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[00:00:08]

GOOD MORNING.

I'M

[COVID-19: Press Q & A]

SYDNEY BENDER WITH AUSTIN PUBLIC HEALTH.

WE APPRECIATE YOU JOINING US FOR TODAY'S NEWS CONFERENCE.

SPANISH INTERPRETATION IS AVAILABLE ON ATX AND THREE FIRST WE'LL HEAR REMARKS FROM DR.

DEZ WALKS, AUSTIN, TRAVIS COUNTY HEALTH AUTHORITY FOLLOWED BY ADRIAN STIRRUP, INTERIM DIRECTOR, AUSTIN PUBLIC HEALTH.

AND WE'LL HEAR FROM MAYOR STEVE ADLER AND TRAVIS COUNTY JUDGE ANDY BROWN.

FINALLY, LAUREN HUFFMAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE GREATER AUSTIN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AFTERWARD.

WE'LL OPEN IT UP TO OUR POOL REPORTER WHO WILL ASK QUESTIONS ON BEHALF OF THE MEDIA.

LET'S BEGIN WITH DR.

WACHS.

GOOD MORNING, EVERYONE.

WE'RE HERE TODAY.

UNFORTUNATELY, TO ANNOUNCE THAT WE ARE REENTERING STAGE FIVE OF OUR RISKS GUIDELINES, WE HAVEN'T WITNESSED THE BEHAVIOR CHANGES NECESSARY TO CONTAIN ALL THE CURRENT SPIKE AND MANY PEOPLE WHO ARE EXPERIENCING ASYMPTOMATIC, MILD DISEASE.

BUT WITH THIS RAPID SPREAD OF OMNICON, WHICH WE'LL CONTINUE TO FIND THE VULNERABLE, WE HAVE, UH, BEEN SEEING MORE STRESS IN OUR HEALTHCARE SYSTEM AND IT'S IMPACTING OUR COMMUNITIES TO INFRASTRUCTURE WITHOUT ACTION.

OUR COMMUNITIES STAND TO LOSE MORE THAN THEY ALREADY HAVE.

UH, WORKFORCES ARE SHORT-STAFFED AND HOSPITALS HAVE BEEN STRESSED BY STAFF ABSENCES AND STAFFING SHORTAGES.

AS A RESULT DUE TO OMNICON, THERE WILL COME A POINT WHEN SCHOOLS AND BUSINESSES AND COMMUNITY CENTERS WON'T BE ABLE TO OPEN THEIR DOORS.

IF WE DON'T DO SOMETHING, WE'VE ALREADY SEEN THIS NATIONALLY WITH AIRLINES HAVING TO CANCEL FLIGHTS.

SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR US? THE PLACES WHERE WE GO FOR CARE WILL BE SHORT-STAFFED THE PLACES WHERE WE GO TO EAT.

WE'LL BE SURE IT STUFF.

AND THE PLACES WHERE WE GO TO BUY GOODS AND SERVICES WILL BE SHORT-STAFFED.

IF WE DON'T DO SOMETHING OUR WAY OF LIFE IS IN DANGER.

WE KNOW OUR MACRON IS FAR MORE TRANSMISSIBLE THAN THE VARIANTS THAT HAVE COME BEFORE IT SELENA STACK.

OUR STAGE FIVE GUIDANCE IS FOR THOSE WHO ARE FULLY VACCINATED AND HAVE RECEIVED THERAPIST, OR IF THEY'RE ELIGIBLE SHOULD TAKE PART IN DAY TO DAY ACTIVITIES WHILE WEARING MASK AND TAKING PRECAUTIONS.

THOSE WHO AREN'T FULLY VACCINATED, UM, SHOULD BE AVOIDING GATHERINGS WITH OTHERS AND TRAVEL AND CHOOSE CURBSIDE.

TAKE OUT AN OUTDOOR OPTIONS FOR DINING AND SHOPPING.

I KNOW EVERYONE IS TIRED.

WE ARE ALL TIRED, BUT AMONG THOSE OF US WHO HAVE NOT BEEN ACTING AS THOUGH WE WERE IN STAGE FIVE AND HAVE BEEN TAKING THOSE MEASURES THAT THEY WOULD NORMALLY DO IN STAGE ONE OR TWO, I'M REACHING OUT TO TIC OLAY AND ASKING THAT YOU TAKE HE TO THE STAGE FIVE GUIDANCE.

ARE YOU TEAM MODELING PROJECTIONS SHOW THAT IF WE DO WHAT IS NECESSARY TO ADHERE TO THE STAGE FIVE GUIDELINES, THERE'S HOPE TO KEEP OUR SCHOOLS, CHILDCARE CENTERS AND BUSINESSES OPEN.

WE NEED EVERYONE TO FOLLOW A STAGE FIVE GUIDELINES WE CAN, RIGHT THE SHIP.

AND WITH THAT, I WILL TURN THIS OVER TO DIRECTOR STIR GOOD MORNING.

THANK YOU.

DR.

WACHS HAD AWESOME PUBLIC HEALTH.

OUR MISSION CAN BE BOILED DOWN INTO THREE FEEDS, PROTECT, PROMOTE, PREVENT.

AND RIGHT NOW OUR PRIMARY MISSION IS TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF COVID-19.

EVERY DAY, OUR STAFF IS WORKING IN PARTNERSHIP WITH COMMUNITY TO MAKE SURE THAT OUR, YOU HAVE THE INFORMATION AND RESOURCES NEEDED TO MAKE GOOD DECISIONS FOR YOURSELF RIGHT NOW, OUR COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION RATE IS HIGHER THAN WE EVER IMAGINED.

IT WOULD BE 1067.

I THINK BACK TO A QUIETER TIME WHEN THOSE NUMBERS WERE IN THE, IN THE 50 RANGE.

AND SO, YOU KNOW, THE CHALLENGE BEFORE US IS DAUNTING, BUT I'M NOT WORRIED BECAUSE AS A COMMUNITY, WE ARE PREPARED.

WE KNOW WHAT TO DO.

WE'VE BEEN HERE BEFORE.

