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Coronavirus updates in Central Texas: Texas sets new record highs for COVID-19 hospitalizations, 7-day average of new cases

Here are the latest COVID-19 updates, closures and postponements in Central Texas for Monday, Jan. 4.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: This blog is no longer active. For the latest updates, check out our new blog here.

KVUE is keeping you updated with the latest coronavirus and COVID-19 news in the Austin area.

Scroll down for the top headlines and latest updates in KVUE's Jan. 4 live blog.

COVID-19 numbers:

  • Texas: More than 1.5 million cases have been reported in the state, and more than 27,900 people in Texas have died, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
  • Central Texas counties: 
    • Travis County: At least 52,708 cases have been reported and at least 554 people have died. At least 47,180 people have recovered from the virus.
    • Hays County: At least 10,958 confirmed cases have been reported and at least 133 people have died. At least 9,088 people have recovered from the virus. 
    • Williamson County: At least 20,411 cases have been reported in the county and at least 203 people have died. At least 18,905 people have recovered from the virus.

For a look at COVID-19 data across all of the state's counties, click here.

Updates:

6:25 p.m. – The Austin metro area is reporting an average of 995 cases per day over the past week, the second-highest on record. The area's positivity rate average is at 10.14%. There have been a total of 1,132 deaths from COVID-19 in the 12-county KVUE viewing area since the pandemic began.

Austin-area hospitals have a record 606 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized. Monday marks the first day COVID-19 patients make up 15% of hospital capacity – if it stays at or above this level for seven consecutive days, Austin-area businesses must roll back capacity limits, according to Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order.

There are 195 COVID-19 patients currently in Austin-area ICUs, up 16 from Sunday.

The Austin metro area set a new record for daily COVID-19 hospital admissions, with an average of 76.6 new hospitalizations per day over the past week, surpassing 75.1 in July.

6:10 p.m. – Travis County reported another four deaths from COVID-19 on Monday along with 752 new confirmed cases, the second-highest single-day case count since the pandemic began.

Travis County currently has 552 people hospitalized with COVID-19, with 156 in the ICU and 91 on ventilators.

5:10 p.m. – Round Rock ISD staff who are 65 and older will be invited to receive a COVID-19 vaccination on Thursday at a designated vaccine clinic at Ascension Seton Williamson. All RRISD staff who meet the criteria and wish to be vaccinated are expected to be covered.

Following that, and based on vaccine availability, RRISD staff with a qualifying high-risk condition under group 1B will be invited to receive the vaccine.

5 p.m. – On Monday, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) said Texas will distribute more than 325,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine across the state over the next week. The State will also distribute 224,250 additional doses to complete vaccination from week one recipients.

DSHS said distribution of the first doses will go to more than 949 providers in 158 Texas counties over the next week. That includes 167,300 doses of the Moderna vaccine and 37,050 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

An additional 121,875 doses of the Pfizer vaccine will go to the federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, which will serve staff and residents at 770 long-term care facilities over the next week.

RELATED: Texas to distribute 325,000 doses in 4th week of COVID-19 vaccination

4:50 p.m. – Hays County reports seven new coronavirus-related deaths: a Buda man in his 50s, a Buda woman in her 50s, a San Marcos man in his 90s, a San Marcos woman in her 70s, a San Marcos man in his 70s, a Wimberley man in his 80s and a Wimberley woman in her 80s. The county has had a total of 133 coronavirus-related deaths.

The county is also reporting 323 new lab-confirmed cases for a total of 10,958. The county has had at least 9,088 recoveries.

4:15 p.m. – According to a City of Austin spokesperson, over the New Year's holiday weekend, the fire marshal issued three citations to businesses. In addition, the Austin Code Department verified 23 businesses were in violation of dine-in restrictions, operating after 10:30 p.m. on Dec. 31. All of those cases are pending legal determination of the recent mayoral order, the spokesperson said.

4 p.m. – The 7-day average for new COVID-19 cases in Texas is at a new record high of 15,132 per day over the past week. That average is up 46% from a week ago and 23% from a month ago. The state reported 15,976 new cases today for a total of 1,598,713 to date.

Texas is also reporting a new record high for COVID-19 patients in hospitals, with 12,961 currently hospitalized. That number is up 398 from yesterday, 14% from a week ago and 45% from a month ago.

3:40 p.m. – Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra has sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott expressing concern that local public health departments have not been highlighted as priority providers for COVID-19 vaccines and asking that the State provide vaccines to those departments. 

