Decreasing from six available ICU beds for the 2.4 million Austin metro over the weekend, there are now only two available beds as of Monday evening, according to Austin Public Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes.
At a Travis County Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday, Walkes gave an update on the dwindling 200-bed ICU capacity, which is seeing the least available beds compared to other major metros in the state.
Although other metros may seem to have more available beds such as the Dallas metro with 100 beds, transferring of patients is becoming increasingly difficult, she said. With a staffing shortage, talks of an alternative care center are limited and have not been acted on as of Tuesday.
Pediatric cases have been of particular concern, as this surge—being attributed to the Delta variant and spread among unvaccinated individuals—is affecting more children with the start of school around the corner.
The total COVID-19 caseload for kids has already surpassed the total for 2020. From March to December 2020, there were 7,019 confirmed cases in children; from January 2021 to date, there have been 7,438 confirmed cases.
Hospitalizations are also increasing in children. There were 12 kids in the ICU in July, compared to only one in June of this year.
The 12-17 age group is seeing the highest rate of admission into ICU and highest rate of transmission among those under 18 years of age. It is also the age group that is eligible for vaccines.
Health officials are asking that children wear a mask at school to mitigate the spread of the virus. On Monday, Austin ISD announced the district will require face masks for in-person learning starting this month in defiance of an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott that bans mask mandates.
At Stage 5 level of COVID risk, Austin health officials are asking everyone, including those vaccinated to wear a mask. Walkes said masking is important due to the highly contagious nature of the Delta variant in the presymptomatic phase, meaning it can be spread before someone knows they have COVID.
"Everything that we can do to bend this curve downward is going to be important for our community, and particularly for our children," Walkes said. "Masking is important."
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Austin seems to have passed its fourth COVID peak, but public health leaders are already monitoring a new omicron-related variant that was recently detected in Texas.
Just as quickly as it came, the omicron variant that shuttered schools, businesses and holiday gatherings is finally receding, Austin-Travis County Health Authority Desmar Walkes said Friday. According to a University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium projections, the variant's caseload peaked on Jan. 9 in the Austin-Round Rock area.
But Austin Public Health is already looking to the new variation of it, dubbed the BA. 2 omicron variant, as it spreads to 40 countries including the U.S. Similar to the original "BA.1" omicron strain, the new variety shares most of omicron's characteristics but has 20 key mutations from the original. Walkes said the variant has over 80 mutations and appears to be more transmissible than the original omicron strain, though vaccines appear to behave similarly in protecting residents from serious complications.
The variant has been found in dozens of countries and is surpassing case numbers for the BA.1 omicron strain in Denmark, though researchers have so far found no difference in hospitalizations between the two omicron variants. The World Health Organization classifies all omicron strains as "variants of concern" but hasn't specified between the two.
Chief epidemiologist Janet Pichette said that while BA.2 will act similarly to its parent variant, the strain's transmissibility could cause a new spike in the area.
"We're at a critical point right now," Pichette said. "This new variant has been identified in Texas with three cases in the Houston area, so odds are that it's circulating around us right now."
For now, Pichette said cases are on the "downhill slide," while ICU admissions are expected to peak in the first week of February. With a 100% household transmission rate so far, Walkes said it's more crucial than ever to vaccinate children over five and protect other vulnerable members of the community.
"This new variant spreads more quickly and because of that we're going to see an impact on the general population," Walkes said. "It's going to find the vulnerable, and in this case it's going to affect the unvaccinated and those who cannot get vaccinated."
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Whether you became a home chef when the pandemic began or have always enjoyed crafting delicious meals, it’s undeniable that no home is complete without a cozy kitchen.
Take a peek at these five gems on the market now.
In the South Austin Parten community, this castle-like four-bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom stunner puts you just minutes from Austin, Dripping Springs and other nearby communities. Stark white and black contrasting features give the interiors a clean look, while a large curving staircase serves as a centerpiece for the ground floor. The chef’s kitchen is spacious, facing the living room and multiple windows, and immediately draws the eye. Upstairs you’ll find a spa-style bathroom, game room with a wet bar and Hill Country Views.This listing is held by Adam Zell and Lexie Zell.
This hyper-modern, 3,300-square-foot Scandinavian-styled home is a paradise for natural light in Hyde Park. With four bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms spread across one story, the home rests on concrete columns to protect from extreme climate conditions. Inside, you’ll find crisp, clean trim in the open-plan kitchen with built-in luxury appliances and a walk-in pantry. Lofty 12-foot ceilings and gigantic windows set the tone, with a wet bar and second living room for entertaining. When you retire to the master bedroom, enjoy a warm bath in the soaking tub or enjoy the multi-output shower.
This listing is held by Austin Stowell.
In the heart of Westlake, this stacked three-story new build is a sprawling 4,483 square feet with five bedrooms and four-and-a-half bathrooms. The home is centrally located and full of natural light, especially on the open concept first floor, which includes the kitchen, casual dining space and living area. The third floor has a bedroom and loft, perfect for the at-home worker.
This listing is held by Jen Templeton and Cheryl Albanese.
This 3,539 square foot, three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom Tarrytown townhouse is newly remodeled but still holds on to its vintage charm. Bright white cabinets, a green accented island and quartzite countertops in the kitchen give the space a cheery feeling. Entering on the second floor, you’ll have to walk downstairs to get to the bedrooms, which include ensuite baths and walk-in showers. The third level bonus room is the perfect place for an at-home office.This listing is held by Cindy Fowler.
Just outside Austin in the sleepy town of Wimberley, the Backbone Ridge Ranch is one of the city’s most “iconic and pristine” properties. On nearly 50 acres of land, the house takes you into nature without getting too far from nearby cities. With 4,369 square feet, six bedrooms and six-and-a-half bathrooms, floor-to-ceiling windows effortlessly light the entire space. You’ll feel like a celebrity chef while cooking in the kitchen, even more so entertaining from the outdoor kitchen and living space. The 33,000-gallon quarried limestone pool is perfect for those hot Hill Country summers!This listing is held by Nicole Kessler.
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