SO RIGHT NOW WE NEED EVERYONE TO REDOUBLE THEIR COMMITMENT TO WEARING MASKS.

EVEN IF YOU'VE BEEN VACCINATED, EVEN IF YOU'VE BEEN BOOSTED.

AND IF YOU HAVEN'T HAD THE OPPORTUNITY

[00:05:01]

TO DO EITHER YET, IT'S MORE IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO MASK AS WELL.

WE NEED YOUR HELP TO CONTINUE TO STOP.

THE SPREAD MASKING UP HELPS OUR DOCTORS, OUR NURSES, AND ALL THE MEDICAL PERSONNEL WORKING TIRELESSLY IN OUR HOSPITAL SYSTEM.

THEY NEED YOUR HELP DO IT FOR YOURSELF.

DO IT FOR OTHERS.

WE KEEP OUR HOMES HEALTHY AND OUR BUSINESSES OPEN.

WHEN WE FOLLOW GOOD PRACTICES AS A BUSINESS, IF YOU NEED INFORMATION, GUIDANCE, OR RESOURCES TO KEEP YOUR WORKPLACE HEALTHY, PLEASE CHECK OUT ATX RECOVERS.COM.

WE WANT TO KEEP OUR BUSINESSES OPEN IN OUR ECONOMY.

MOVING.

WE HAVE ALL OF THE TOOLS AVAILABLE FOR THIS FIGHT.

APH CONTINUES TO OPERATE TESTING AND VACCINE CLINICS, AND WE ALLOW WALK-UPS, HERE'S NO COST.

THERE'S NO REGISTRATION REQUIRED.

SEVERAL OF OUR LOCATIONS OFFER ALL THREE VACCINES AND BOOSTERS AS WELL AS THE PEDIATRIC VACCINE.

AND IN ADDITION TO THOSE STATIC LOCATIONS, WE WILL CONTINUE TO HAVE POP UP CLINICS IN THOSE ZIP CODES THAT HAVE YET TO REACH THAT CRUCIAL 77, 70% TARGET THAT WE SET LONG AGO.

LET'S TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE TOOLS, RESOURCES, AND KNOWLEDGE AVAILABLE TO US TO PROTECT OUR COMMUNITY.

AND WITH THAT, I PASS IT ON TO MARIANNE.

UH, WE MAY HAVE SWITCHED UP THE ORDER THERE AND THEN PASS IT TO MERIT.

I'D LEARNED A SECOND.

UH, BUT THANKS DIRECTOR, STIRRUP AND DR.

WACHS, UH, FOR ALL OF YOUR HARD WORK, THANKS FOR EVERYTHING THAT YOU'VE DONE TO HELP KEEP OUR COMMUNITY SAFE, UH, UP TILL NOW, I'M GOING TO ASK YOU OUR COMMUNITY TO HELP KEEP SCHOOLS OPEN, HELP, KEEP BUSINESSES OPEN AND HELP.

KEEP OUR WORKERS SAFE.

PLEASE WEAR A MASK, GET VACCINATED AND GET BOOSTED.

THOSE THREE THINGS ARE CRITICAL.

WEAR A MASK, GET VACCINATED AND GET BOOSTED.

ENCOURAGE YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY TO DO THE SAME.

EVEN IF THEY HAVE HAD COVID THEY STILL NEED TO DO THOSE THREE THINGS.

THIS WILL HELP KEEP KIDS SAFELY IN SCHOOLS, KEEP OUR BUSINESSES OPEN AND LET FAMILIES RETURN HOME SAFELY EACH NIGHT AFTER WORK.

NOBODY, NONE OF US WANTED TO START 2022 WITH A SURGE IN A NEW COVID VARIANT.

BUT HERE WE ARE.

I REMAIN HOPEFUL THOUGH.

AND I BELIEVE IN TRAVIS COUNTY AND THE CITY OF AUSTIN AND OUR COLLECTIVE POWER TO OVERCOME THIS YESTERDAY, I DROPPED OFF MY FIRST GRADER HATTIE FOR HER FIRST DAY OF IN-PERSON SCHOOL, UH, IN, IN FIRST GRADE.

AND BY THE TIME I HAD PICKED HER UP FROM SCHOOL, WE WERE ALREADY DISCUSSING THE COMMUNITY CONDITIONS THAT WOULD LEAD TO TODAY'S MOVE TO STAGE FIVE.

THAT WAS TOUGH NEWS TO HEAR.

I KNOW THAT MY FAMILY IS DOING OUR PART TO PROTECT THE PEOPLE THAT WE LOVE AND OUR COMMUNITY, ESPECIALLY PROTECTING OUR TEACHERS, OUR SCHOOL WORKERS AND OUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS.

WE WEAR OUR MASKS TO SCHOOL AT WORK AND IN PUBLIC AND WE'RE VACCINATED AND BOOSTED.

AND I'M ASKING YOU TO DO THE SAME TODAY.

THE MANDATES FOR MASK WEARING THAT WE HAVE FOR PEOPLE IN SCHOOLS ARE STILL ENFORCED SOME SCHOOL.

SOME FOLKS WERE GETTING ACCUSTOMED TO NOT HAVING TO WEAR A MASK, BUT OUR HEALTH EXPERTS, THOSE HERE ON THE, ON THE PRESS CONFERENCE TODAY, AND THOSE NATIONALLY ARE TELLING US THAT WE NEED TO MASK UP AGAIN AND THAT WE NEED TO DO SO TO KEEP OUR SCHOOLS OPEN AND KEEP FAMILIES SAFE.

OUR HEALTH EXPERTS TELL US THAT VACCINES AND BOOSTERS MAY NOT ENSURE THAT WE DON'T GET SICK AT ALL, BUT THEY WILL ENSURE THAT WE DON'T END UP IN THE HOSPITAL WITH SEVERE CONDITIONS OR DEATH.

AND THE LENGTH OF COVID-19 WILL BE REDUCED.

