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UT researchers warn of full-capacity ICUs, up to 11,000 more hospitalizations without stricter COVID rules

Austin could see several thousand more hospitalizations and full ICU units if stricter COVID regulations are not put into play, according to research at UT. (CC)

Stricter COVID precautions could save the city from over 11,000 COVID-related hospitalizations over the course of about three months, according to a report by University of Texas researchers.


Researchers at UT released an analysis of three possible COVID scenarios on Monday in the wake of a quickly-growing hospitalization rate and the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant. The city is currently in Stage 3 (only unvaccinated recommended to mask) of its risk-based guidelines but announced this morning it wanted residents to take Stage 4 precautions, such as everyone—vaccinated or not—masking. Despite these recommendations, local officials lack the ability to enforce such guidance after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting mask mandates in May.

In the report, it states that if masks are effectively brought back into practice, the city could keep ICU units under capacity and ensure fewer hospitalizations.

Using trending data and vaccination rates, researchers predicted what could happen in the next three months in three scenarios:

  1. If Travis County remains in Stage 3
  2. If Stage 4 is initiated
  3. If around half of residents, including those vaccinated and unvaccinated, adhere to masking guidelines

Staying in Stage 3

According to the report, Austin could see 12,279 new hospitalizations by October if new guidelines are not put in place. That would give the city a dire 87% chance of exceeding the city's estimated ICU capacity of 200 beds and a 94% probability of continuing to have a 7-day moving average of 30 new hospitalizations per day.

Stage 4 initiated

If Stage 4 restrictions are enacted, the city could see a 92% drop in hospitalizations and just a 37% probability of exceeding ICU capacity. That is, of course, assuming that both vaccinated and unvaccinated residents comply.

Half of residents masking

Even if just 50% of residents follow stricter guidelines, hospitalizations could still plummet by 65%.

The report is timely: as the Delta variant, which is up to 80% more likely to cause hospitalization, takes the threshold as the top strain in the U.S., APH said moving into Stage 4 is now imminent for Austin-Travis County as of Tuesday afternoon.

Stage 4 guidelines come into play when the city reaches 30 to 50-90 new hospitalizations per a 7-day moving average, depending on the rate of increase. Austin passed the threshold on Monday night.

If Stage 4 is enacted, masking restrictions that many thought were gone for good could return. While they can't be legally enforced per Gov. Greg Abbott's reversal, they could be put back in practice by dozen of Austin businesses that choose to follow the city recommendation.

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Comedy, live music, McConaughey Q&A: Events in Austin this weekend

(Paramount Theatre)


💈 Finley’s Pop-up Barbershop

Experience luxury grooming the old-fashioned way at a revival of the Driskill Hotel’s early 1900s barbershop put on by Austin-based Finley’s. The pop-up will offer men’s haircuts, beard trims, hot towels, neck massages and straight razor shaves. Click here to book an appointment.

9 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday-Sunday | The Driskill Hotel, 604 Brazos St.

😂 Moontower Comedy Presents Hannah Gadsby

Catch veteran Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby touring with her newest show, “Body of Work,” written while she pondered the effects of the pandemic. Tickets are still available in the orchestra section, starting at $60.

Doors at 6 p.m. Friday | The Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave.

🎤 Rex Orange County Who Cares? Tour

Alexander James O'Connor, AKA Rex Orange County, is returning to Austin to perform his newest album, “Who Cares?” Tickets are still available starting at $49 each.

Doors at 7:30 p.m. Friday | Germania Insurance Amphitheater, 9201 Circuit of The Americas Blvd.

⚾️ Round Rock Express vs. El Paso Chihuahuas

Catch our local Minor League team play against the El Paso Chihuahuas at home this week. Tickets start at $22.

Starting 7:05 p.m. Friday | Dell Diamond, 3400 E Palm Valley Blvd.

🎶 Bleachers—The 2022 Tour

Enjoy a night of indie-pop from Grammy-winning producer Jack Antonoff, whose stage name is Bleachers, from the intimacy of Stubb’s. Tickets are still available starting at $33.

Starting 7:05 p.m. Saturday | Stubb's Waller Creek Amphitheater, 801 Red River St.

🎸 The Peterson Brothers with Latasha Lee

Catch the groovy, Bastrop-born brothers are taking their rightful place on stage with soulstress Latasha Lee at Antone’s. Arrive early, seating fills up quickly! The show is 21+ and tickets start at $15.

Doors at 7 p.m. Saturday | Antone's Nightclub, 305 E 5th St.

🤠 Emmanuel Acho and Matthew McConaughey Q&A

Famous former Longhorns Emmanuel Acho and Matthew McConaughey are joining forces for a Q&A about catching greenlights and living a limitless life. Each ticket will get the holder a copy of Acho’s new book, “Illogical: Saying Yes to a Life Without Limits.” Tickets are $39 per person.

1:15 p.m. Sunday | LBJ Auditorium, 2313 Red River St.

⚽️ Austin FC vs. Orlando City

Austin FC is facing off against Orlando City at the biggest party in Austin, Q2 Stadium. Tickets are still available starting at $65 but ticketless Verde fans can still support at one of the many Pub Clubs.

7 p.m. Sunday | Q2 Stadium, 10414 Mc Kalla Pl.