Adler: "We can't take our foot off the brake" in fight against COVID-19

"We could quickly be in stage 5 if we do not continue to change our behaviors," Adler says

Talk 1370 Newsroom
July 11, 2020 - 11:07 am
Austin Mayor Steve Adler

Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman via USA TODAY NETWORK

AUSTIN ( -- Austin Mayor Steve Adler is reminding Austinites that "we can't take our foot off the brake," as the community continues to remain on the edge of a potential Stage 5 in the fight against COVID-19.

Adler's letter to the community, released Saturday morning, focuses on intensive care capacity - a key "pinch point" leaders are watching right now. Without continued efforts to change behaviors, Adler says, Austin and Travis County could quickly find themselves in stage 5.

Adler's letter is below:

Just three weeks ago the doctors and scientists told us our COVID-19 trajectory would overwhelm our hospitals, especially our intensive care units, around this week unless we substantially changed our behaviors. Our community rallied and we have bought some more time. We should thank each other.

And then we need to remind one another that we can’t take our foot off the brake. We are still on the edge. Please continue to wear masks any time you are in public and observe even greater adherence to six-foot distancing. Stay home when you’re able.

Our regular ICU capacity for something like COVID-19 is just over 200 beds. Our hospitals can surge to about 330 beds by using spaces not normally used. We might even be able to get to over 400 ICU beds if the state and the federal governments provide the needed staff.  But these steps present uncertainties.  I anticipate that other cities, like Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, will be asking for help the same time we are so I’m not confident the help will be there when we need it.  The experience of hospitals in New York tell us that our existing staff numbers will get reduced as they, too, contract the virus out in the community.  And we’re already getting calls asking if we can take patients from other Texas hospitals that have run out of space. We’re are in a precarious position.

Our current ICU seven-day running average is at 142 virus patients in beds and our hospitals are already feeling stressed at that number.  Less than three weeks ago, we were had 65 ICU virus patients sleeping in our ICUs.  We have to do our absolute best not to let our current number double again.  Our numbers have slowed somewhat, but they are still headed up.

This week the Austin City Council acted to provide additional enforcement for the conduct set out in the emergency orders. Our actions allow for enjoining in court the use of violating properties and enforcing and increasing the fine for individual and business violations rules up to $2,000.  But the most effective enforcement is each of us holding strong to what we expect and model for each other.

We need to keep our feet on the brake to continue behavior change and we need to continue to watch the numbers. We remain in risk-level stage 4, but we could quickly be in stage 5 if we do not continue to change our behaviors. Doctors tell us the best things we can be doing to slow the spread: wear a mask when you leave your home, keep socially distancing, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, disinfect high touch surfaces, and stay home as much as possible, especially if you feel sick or have been exposed to COVID-19.

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