UH, SHOULD YOU GET IT IF YOU'RE VACCINATED AND BOOSTED, EACH OF THOSE THINGS FROM VAST MASKING TO VACCINES ARE GOING TO HELP US KEEP SCHOOLS, OPEN BUSINESSES, OPEN RELIEVE OUR HOSPITAL WORKERS AND ALLOW EACH OF US TO GET BACK TO WHAT MATTERS MOST OUR FAMILY, OUR FRIENDS AND THE PEOPLE WE LOVE.

WE'VE BEEN HERE BEFORE AND TRAVIS COUNTY AND AUSTIN STOOD UP AND WE'RE HERE AGAIN.

AND I BELIEVE IN US AND I KNOW WE CAN DO IT AGAIN.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

AND I'LL PASS IT ON TO MARE ADLER, JUDGE BROWN.

THANK YOU.

WE ARE, UH, TRULY FORTUNATE IN OUR REGION TO HAVE SUCH A GREAT PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN THE CITY AND THE COUNTY.

UH, SO THANK YOU AND THANK YOU TO THE, TO THE COUNTY STAFF, UH, AND TO, INTO OUR OWN CITY STAFF, YOU KNOW, EVERYBODY ALL AROUND US, I AM SURE YOU ARE SEEING THE SAME THING, UH, UH, THAT I'M SEEING.

UH, WE ARE SEEING MORE AND MORE PEOPLE AROUND US GETTING THIS OMICRON VARIANT.

UH, WE KNOW THAT THE INFECTIVITY AND THE NUMBER OF INFECTIONS, UH, HAS, HAS DRAMATICALLY INCREASED.

IT IS NOW MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER

[00:10:01]

FOR EVERYONE TO MASK EVERYWHERE.

IT IS OUR BEST CHANCE TO, TO KEEP OUR HOSPITALS STAFFED AND OUR BUSINESSES OPEN WITH, WITH HEALTHY EMPLOYEES.

SO HOW MANY OF US HAVE HAD TO WAVE IN LONG LINES AT ALL DIFFERENT KINDS OF BUSINESSES, RESTAURANTS, RETAIL, OTHER SERVICE SECTORS, BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T HAVE ENOUGH STAFF.

WE'RE SEEING THAT MORE AND MORE.

HOW MANY OF US HAVE, HAVE, HAVE, HAVE HEARD THE STORIES, READ THE ARTICLES ABOUT OUR HOSPITAL SYSTEM IS UNDERSTAFFED AND STRETCHED THIN, UH, HEALTHCARE EMPLOYEES ABSOLUTELY EXHAUSTED.

IF WE DON'T TAKE ACTION NOW TO STOP THE SPREAD TO, TO, TO, TO FLATTEN OUT THE SPIKE, UH, TO KEEP OURSELVES IN EACH OTHER HEALTHY, UH, THEN WE COULD SEE A GREATER AND EVEN GREATER IMPACT ON STAFFING LEVELS IN ALL INDUSTRIES, UH, ESPECIALLY IN OUR HOSPITALS THAT WE'VE BEEN HERE BEFORE, WE, WE KNOW WHAT WORKS AND WE KNOW WHAT TO DO.

I'M ALSO AWARE THAT WE ARE ALL TIRED AND WE WANT TO BE DONE WITH THIS VIRUS.

UH, BUT THIS VIRUS, AS WE ALL HAVE BEEN SAYING IS NOT DONE WITH US.

SO WE REALLY NEED EACH OF YOU, UH, TO BE EVEN MORE VIGILANT, TO TAKE EVEN MORE VIGILANT ACTION, TO PROTECT OUR COMMUNITY, OUR WORKFORCE IN OUR ECONOMY, THE MORE, THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE THAT GET THIS VIRUS, THE GREATER, THE REACH OF THE INFECTION, THE GREATER WILL BE THE NUMBER OF HOSPITAL WORKERS THAT ARE OUT SICK STORE CLERKS WHO WERE OUT SICK POLICE, FIRE, EMS, FIRST RESPONDERS THAT WILL BE OUT SICK.

THE GREATER, THE CHANCES THAT FACILITIES AND SERVICES AND BUSINESSES ARE GOING TO BE IMPACTED.

WE HAVEN'T GOT TO SLOW THE TRANSMISSION OF THIS VIRUS.

WE NEED TO FLATTEN OUT THIS SPIKE TO KEEP AUSTIN OPEN, TO KEEP OUR WORKFORCE HEALTHY AND WORKING.

IT'S CRITICAL TO MASK, TO GET VACCINATED, TO GET BOOSTED RIGHT NOW, PLEASE, ESPECIALLY TO WEAR MASKS WHENEVER YOU'RE OUT IN PUBLIC INDOORS AND OUTDOORS.

EVERY ADDITIONAL LAYER OF PROTECTION WE TAKE FOR OURSELVES GOES A LONG WAY IN HELPING OUR BUSINESS COMMUNITY OR HOSPITAL SYSTEM IN ALL.

AT LAST, I WOULD NOTE PARANTHETICALLY THAT THE CITY PROVIDES A, A WEALTH OF RESOURCES AND TIPS FOR BUSINESSES TO HELP RECOVER AND MAINTAIN A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT, AND TO LEARN MORE.

I URGE EVERYBODY TO GO TO ATX RECOVERS.COM, THAT'S T X RECOVERS.COM NEIGHBORS.

WE ARE IN A NEW STAGE OF THIS VIRUS THAT PRESENTS NEW CHALLENGES AND ARE REQUIRES A LITTLE BIT MORE DILIGENCE FOR JUST A LITTLE BIT LONGER.

AND WITH THAT, I'LL TURN IT OVER NOW TO LAURA HUFFMAN.

SHE IS THE PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE AUSTIN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, SUCH A, UH, AN INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT PARTNER, UH, IN HELPING TO KEEP OUR CITY AND REGION STRONG.

ALL RIGHT, THANK YOU, MAYOR.

AND THANK YOU, JUDGE BROWN.

UH, ALSO JUST A MOMENT OF GRATITUDE FOR YOU, DIRECTOR STIRRUP AND DR.

WALTZ, AND FOR ALL THAT YOU'RE DOING FOR OUR COMMUNITY.

