Editor’s note: This story is part of The Daily Texan’s coverage of how coronavirus concerns are affecting UT-Austin. Read the rest of our coverage here.
The city of Austin presented a plan Wednesday to manage COVID-19 case surges in the city based on models created by UT.
Mayor Steve Adler was joined at a press conference by Mark Escott, interim medical director and health authority for Austin Public Health, and Travis County judge Sarah Eckhardt.
According to UT’s projections, if Austin reduces nonessential activity by 50%, a surge of COVID-19 cases in Austin will likely occur toward the end of May. However, Adler said if Austin is able to reduce nonessential activity more severely, the surge of cases will be smaller and occur later, allowing more time for the city to prepare.
“We’ll be watching this chart over the next 10 days to two weeks, and then we’ll see how we’ve really done as a community,” Adler said. “But the signals are that we’re doing a good job.”
There have been 554 cases of COVID-19 in Austin with 77 hospitalizations, Escott said. 28 of those cases are on ventilators, and 755 ventilators are currently available.
The surge plan aims to increase hospital capacities, possibly through putting multiple patients in a single room and converting anesthesia machines into ventilators. The plan also includes creating “type two facilities,” which will consist of outpatient surgical centers, and “type three facitilites,” which will be large areas intended to contain hundreds or thousands of patients.
There has been a site identified for this, but it has not been made public, Escott said.
Eckhardt said the surge plan is put in place with the expectation that there will be a 50% decrease in nonessential activities, but said they need more time to get equipment into the appropriate hands for these facilities. Currently, there has been a 64% reduction in nonessential activity, Eckhardt said.
“Stay home, work safe is beginning to work,” Eckhardt said. “It’s beginning to show in our doubling rate as well as in our overall number of cases against our projection.”
Escott said those who have been diagnosed are able to go to a hotel provided by the city instead of going home to reduce the spread to family. In addition, Escott discouraged citizens from attending church this week.
“It is dangerous for us to go back to churches right now,” Escott said. “It is dangerous for us to have large family gatherings where we’re bringing in multiple generations of families together.”