Austin Warns of ‘Catastrophe’ as Texas Becomes Pandemic Epicenter Again | Austin
As Covid-19 cases skyrocket exponentially and ICU capacity in hospitals shrinks to single digits, Austin area officials warn of a ‘catastrophe’ as the Texas is once again becoming an epicenter of the pandemic.
Local governments in Austin on Saturday issued an urgent message through their emergency notification system, imploring residents to stay home, mask themselves and get vaccinated.
The call comes just days after Austin Public Health raised its risk-based advice to Stage 5, the highest possible level.
“The situation is critical,” Desmar Walkes, the Austin-Travis County health authority, said in a statement. “Our hospitals are very stressed and there is not much we can do to ease their burden as the number of cases increases.”
The Texas trauma service area that includes Austin has just six available intensive care beds, 499 available hospital beds, and 313 ventilators available – a startling shortage of resources for a population of nearly 2.4 million. inhabitants.
In the Austin metropolitan statistical area, 510 Covid patients are currently hospitalized, 184 are in intensive care and 102 are on ventilators.
About a third of recent hospitalizations have been in patients under the age of 50, underscoring the serious threat of the Delta variant to young Texans who have chosen not to be vaccinated.
“The availability of hospital beds and intensive care is extremely limited in our hospital systems, not only for Covid-19 patients, but for anyone who may need treatment,” Walkes said. “The community must come together again and avoid disaster. “
Overall, Texas currently ranks second behind Florida for the highest average daily Covid-19 cases, with infections up 134% in the past 14 days. And between early February and mid-July, about 99.5% of Texans who died from the virus were unvaccinated, the Texas Tribune reported.
In Travis County in Austin, nearly 64% of children and adults ages 12 and older are fully immunized, compared to about 53% statewide. But in some neighboring counties and suburbs, vaccination rates are still below the state average.
Recently, Bexar County in San Antonio saw its average daily workload increase by more than 300%, according to the New York Times. And infections are also increasing in Harris County in Houston, where only about 56% of people 12 and older are fully vaccinated and the average 14-day test positivity rate is 17.7%.
Meanwhile, local officials who want to implement proven public health measures to mitigate the spread have been crippled by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who implemented a sweeping ordinance restricting vaccine and mask mandates .
But some officials, like Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, have simply defied Abbott’s order despite threats of retaliation.
“The governor is preventing the city from keeping children and adults safe,” Austin City Council member Alison Alter told The New York Times. “He’s going to have a lot of deaths on his hands here. It is a matter of life and death for our community.