UM, LOOK, WE'VE ALL THOUGHT IT, THE LAST TWO YEARS HAVE BEEN CHALLENGING.

MOST OF US HAVE SAID IT IT'S ALSO BEEN EXHAUSTING.

AND ONE OF THE THINGS I WANT TO DO IS JUST EXPRESS MY APPRECIATION TO THIS COMMUNITY FOR BEING SO PATIENT AND, AND LEANING INTO MAKING SURE THAT WE ARE AS HEALTHY AS POSSIBLE AS A COMMUNITY.

UM, WE KNOW THAT THE PEOPLE OF BOSTON ARE HARDWORKING AND RESILIENT.

IT'S REFLECTED EVERYWHERE.

IT'S REFLECTED IN OUR, IN OUR TALENT POOL.

IT'S REFLECTED IN OUR ECONOMY AND IN OUR LOCAL BUSINESSES.

SO I'M CONFIDENT THAT AS WE ASK OUR COMMUNITY TO COME TOGETHER FOR THIS COMMON GOAL, UH, THE PEOPLE OF BOSTON ARE GONNA DO WHAT IT TAKES FOR MANY OF OUR BUSINESSES.

EMPLOYEES ARE CONSIDERED PART OF A FAMILY AND CUSTOMERS ARE ALSO, THESE ARE OUR FAVORITE RESTAURANTS OR FAVORITE PLACES TO SHOP.

THESE ARE THE PLACES WHERE WE WORK.

AND AT THE CHAMBER WE SEEN FIRSTHAND THAT BUSINESS OWNERS HAVE BEEN STRUGGLING TO KEEP THEIR DOORS OPEN AND THEY WANT TO STAY OPEN.

THEY WANT TO STAY OPEN FOR THEIR EMPLOYEES, AND THEY WANT TO STAY OPEN TO SERVE THIS COMMUNITY.

WE OWE IT TO OURSELVES AND TO EACH OTHER, TO KEEP OUR LOVED ONES IN OUR COMMUNITY SAY, AND THE BEST WAY TO DO THIS, IT'D BE, AS YOU'VE HEARD FROM OUR PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICIALS IS TO WEAR A MASK.

THEY GET BACKS, UNAIDED, AND GET BOOSTED.

ALL OF US CAN CONTRIBUTE TO THE HEALTH OF THIS COMMUNITY.

WE STARTED A

[00:15:01]

CAMPAIGN AT THE BEGINNING OF COVID TO BE A CITY OF US.

IT'S A CHANCE FOR US TO COME TOGETHER AS AUSTINITES.

AND WE REALLY DO BELIEVE THAT A MASK ON EACH OF US WILL BE A WIN FOR ALL OF US.

AND I BELIEVE WITH THAT, WE'RE GOING TO OPEN IT UP FOR QUESTIONS, CORRECT? WE ARE GOING TO GO TO OUR POOL REPORTER, BETTY CROSS FROM CBS.

AUSTIN IS GOING TO ASK QUESTIONS ON BEHALF OF NEWS OUTLETS.

WE ARE GOING TO TRY TO GET TO AS MANY QUESTIONS AS POSSIBLE BEFORE 1130.

IF YOUR QUESTIONS ARE NOT ANSWERED YOU, OF COURSE MAY SEND THEM TO APH MEDIA AT AUSTIN, TEXAS.GOV.

GOOD MORNING, EVERYONE I'LL GET RIGHT TO IT.

THE FIRST QUESTION IS FROM ME AND IT'S TRAVIS COUNTY'S POSITIVITY RIGHT NOW STANDS AT 29.3%.

DO YOU THINK THAT NUMBER ACCURATELY REFLECTS THE PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE TESTING POSITIVE SINCE AT-HOME TEST RESULTS ARE NOT INCLUDED? GOOD QUESTION THAT A WAY, UM, KNOW THAT THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE IN THE COMMUNITY WHO ARE DOING AT HOME TESTS OF THAT.

THE NUMBERS THAT WE'RE SEEING ARE AN UNDER REPRESENTATION OF WHAT THE DISEASE BURDEN IS IN OUR COMMUNITY.

WE ESTIMATE THAT THERE MAY BE THREE TO 4% OF THOSE IN OUR COMMUNITY WHO ARE SICK AT THIS POINT.

SO, UM, TO BREAK THAT DOWN FOR PRACTICAL PURPOSES, IF YOU'RE IN A GROUP OF 25, PEOPLE SAY YOU COULD SAFELY ASSUME THAT THERE IS AT LEAST ONE PERSON IN THAT GROUP WHO'S BEEN AFFECTED BY, UM, KRONEN IS SICK.

AND SO WE KNOW THAT THE THERE'S A LOT OF, UM, VIRUS IN OUR COMMUNITY AND IT'S SPREADING FAST.

THE NEXT QUESTION IS FROM THE STATESMAN DOES MOVING TO STAGE FIVE, MEAN CANCELLATIONS OF MAJOR EVENTS OR CITY EVENTS.

WE ARE NOT PLANNING TO, UH, CANCEL ANYTHING AT THIS POINT.

WE ARE GOING TO BE LOOKING AT THE THINGS THAT ARE GOING ON IN OUR COMMUNITY AND HELPING TO MAKE SURE THAT THOSE EVENTS ARE BEING CONDUCTED IN THE SAFEST.

AND, UM, THE WAYS THAT WE KNOW WE'RE GOING TO PROTECT OUR COMMUNITY FROM FURTHER SPREAD OF THE DISEASE.

CAN I FOLLOW UP ON THAT? JUST IN THIS, JUST IN THE SENSE OF OMICRON IS SO DIFFERENT THAN DELTA, AND I KNOW THAT LIKE DURING ACL AND SOME OF THE OTHER EVENTS, IT DIDN'T SPREAD AND WE DIDN'T SEE REALLY, ALMOST ANY IMPACT BECAUSE REALLY WASN'T AIRBORNE.

