Austin Authorities Warn Covid Has Grown ‘Dire’
Authorities in Austin, Texas, warned the public on Saturday that the city’s Covid-19 situation had turned desperate, as an increase in the number of cases caused by the Delta variant flooded hospitals as officials of the city were barred from issuing warrants for masks and vaccinations by order of state governor Greg Abbott.
In an alert sent by text, phone call, email, social media and other channels to area residents on Saturday, city officials said: “The Covid-19 situation in Austin is dire. Health facilities are open but resources are limited due to an increase in cases. “
Bryce Bencivengo, spokesperson for the city’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said Friday was one of the worst days for hospitals in Austin since the start of the pandemic. More than 100 new Covid patients were admitted that day, he said, and intensive care units were almost full, with Covid patients occupying more than 180 intensive care beds and 102 of those patients on ventilators.
“We are at a single digit of available intensive care beds,” Bencivengo said, adding that patients in emergency rooms were forced to wait for space in the intensive care unit to open up.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in an interview on Saturday that the crisis could have been avoided had Mr Abbott not stopped local government officials from issuing warrants over the masking. He said city officials wanted to avoid prosecuting Abbott, but that “at the end of the day, we will have to do what is necessary to fight for the safety of our community.”
“Our hospitals are just beyond the strain,” he said.
City council member Alison Alter was more direct. “The governor is preventing the city from ensuring the safety of children and adults,” she said in an interview. “He’s going to have a lot of deaths on his hands here. It is a matter of life and death for our community.
Executive Order Mr Abbott made in May prevents counties, towns, public health and local authorities from requiring people to wear masks, and warns violators could be fined $ 1,000 . Mr Abbott signed a larger executive order on July 29 banning mask and vaccination warrants, and prohibiting public agencies and any private entity that receive public funds, including grants and loans, from require proof of vaccination.
In a statement released Friday, three hospitals in the Austin area said the vast majority of Covid patients they admit were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
“We are urging the community to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones – and to ease the burden on our frontline workers who have been battling this virus for a year and a half,” the statement read, released by Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David’s HealthCare.
Hospitalizations in Austin are at the peak of an increase in the region, reaching highs last seen before vaccinations became widely available, according to a New York Times database. Travis County, where Austin is located, reported more than 3,400 active cases of the coronavirus on Friday, including 467 new infections. His daily average of new cases has increased 189% over the past two weeks.
Dozens of counties across the state have reported workloads that have more than doubled in two weeks, and some are seeing even larger increases than Austin. Bexar County, where San Antonio is located, has seen its daily average increase by more than 300%, to nearly 1,500 cases.
With 76% of the state’s most vulnerable population – those over 65 – fully immunized, deaths have increased much more slowly. But some of the counties with huge surges are lagging behind the state’s overall immunization average of 44%. Some counties fall below 30 percent.
Sophie Kasakové contributed reports.
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