despite ranking on top in vaccine doses administered
After reaching a grim milestone of two million COVID-19 cases on Thursday, Texas became the state with the second-highest number of cases, trailing just behind California, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
At 2,040,751 total cases throughout Texas and a 13.33% positivity rate, California's total case count of 2,843,062 tops the U.S., however its overall positivity is only 7.55% in the state. On top of that, the death count between Texas and California is nearly identical: 31,277 and 31,684 deaths respectively.
Travis County makes up about 2.9% of the overall caseload, with 58,286 cases and a current 16.2% positivity rate. Travis County is currently experiencing its worst surge to date, although still behind other big Texas cities.
Austin officials have been hitting a disconnect on what regulations are best to help quell the surge; Escott has been calling for a stronger lockdown until the virus is under control, while state officials, including Gov. Greg Abbott, are worried about the effect another lockdown will have on businesses.
However, offering a glimmer of hope of the end of the pandemic, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced Thursday that Texas had also become the first state to administer more than one million vaccines, exactly one month and one day after receiving the first doses.
"Texas is leading the way for our nation once again," Abbott said. "This is the biggest vaccination effort we have ever undertaken and it would not be possible without the dedication and tireless efforts of our healthcare workers. We still have a long road ahead of us but Texans continue to prove that we are up to this challenge."
During a press conference yesterday, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said it is imperative that people continue safe practices until they can get the vaccine, which could be a while with a shortage of doses to go around. Ultimately, Escott said, masking and distancing will have to be kept up until the vaccine is more widely available.
"While we're all frustrated about the numbers of vaccines that we have available, we have something else that works very well and it's those protective measures: the masking, the distancing, the handwashing, it prevents disease also," Escott said. "It's going to have to continue until we can get a substantial portion of our population vaccinated."
To help alleviate the strain on hospitals, Austin Public Health officials announced the opening of an alternate care site at the Austin Convention Center that can accept COVID-19 patients to free up ICU beds. Additionally, the city has rolled out infusion sites to treat recently-diagnosed patients without serious symptoms.
Escott said Austin could run out of ICU beds any day now and hospitals are currently seeing the repercussions from holiday celebrations.
"Right now, when we are facing unprecedented surge, unprecedented transmission of disease in our community, which is uncontrolled, we have to work together as a community to drive down the disease spread and flatten the curve again, to put our hospitals in a better situation and buy us time to get more people vaccinated," Escott said.
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Austin FC couldn't find the stamina to fight off a 2-0 loss against LAFC for their inaugural match on Saturday.
The match, which saw No. 21 Austin FC go head-to-head with No. 2 LAFC in Los Angeles, was broadcast nationally on FOX and FOX Deportes.
Eleven players took the stage as Austin FC players for the first time, with five starters making their MLS debut. "Ringleader" Alex Ring took the captain's armband and wore it well. The defensive midfielder could be seen leading his teammates through their first ever match, but it wasn't enough to stage an Austin takeover in LA.
As Austin FC took the stage for their first-ever match, they appeared more experienced than their track record. The club held LAFC to a scoreless first half, keeping about equal possession of the ball.
In the signature style of Head Coach Josh Wolff, the team played with quickness and intensity, nearly connecting on several fast breaks.
The club was given some generous breaks from No. 2 LAFC, who had one or both of their star DPs out for the half. While forward Diego Rossi is out for the entire match due to a hamstring injury, Carlos Vela was accidentally pulled too soon on what turned out to be a miscommunication.
"He gave us the sign that he needed to come off," LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley said on broadcast. "I can't say more than maybe it's my fault."
LA pulled some dramatics and slowly gained more possession throughout the half, but ATXFC's defense wasn't initially as shaky as it seemed in preseason. Jhohan Romana has pulled his weight in getting the ball out of goal, and a 34-year old Matt Besler held his own in center back.
As the second half commenced, however, it became clear that LAFC had the advantage over Austin's first major league team.
Goalkeeper Brad Stuver had his work cut out for him, fending off 24 shot attempts, 11 of which were on goal.
LAFC finally connected in the 61st minute of play as Corey Baird shot one in to the bottom right corner. The team capitalized off their momentum and put one past Stuver a second time, drawing roars of approval from the LAFC crowd.
While some last minute attempts from Jon Gallagher and others were made, Austin FC didn't have the endurance to bring a tie. After seven additional minutes of stoppage time, the club lost their first match 2-0.
It's matchday! Austin FC—Austin's first major league sport team—kicks off its debut season in Los Angeles today after years in the making. We know how much this means to our beloved city and are taking you along with us as we journey to LA!
Austin FC writer Claire Partain and I are excited to bring you game-day coverage straight from the City of Angels. Check back here for updates, and visit our socials: @austonianews for the latest.
5 p.m: Kickoff!
It's finally here! Claire will be updating Austonia's Twitter account live. And we'll post her game recap after the game. Best of luck Verdes!
4:40 p.m: Excitement radiates back home
Watch parties are in plenty supply back home. Austonia's Laura Figi visited Circle Brewing Co. and found a crowd of excited supporters.
4:20 p.m: Austin FC supporters are in the stadium
Although the Banc of California Stadium is hosting the match at limited capacity, we see some green in the stands ahead of kickoff. Just moments away from the Austin FC's debut!
~3:20 p.m: Austin FC's team bus enters the stadium grounds
With a warm welcome from Los Verdes, Austin FC players were welcomed into the Banc of California Stadium.
~1 p.m: Los Verdes in LA
(Rigo Rodriguez/Los Verdes)
Austin FC supporters are making their presence known in LA, including the Los Verdes group.
Los Verdes members started having match-day fun around the area this morning with brunch. We'll be joining them about an hour before the game outside the stadium to share some of their excitement. We'll post immediately to Austonia's Instagram.
11:45 a.m: We landed!
View from hotel room where we're staying; the stadium digital sign can be seen in the right corner. (Sonia Garcia/Austonia)
Switching over to pacific time, we're here and it's almost like no time went by. It's 9:45 a.m. here.
We've been in contact with Los Verdes, an Austin FC supporter group, who is also here in LA counting down to kickoff.
8:20 a.m: LA bound
Like many of you, we've been looking forward to this moment for, let's just say, a very long time. Today, we woke up bright and early, headed to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and hopped on a flight to LA.
A gloomy day in Austin with a very quiet airport, we're headed to sunny skies in California.
As we wait for the game to start at 4:30 p.m., check out Claire's preview of the game with a predicted lineup and timeline of the long journey to get here.