DO YOU FEEL LIKE THERE'S A DIFFERENCE NOW WITH THE OMICRON VARIANT AND HOW IT SHOULD BE HANDLED? ACTUALLY, THE VIRUS ITSELF IS SPREAD BY URSULA'S PARTICLES.

AND THIS ONE IS SHOWING TO BE SPREAD A LOT MORE BECAUSE IT'S, IT'S, THERE'S MORE VIRUS THAT'S, UM, IN THE AIRWAY THAT'S PRODUCED.

SO WE WERE ABLE TO MITIGATE OR STOP THE SPREAD AND, AND STOP THE NUMBER OF CASES, UH, FROM BEING HIGH, BY DOING WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT.

AND WHAT I JUST MENTIONED, WHICH IS PUTTING IN PLACE MITIGATION STRATEGIES, HAVING PEOPLE TEST BEFORE THEY COME, CAME TO THAT EVENT.

AND BEFORE THEY COME TO FUTURE EVENTS, UM, USING MASKS, UM, MAKING SURE THAT, UM, PEOPLE ARE GETTING VACCINATED BEFORE THEY GATHER IN LARGE GROUPS.

SO THOSE ARE STILL MITIGATION, MITIGATION STRATEGIES THAT ARE EFFECTIVE.

AND THOSE ARE THE TYPES OF THINGS THAT WERE EMPLOYED FOR PREVIOUS, UM, EVENTS THAT WE'VE HAD AND ONGOING EVENTS.

SO THOSE ARE THE THINGS THAT WE WILL CONTINUE TO DO TO KEEP OUR COMMUNITY SAFE.

THANK YOU.

THE NEXT QUESTION IS FROM KX, A N AP IS REPORTING THAT IN SOME PLACES, TWO THIRDS OF PEOPLE INCLUDED IN COVID-19 HOSPITAL NUMBERS ARE TESTING POSITIVE FOR THE VIRUS WHILE IN THE HOSPITAL FOR OTHER REASONS, IS THAT RATIO ACCURATE LOCALLY? HOW DOES THAT COMPARE TO PREVIOUS SEARCHES LOCALLY? WE'RE SAYING ABOUT 30 TO 40% OF THOSE WHO ARE IN HOSPITAL FOR OTHER THINGS ARE TESTING POSITIVE FOR COVID.

AND WE'RE LOOKING AT THAT DATA TO SEE HOW THAT'S GOING TO IMPACT THE CLINICAL COURSE OF THOSE INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE INITIALLY ADMITTED FOR OTHER REASONS.

UM, SO WE ARE SEEING MORE OF THAT PHENOMENON OF PEOPLE WHO ARE BEING ADMITTED FOR OTHER REASONS WHO ARE POSTING POSITIVE FOR COVID-19.

UM, AND WE'VE ALWAYS COUNTED THOSE IN OUR COUNTS OF HOSPITALIZED CASES.

THE NEXT QUESTION IS FROM KVU HOW MANY STAFFED ICU BEDS

[00:20:01]

ARE IN OUR AREA RIGHT NOW, CURRENTLY ON THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE HEALTH SERVICES WEBSITE, WE HAVE LISTED 37 ADULT ICU BEDS AVAILABLE AND 11 PEDIATRIC BEDS AVAILABLE, BUT THEY CLARE THAT THAT NUMBER IS A DYNAMIC NUMBER THAT CHANGES BECAUSE WE HAVE ADMISSIONS AND DISCHARGES THROUGHOUT THE DAY.

SO, UM, WE HAVE, WE KEEP, UH, SOMEONE IS ALWAYS MONITORING THAT AND MAKING DECISIONS, UM, ACCORDINGLY WHEN WE NEED TO HAVE PEOPLE ADMITTED TO THE HOSPITAL, UNIVISION ASKS THIS WEEK, DR.

WACHS STATED THAT OUT OF THE 640 DEATHS THAT WE HAD FROM COVID IN 20 21, 50 5% WERE HISPANICS AND THE MAJORITY WERE NOT VACCINATED.

WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO DIFFERENTLY TO TRY TO EDUCATE THE COMMUNITY INTO GETTING VACCINATED? UH, I'LL START W WHAT THE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION THEN, AND THEN AS DOC DIRECTOR OF STROKE TO, UM, ADD ON AS WELL, BUT WE'VE HAD AN ONGOING CAMPAIGN TO GO INTO THE COMMUNITY AND EDUCATE, ANSWER QUESTIONS AND DO THE THINGS THAT WE FELT WOULD HELP IN IMPROVE THE VACCINATION RATES IN OUR COMMUNITY.

UM, THERE'S STILL A LARGE GROUP OF INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE IMPACTED BY THE MISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN, BUT TO BE CLEAR, THIS VACCINE HAS BEEN DEPLOYED TO HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF INDIVIDUALS SAFELY.

AND THIS IS A VACCINE PREVENTABLE ILLNESS.

UM, IN THE CASE OF OWNER, CRA, AS WE'VE NOTED, THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO ARE EXPERIENCING MILD DISEASE BECAUSE WE'VE ALLOWED THIS VIRUS TO INFECT, UM, PEOPLE AND IT'S MUTATING.

AND IT'S IMPORTANT THAT WE REALIZE THAT EVEN THOUGH WE'RE GOING TO POSSIBLY GET A MILD DISEASE OR NOT A LOT OF, UM, WE'RE NOT GOING TO NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL OR, UM, HAVE ICU CARE.

BUT EVERY TIME WE LET THIS VIRUS INFECT SOMEBODY, WE'RE GIVING IT A CHANCE TO MUTATE AND CHANGE ITS CHARACTERISTICS AND BECOME MORE DANGEROUS.

SO IT'S IMPORTANT THAT WE PROTECT OURSELVES.

IT'S IMPORTANT THAT WE GET VACCINATED AND IT'S IMPORTANT THAT WE MASK SO THAT WE CAN STOP THE SPREAD OF THIS VIRUS IN OUR COMMUNITY.

THANK YOU, DR.

WALKS, AND JUST TO ADD ON TO THE POINT ABOUT THE DISPARITIES WITHIN OUR HISPANIC POPULATION, UM, AS WE'VE SAID, MANY TIMES COVID-19 HAS EXACERBATED THE DISPARITIES THAT HAVE EXISTED IN THOSE COMMUNITIES.

