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Austin Officials Ask People To Stay Home For The Fourth As COVID-19 Cases Near 10,000

Demonstrators protested outside the Capitol and governor's mansion Tuesday calling for the reopening of bars.
Michael Minasi
Demonstrators protest outside the Capitol and governor's mansion Tuesday, calling for bars to be reopened.

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With Travis County on the cusp of exceeding 10,000 total cases of coronavirus, local public health officials are pleading with Austinites to stay home for the Fourth of July holiday and help slow the growth of a disease that has hospitals on track to exceed capacity by mid-July.

“We encourage you to stay home, think of new traditions within your home, with the people you live with, and think about how you can create a new tradition,” Austin Public Health director Stephanie Hayden said during a news briefing Wednesday.

The Austin metro area reported 67 new hospital admissions Tuesday, moving the region closer to a threshold at which Austin’s interim health authority, Dr. Mark Escott, says would trigger a recommendation for an economic shutdown: a seven-day moving average of 70 new hospital admissions daily.

“Could that recommendation come before 70? The answer is, it’s possible,” Escott said, “because there are supporting measures we look at as well that show increased stress on the system.”

Escott said local health officials are closely watching nearby San Antonio, which is reporting more than 1,000 cases a day right now, causing “substantial stress on their health care system.”

“If our neighbors are in stress and they exceed their capacity, it seems likely that overflow of those patients may come to Travis County and our surrounding jurisdictions,” he said, adding that it’s a statewide problem.

Enforcement of any such shutdown would require the authorization of Gov. Greg Abbott, who last week rolled back the phased reopening in the state that started in May. Abbott ordered bars to close to the public, told restaurants to reduce maximum capacity from 75% to 50% and limited most outdoor gatherings to under 100 as the state experiences record new daily numbers of coronavirus cases.

One of the state’s most powerful officials – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who chairs the Texas Senate – on Tuesday dismissed criticism from the federal government’s leading infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, that Texas and other states reopened their economies too quickly.

“[Fauci] has been wrong every time on every issue,” Patrick told Fox News. “We’ll listen to a lot of science. We’ll listen to a lot of doctors, and Gov. Abbott and myself will make the decision. No thank you, Dr. Fauci.”

This story has been updated. 

Got a tip? Email Nathan Bernier at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.

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Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.
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