The rolling average of new admissions is a key indicator health officials consider when assessing the risks of coronavirus spread locally. Prior to Jan. 4, the rolling average peaked at 75.1 on July 8.
Since Dec. 23, Austin has been under Stage 5 of COVID-19 risk level, the highest risk stage. Residents are encouraged not to gather with anyone outside their household, and businesses are encouraged to offer only contactless options such as curbside or takeout. Austin ISD, which will resume classes Jan. 5 for students, has canceled most extracurricular activities, although students who choose to attend class in person still have the opportunity to do so.
As of Jan. 4, there are 552 residents in Hays, Travis and Williamson counties hospitalized with COVID-19, including 156 in intensive care unit beds and 91 on ventilators. According to the most recently available capacity numbers from Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White and St. David’s HealthCare on Dec. 30, total hospital beds in the area are 78% occupied, and ICU beds are 85% occupied.
Dr. Shailaja Hayden, an ICU physician and assistant professor in the department of internal medicine at Dell Medical School at The University of Texas, said Dec. 29 that she and her colleagues are “emotionally and physically tired” from the experience of treating COVID-19 patients each day.
“What we’re seeing is like a house fire. The magnitude of suffering in the ICU right now is like nothing I have experienced before, in that entire families are being ravaged at the same time by this disease,” Hayden said.
Both Dr. Mark Escott, the Austin-Travis County interim health authority, and Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden are scheduled to speak publicly to Travis County commissioners Jan. 5 to provide an update on the area’s COVID-19 risks and the ongoing vaccination efforts.