THERE'S A DIRECT CORRELATION WITH SOME OF THE THINGS WE SEE WITH RESPECT TO CHRONIC DISEASE AND ILLNESSES.

UM, SO THIS IS, THIS IS NOT A SPRINT.

THIS IS A MARATHON.

SO IT'S CONTINUING TO WORKING ACROSS, UM, THE COUNTY WITH OUR PARTNERS, MAKING SURE THAT OUR VACCINES ARE ACCESSIBLE IN TERMS OF GEOGRAPHY, UM, IN TERMS OF LANGUAGE, IN TERMS OF SERVICE DELIVERY, UM, USING THOSE GOOD PUBLIC HEALTH PRACTICES, LIKE COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKERS IN PLACES AND SPACES, UM, WHERE WE LIVE, WORK AND PLAY, CONTINUING TO WORK WITH OUR SCHOOL PARTNERS IN BUSINESSES, UM, AND HAVING AN INTENTIONAL FOCUS, UM, ON THE, ON THOSE COMMUNITIES, IN ZIP CODES THAT NEED EXTRA SUPPORT.

UM, AND THE SECOND PART OF THAT IS THAT WE WILL CONTINUE TO HEAR FROM OUR COMMUNITY WHAT'S WORKING, WHAT, WHAT WE NEED TO CONTINUE TO DO.

SO IT IS, IT'S A QUESTION OF NOT NECESSARILY DIFFERENT, BUT MORE OF, AND MORE INTENTIONAL FOCUS.

THE NEXT QUESTION IS FROM KUT, DR.

WACHS SAID THIS WEEK THAT HOSPITALS ARE SEEING MORE PEOPLE WHO'VE BEEN ADMITTED FOR A REASON OTHER THAN COVID WHO LATER TESTS POSITIVE.

DOES THIS MEAN THAT FEWER PATIENTS HOSPITALIZED WITH COVID ARE REQUIRING OXYGEN AND INTENSIVE CARE? AT THIS POINT, WE'RE STILL LOOKING AT THE DATA TO DETERMINE WHETHER WE ARE SEEING THAT TO BE TRUE.

UM, WE'VE HAD SUCH A RAPID RISE IN CASES, UM, THAT IT'S TOO EARLY TO DEFINITIVELY SAY THAT THAT WILL BE THE CASE, THAT THIS IS A, A DISEASE PROCESS THAT EVOLVES OVER TIME.

SO AS WE GET MORE DATA, WE'LL BE ABLE TO DEFINITIVELY SAY THAT, YES, THERE ARE LESS, UH, THERE'S LESS NEED FOR

[00:25:01]

HIGHER LEVELS OF CARE.

HEY, O P ASKS AFTER REVIEWING AISD GUIDELINES FOR THE RETURN TO THE CLASSROOMS, IT APPEARS THAT THEY ARE DEPENDING ON INDIVIDUAL DILIGENCE AND HONESTY.

IS THIS AN ACCORDANCE WITH APH STAGE FIVE ADVICE? COULD YOU REPEAT THAT QUESTION FOR ME, BUDDY? SURE.

AFTER REVIEWING AISD GUIDELINES FOR THE RETURN TO THE CLASSROOM, IT APPEARS THAT THEY'RE DEPENDING ON INDIVIDUAL DILIGENCE AND HONESTY, DO YOU THINK THAT'S AN ACCORDANCE WITH MOVING TO YOUR STAGE FIVE RECOMMENDATIONS? OUR STAGE FIVE RECOMMENDATIONS ARE JUST THAT, AND WE ARE RELYING ON OUR COMMUNITY TO COME OUT, UM, AND BE IN PUBLIC WEARING MASKS IN ALL SITUATIONS.

UM, AND SO THAT IS, THAT IS THE CALL TO ACTION HERE.

WE'RE ASKING OUR COMMUNITY TO MASK AND ALL PUBLIC SITUATIONS, INDOORS, OUTDOORS, TRAVEL, UM, SHOPPING DINING.

AND WE'RE ASKING THOSE WHO ARE AT HIGH RISK, THOSE RUN VACCINATED PARTIALLY VACCINATED, OR NEED BOOSTERS OR THOSE WHO ARE MEDICALLY AT RISK TO TAKE THOSE PRECAUTIONS OF AVOIDING CROWDS AVOIDING ON ESSENTIAL TRAVEL, AVOIDING, UM, GOING INTO INDOOR DINING AREAS SO THAT THEY CAN PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM GETTING THIS, THIS DISEASE.

BUT I'D LIKE TO JUMP IN ON THAT A LITTLE BIT, UH, IN RELATION TO AISD.

I JUST WANT TO SAY THAT THEY'VE BEEN, UH, A REAL LEADER THROUGHOUT THIS WHOLE EFFORT IN GETTING, MAKING SURE THAT MASKS ARE ENFORCED AND ACTUALLY WORN IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS THAT THEY RUN HERE IN AUSTIN AS HAS DEL VALLEY ISD AND MANY OTHERS.

AND I'VE SEEN, UH, JUST TODAY THAT MY OWN EXPERIENCE WITH MY DAUGHTER, WHO'S IN AISD SCHOOL, AS WELL AS DR.

ELLIS HOLIDAY'S MESSAGING TO THE COMMUNITY, THAT THEY, UM, CONTINUE TO FOLLOW APH GUIDELINES AND SOMETIMES EVEN DO MORE THAN THAT.

THEY'VE AND THEY'VE BEEN REALLY GREAT ON, ON REQUIRING MASKING AND OTHER THINGS.

THANK YOU, COMMUNITY IMPACT NOW ASKS AS HOSPITALIZATIONS RISE VENTILATOR, YOU SEEMS TO BE INCREASING SLOWER THAN PAST SURGES.

