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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In what was called the "Dodge Bowl" among fans and the media, Coach Todd Dodge adds to the Chaparrals' trophy case by bringing home the State Championship for Westlake High School a second time. Westlake was able to hold off the Southlake Carroll Dragons, winning 52-34 and becoming back-to-back State Champions for the first time in school history.
Increased police, an adjourned Legislature and boarded-up storefronts: Austin preps for Inauguration Day protests
After supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in a deadly riot last week, the FBI circulated an internal bulletin warning of armed protests being held at all 50 state capitols at least until Inauguration Day.
Here in Austin, local and state law enforcement officials have ramped up security around the Texas Capitol, the Texas Legislature has adjourned until Jan. 26 and downtown businesses have boarded up their storefronts—again.
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COVID-19 is still raging on, reaching the Texas House earlier this week, but Austin's tech sector is booming.
Here are some of Austin's most breaking stories, broken down into bite-size pieces, so you can be informed quickly.