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Austin-Travis County nears 70% hospital capacity, judge says in letter to Gov. Abbott

Judge Sam Biscoe said the region is preparing an alternative care site to help expand hospital capacity.

AUSTIN, Texas — Travis County Judge Samuel Biscoe wrote in a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott on June 29 that Austin-Travis County is either approaching or has surpassed 70% capacity in its regional hospital system.

Biscoe said the region is preparing an alternative care site to help expand hospital capacity.

"Our numbers of confirmed positives and the lag time between the testing and the test results have outstripped both our ability to contact trace and the utility in contact tracing," Biscoe wrote. "In summary, the rapid increase in cases has outstripped our ability to track, measure and mitigate the spread of disease."

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Sarah Eckhardt, special assistant to Biscoe, confirmed to KVUE the Austin Convention Center is currently being stocked for a 1,500-bed field hospital for COVID-19 patients who require hospitalization but are milder cases than those who require serious care.

Biscoe thanked the governor for his actions to roll back the reopening of Texas. He also requested that Gov. Abbott also take the following actions:

  • Enforce a mandatory masking policy as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Enforce a prohibition on social gatherings of more than 10 people not of the same household and not seeking essential services.
  • Roll back businesses and restaurants to 25% occupancy statewide.
  • Allow the major metropolitan areas to roll all the way back to Stay Home orders based on worsening circumstances.

"If you are not willing to take these actions on behalf of the state, please roll back your restriction on local leaders being able to take these swift actions to safeguard the health of our communities," Biscoe wrote to the governor.

Additionally, Biscoe penned a letter to local leaders in the Austin-Travis County area. In this letter, Biscoe asked local leaders to cancel publicly sponsored events and close public spaces in advance of the Fourth of July weekend in order to help prevent mass gatherings and the spread of COVID-19.

"We simply cannot afford missteps at this stage which could exacerbate the risk of overwhelming our healthcare system," Biscoe wrote to local leaders.

Travis County Parks will close all of its parks and boat ramps beginning Thursday night until at least Tuesday morning. The City of Austin has also agreed to close its parks, boat ramps and recreational facilities for the Fourth of July weekend. 

RELATED: Travis County to close all parks over holiday weekend

Sarah Eckhardt, a former Travis County judge and now the special assistant to Judge Biscoe, told KVUE the closures are necessary to prevent another spike.

"The Memorial Day weekend was the origins of our first big spike," she said. "So we have that experience to look back to and to try and avoid in the Fourth of July weekend."

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