IS THAT A LAG OR AN INDICATION THAT THE OMICRON VARIANT MIGHT CAUSE LESS SEVERE ILLNESS? THE DATA THAT'S COMING IN FROM OTHER AREAS IS SHOWING THAT THOSE WHO ARE IMPACTED TO THE POINT THAT THEY HAVE SEVERE ENOUGH DISEASE TO REQUIRE HOSPITALIZATION FOR A COVID RELATED ILLNESS ARE, UM, HAVING AS SEVERE DISEASE COURSE OR, UH, CLINICAL COURSES WE'VE SEEN WITH OTHER VARIANTS SUCH AS DELTA.

BUT AGAIN, IT'S VERY EARLY IN THE, OUR SURGE AND WE ARE STILL COLLECTING THAT DATA TO SEE IF INDEED WE WILL HAVE LESS NEED FOR THOSE, UM, HIGHER LEVEL CARE RESOURCES.

THE NEXT QUESTION IS FROM FOX SEVEN, ARE THERE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PRIVATE BUSINESSES NOW THAT WE'VE MOVED TO STAGE FIVE, SHOULD THEY SCALE BACK ON CAPACITY OR MAKE OTHER CHANGES THAT MIGHT FACILITATE THE PROCESS? WE ARE ASKING OUR BUSINESS COMMUNITY TO REQUIRE OR RECOMMEND MASKING AS PEOPLE COME INTO THEIR ESTABLISHMENTS, WE'RE ASKING THEM TO, UM, HAVE THEIR STAFF MASK.

UM, WE'RE ASKING THAT WHEN PEOPLE GO TO THE BUSINESSES THAT THEY ARE CHOOSING CURBSIDE AND TAKEOUT OPTIONS WHEN THEY CAN, SO THAT WE CAN DECREASE THE AMOUNT OF INTERACTION IN INDOOR SPACES.

AND WE ARE ALSO ASKING FOR SOCIAL DISTANCING, SO THAT MAY REQUIRE SOME CHANGES IN CAPACITY IN OUR BUSINESS, PLACES AND SPACES.

THAT WAS THE END OF THE FIRST QUESTION FROM THE MEDIA.

NOW WE'RE MOVING ON TO THE SECOND QUESTION.

SO WE'RE BACK TO CBS AUSTIN.

DO YOU THINK THE OMICRON SURGE IS LIKELY TO EASE AT THE END OF JANUARY CONSIDERING WHAT HAPPENED IN SOUTH AFRICA OR COULD SCHOOLS REOPENING AND MAYBE A LACK OF MACS SCANNED IN THE COMMUNITY IMPACT THE TIMEFRAME, THE LENGTH AND BREADTH OF THIS SEARCH IS GOING TO BE

[00:30:01]

REALLY DEPENDENT UPON HOW OUR COMMUNITY RESPONDS.

IT IS IMPORTANT FOR US TO MASS GET VACCINATED, GET BOOSTED SO THAT WE CAN STOP THE SPREAD AND THERE, AND DECREASE THE LENGTH OF THIS AND TIME THAT WE'RE EXPERIENCING THE SURGE.

IT'LL ALSO, IT'LL ALSO, UM, DO WHAT WE NEED IT TO DO, WHICH IS DECREASE THE NUMBER OF CASES AND THE IMPACT ON OUR HOSPITAL SYSTEMS, BUSINESSES AND SCHOOLS.

SO YES, THE SCHOOLS REOPENING WILL HAVE AN IMPACT.

AND IT'S IMPORTANT THAT WE TAKE THOSE PRECAUTIONS THAT WE KNOW WILL WORK TO DECREASE OUR CASE NUMBERS.

THE STATESMAN ASKS, HOW LONG DO YOU EXPECT AUSTIN AND TRAVIS COUNTY TO REMAIN IN STAGE FIVE? I THINK THAT PROBABLY THE, THE THAT'S GOING TO BE UP TO THE COMMUNITY, UH, IN TERMS OF, UH, UH, WHETHER PEOPLE WILL STEP FORWARD AND, AND, AND HAVE MORE PEOPLE WEARING MASKS IN MORE PLACES.

I, IT'S KIND OF, KIND OF UP TO US AT THIS POINT, A LITTLE BIT OF A CRYSTAL BALL QUESTION, BUT I, I KNOW THAT'S WHAT A LOT OF PEOPLE WILL BE ASKING AS WELL.

SO I APPRECIATE THE STATESMAN'S QUESTION, UM, FROM KX ANNE, WHAT ISSUES ARE HOSPITALS FACING NOW THAT THEY MAY NOT HAVE IN PREVIOUS SURGES? THE ALMOND CONCERT IS DIFFERENT IN THAT WE ARE SEEING MORE STAFF UP SICK AND THAT'S IMPACTING OUR HOSPITALS SYSTEMS AND BUSINESSES AND SCHOOLS BECAUSE WE HAVE STAFF SHORTAGES KVU IS ASKING WHAT TO EFFORTS LOOK LIKE IN RECRUITING MORE STAFF.

I THINK THEY MUST BE TALKING ABOUT HOSPITAL STAFF.

THEY DON'T SAY THAT THERE, BUT THAT'S THE ONLY THING I CAN THINK THAT THEY'RE ASKING.

UH, WE HAVE REQUESTED AND RECEIVED A CONTRACT STAFF FROM THE STATE FOR WHICH WE'RE EXTREMELY GRATEFUL, AND THAT'S GOING TO HELP TO SOME EXTENT, BUT WE ARE HAVING LARGE NUMBERS OF STAFF WHO ARE OUT SICK.

AND SO THAT CONTINUED SPREAD OF, UM, CRON IS CONTINUING TO IMPACT US AND WILL CONTINUE TO DO SO UNTIL WE, AS A COMMUNITY, START TO INCREASE OUR EFFORTS TO MASK AND VACCINATE AND GET BOOSTED.

AND UNIVISION WANTS TO KNOW HOW MUCH OF AN OUTBREAK IN SCHOOLS WILL IT TAKE TO GET A RECOMMENDATION FROM HEALTH OFFICIALS TO GO BACK TO VIRTUAL CLASSES AS A, AS A PUBLIC HEALTH ENTITY ON HEALTH AUTHORITY, WE CONTINUED TO BE IN CONTACT WITH THE SCHOOLS AND WE ARE IN THE POSITION TO HELP ADVISE AND TO QUARANTINE SCHOOLS AS NEEDED.

