AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the omicron variant continues to spread rapidly across Central Texas, health leaders are directing companies to help them flatten the curve. There are currently 579 people in hospitals in the Austin area with COVID-19, as of the latest songs.
dr. Desmar Walkes, the Austin-Travis County health authority, said they see about 20% of people who come to the hospital with COVID-19 end up in the ICU.
“This is a little different from other peaks because it’s developing and unfolding faster, but we still see the need for ICU beds,” Walkes said. “Now if you look at the setting, we have less ICU bed capacity because we have less staff, so this is a very different situation because of our staffing challenges.”
Austin-Travis County leaders have announced new orders targeting businesses as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in Central Texas. The orders can draw legal action from the state.
The only enforceable requirement made by the orders, which are called the “protection of customers and employees and the maintenance of sufficient staff capacity orders”, is that companies must post COVID-19 signage.
Companies that do not comply with the orders can be fined $1,000 each day if the order is not followed. Under the order, police officers, the Austin Code Department and the Austin Fire Marshal have the authority to enforce the new rules.
The orders, signed by Austin Mayor Steve Adler, will also give companies more power to require people to follow company-identified COVID-19 precautions, including requiring employees to be vaccinated and incentivized.
Meanwhile, Nan Tolson, a spokesman for Gov. Greg Abbott said“This municipal order is invalidated by Executive Orders GA-38, GA-39 and GA-40 – all of which remain in full force and effect. Any business would be within its legal rights to disobey this city order.”
Learn about what company orders require and responses from state and local officials under this story.
Staff shortages are driving school closures across the state as Omicron continues to ramp up the number of cases.
Currently, the Texas Education Agency allows schools to offer students who test positive or are in close contact with up to 20 days of distance learning. However, there is no virtual learning framework for when employees test positive.
It’s not much comfort to school districts that have to ask staff and volunteers to fill in as teachers because they’re so understaffed.
In an effort to keep classrooms open during teacher sick leave during this COVID-19 wave, the Austin Independent School District is softening the deal for replacement starting next week.
in a AISD Supervisory Board meeting Thursday, a plan was put in place to get more replacements, including reducing the number of required credits and increasing daily wages.
That’s a new call the Hays Consolidated Independent School District also releases, and directs directors on all campuses to recruit parents who may be able to help.
The massive COVID-19 testing site at the Toney Burger Activity Center and Stadium will be closed for most of Saturday after reaching capacity early Saturday morning.
A Nomi Health spokesperson said the site experienced delays on Saturday due to wind advisories in Central Texas.
Read more on the Burger Center closes early here.
It comes after four Austin Independent School District COVID-19 testing sites were unable to open Thursday due to “supply limits.” the district said:.
The district said a third-party supplier it uses to conduct the tests is being hit by national supply chain shortages. AISD is partnering with Quest Diagnostics to get more testing supplies.
In the meantime, Austin Public Health working to expand COVID-19 testing capacity as the demand for free testing explodes in parallel with the rapid spread of the ommicron variant.
If you need a COVID-19 test, find some options on KXAN’s running list here.