"Local government can cut through traditional barriers to public health and efficiently deliver services. We are the pulse of our local community and can ensure that we are identifying our most vulnerable needs and populations," Bacerra wrote.

3:30 p.m. – Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the Texas Division Of Emergency Management (TDEM) has established a COVID-19 therapeutic infusion center in Austin to treat outpatient cases of COVID-19. Learn more.

"This infusion center will help us expand access to therapeutic treatments for COVID-19 in the Austin community," Abbott said. "Reducing hospitalizations is a crucial component of our response to COVID-19, and we will continue to work with our local partners to ensure they have the resources they need to keep their communities safe." 

RELATED: Austin's COVID-19 antibody therapy infusion center to begin accepting patients Wednesday, governor says

3:25 p.m. – On Saturday, Ascension Seton administered vaccines to nearly 100 Austin ISD high-risk staff, district officials announced.

Here is AISD's full statement: 

On Saturday, January 2, Ascension Seton administered vaccines to nearly 100 Austin ISD high-risk staff, and vaccines will continue for campus-based Austin ISD staff who are 65 years old and older at a designated Ascension Seton clinic through Tuesday, January 5. Following that, and based on vaccine availability, Austin ISD staff with a qualifying high-risk condition under Group 1B will be invited to receive the vaccine in accordance
with the Texas Department of State Health Services Phase 1B vaccine priority guidelines.As Ascension Seton continues to receive additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, they will continue to expand vaccine operations consistent with federal and state
guidance. Ascension Seton will share more details publicly when they move to the next phase of vaccination for the larger phase 1B group. Ascension Seton continues to use all COVID-19 vaccines provided and does not hold any COVID-19 vaccines in reserve. 

3:10 p.m. – U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) announced Monday that the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) for Emergency Protective Measures will receive more than $89 million to increase testing for COVID-19 in Texas. Learn more.

RELATED: Texas to receive $89M federal grant for COVID-19 testing, Sen. Cornyn says

1:40 p.m. – Travis County Sheriff's Office employees began receiving the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday. That includes sworn and civilian employees in Central Booking, quarantine and isolation units, medical services and mental health services, as well as patrol deputies.

The sheriff's office reported 11 new COVID-19 cases among employees on Monday, with no new COVID-19 cases among the inmate population.

10:40 a.m. – We Are Blood is currently experiencing a critical shortage in convalescent plasma donors to treat COVID-19 patients. As area hospitalizations have spiked over the past weeks, the need for convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients is rising.

Convalescent plasma is collected from individuals who have recovered from the coronavirus. Their plasma possesses antibodies that are used to help current patients to fight the virus. 

“During the spike in Central Texas hospitalizations experienced in July, we were sending 20-25 units of convalescent plasma a day to local hospitals,” said Nick Canedo, VP of communications for We Are Blood. “Saturday alone we sent 84 units to local patients. At that pace, we could run out of life-saving convalescent plasma in a matter of days.”

To become a qualified donor, individuals need to have had a lab-tested diagnosis of COVID-19 or a positive antibody result, been without symptoms for at least 14 days, and meet all other blood donation criteria. Recovered individuals who wish to donate COVID-19 convalescent plasma should submit the qualification form here.

10:30 a.m. – The Texas Senate has revealed is COVID-19 protocols ahead of opening day for the next legislative session.

RELATED: Texas Senate opening day COVID-19 protocols released

10:20 a.m. – TSA at Austin’s airport screened 14,364 flyers on Sunday, making it the busiest air day of the pandemic and more than 1,000 people higher than the second busiest day, which was Dec. 23.

This matched the national trend. TSA screened 1,327,289 at America’s airports on Sunday, the most since March 15, 2020.

Top 5 busiest locally: 

1.   Jan. 3: 14,364

2.   Dec. 27: 13,313

3.   Dec. 23: 13,205

4.   Dec. 19: 13,060

5.   Nov. 29: 12,248

8:30 a.m. – Along with five other Black elected leaders in Travis County, Austin City Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison is expressing concerns about the local rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations. Read the group's joint statement.

RELATED: Austin-area Black leaders call for action on vaccine strategy

7 a.m. – The Texas Capitol building is set to reopen to the public on Monday. Coronavirus precautions will be in place to protect the public. Visitors will be allowed to use the north entrance, there will be free testing at the north plaza, and masks will be required at all times indoors. There will also be capacity limits and social distancing requirements. While the building is now open to the public, there aren't currently any public tours or sponsored events.

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