The Austin Chronicle

As Austin Hits 1,000 COVID Deaths, ICU Capacity Is Strained to Its Limits

By Beth Sullivan, September 10, 2021, News

This Monday, Sept. 13, marks 18 months since the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Travis County.

Now, as much of the nation, including Austin, finds itself in the grips of the most recent surge of the now year-and-a-half-long pandemic, public health leaders remain focused on getting shots into the arms of those who are not yet fully vaccinated. About 68% of vaccine-eligible Travis County residents (ages 12 and up) are fully vaccinated as of Sept. 8, according to data tracked by the Texas Department of State Health Services. That falls just short of local health leaders' collective goal to have 70% of local, eligible residents fully vaccinated by Labor Day.

The impact of increased vaccinations on Austin's COVID-19 numbers is still unfolding. Although the number of local COVID cases and the seven-­day average for hospitalizations have plateaued in recent weeks, Austin Public Health has largely attributed the slight shift to behavior modifications, like wearing face masks, avoiding nonessential gatherings, and staying home if you feel sick, rather than vaccinations. Central Texas hospital and intensive care unit capacity is still stretched to its very limits, with the number of adult ICU beds available in Trauma Service Area O – an 11-county region that includes Travis, Williamson, and Hays – hovering at or just above zero for the previous seven days.

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