UM, THE DECISIONS ON VIRTUAL LEARNING VERSUS IN-PERSON LEARNING ARE THINGS THAT RESIDE WITH THE SCHOOL'S ADMINISTRATION AND THE TEXAS EDUCATION AGENCY.

K O O P HAS AN INTERESTING QUESTION.

TALKING ABOUT ANTIGEN TESTING VERSUS PCR TESTING.

THEY ASK SINCE TEST RESULTS ARE CRITICAL FOR MAKING DECISIONS.

DOES APA RECOMMEND PCR TESTING OVER RAPID ANTIGEN TESTING RESULTS? WHEN SOMEONE HAS BEEN EXPOSED TO THE VIRUS WE ARE RECOMMENDING, UH, FOR SCREENING PURPOSES, UH, ANTIGEN TESTING EARLY ON IN THE COURSE OF THIS DISEASE, THAT IS A GREAT TOOL TO IDENTIFY THOSE WHO MAY BE SICK AND INFECTED WITH, WITH, UH, COVID 19.

UM, WE ALSO ARE RECOMMENDING, UH, CONFIRMATORY TESTING FOR THOSE WHO ARE SYMPTOMATIC AND MAY TEST NEGATIVE WITH THE ANTIGEN TEST EARLY ON.

AND FOR SURE IF SOMEONE IS SYMPTOMATIC AND THEY RECEIVE A NEGATIVE ANTIGEN TEST, THEY SHOULD STILL SELF ISOLATE, NOT GO OUT INTO PUBLIC, NOT GO TO WORK, NOT GO BACK TO SCHOOL UNTIL THERE'S, UM, ESTABLISHED THAT IT IS NEGATIVE WITH PCR TEST.

I'M GOING TO FOLLOW UP AGAIN, DR.

WACHS.

I'M SO

[00:35:01]

SORRY, BUT I THINK THERE IS CONFUSION IN THE PUBLIC ABOUT THAT ANTIGEN TEST.

IS IT RELIABLE? CAN THEY COUNT ON IT EARLY ON? IT MAY BE IN THE LATER STAGES OF THEIR, THEIR TIME WITH COVID TO GIVE THEM AN ACCURATE RESULT.

DO YOU FEEL LIKE IT'S RELIABLE, ESPECIALLY IN THE EARLY AND LATER STAGES OF HAVING COVID THE ANTIGEN TEST IS EFFECTIVE AND AN EFFECTIVE TOOL FOR US TO DIAGNOSE COVID-19, UM, AS THERE IS LESS, UM, VIRUS, UH, AVAILABLE, AND AS THE DISEASE PROGRESSES, THE PCR TEST CONTINUES TO TEST POSITIVE.

UM, AND SO WE KNOW THOSE PARAMETERS AND USE THAT INFORMATION TO GUIDE OUR TREATMENT, UM, AND CLINICAL CARE OF PATIENTS, THE GENERAL PUBLIC, THE ANTIGEN TEST IS AN EFFECTIVE TOOL FOR SCREENING AND IDENTIFYING CASES.

UM, AND AGAIN, IF THERE'S SYMPTOMS AND YOU HAVE A NEGATIVE ANTIGEN TEST, YOU SHOULD STAY HOME ISOLATE, DO NOT GO BACK TO WORK OR SCHOOL, UM, AND EITHER REPEAT THE ANTIGEN TEST, UM, AND, OR GET A PCR TEST, WHICH WILL DEFINITELY HELP TO CONFIRM WHETHER YOU ARE NEGATIVE OR POSITIVE.

THANK YOU.

I APPRECIATE IT.

COMMUNITY IMPACT NOW ASKS ARE THE MOST SEVERE CASES STILL CONCENTRATED AMONG THE UNVACCINATED AND PARTIALLY VACCINATED.

WE ARE SEEING CASES, UM, IN THE UNVACCINATED AND PARTIALLY VACCINATED, AND THOSE WHO ARE ELIGIBLE FOR A BOOSTER.

AND IN ALL OF THOSE SITUATIONS, THERE IS NOT THE PROTECTION OF THE ANTIBODIES THAT ARE DEVELOPED AS A RESULT OF HAVING RECEIVED YOUR VACCINATION.

IN THE CASE OF OMNICON.

HOWEVER, WE ARE SEEING MANY PEOPLE WHO ARE VACCINATED AND SOME WHO ARE BOOSTED, PARTICULARLY THOSE WHO ARE AT NETAPP HAVE MEDICAL CONDITIONS OR ARE OF ADVANCED AGE AND HAVE LESS IMMUNITY, UM, BUILT UP IN THOSE INSTANCES, HAVING BREAKTHROUGH CASES AND HAVING MILD DISEASE.

AND THAT IS BECAUSE WE'RE DEALING WITH A DIFFERENT FORM OF THIS VIRUS THAT IS ABLE TO DO THAT WITH OUR CURRENT VACCINES.

HAVING SAID THAT IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WE CONTINUE TO GET VACCINATED, TO PROTECT OURSELVES FROM GETTING SEVERE DISEASE, TO PROTECT US FROM HAVING TO GO TO BACK TO THE HALL, TO, INTO THE HOSPITAL AND TO PROTECT THOSE OF US WHO ARE VULNERABLE TO SEVERE DISEASE AND DEATH.

SO IT IS, IT IS STILL IMPORTANT TO GET VACCINATED, AND IT IS STILL IMPORTANT TO PROTECT OURSELVES FROM BEING BECOMING INFECTED, BECAUSE WE DO NOT WANT THIS VIRUS TO MUTATE AND CAUSE EVEN MORE SERIOUS VARIANTS, FUCK SEVEN HAS OUR LAST QUESTION THIS MORNING, HOW SEVERE IS OMICRON FOR CHILDREN? WHAT ARE THE PEDIATRIC HOSPITAL ADMISSIONS LOOKING LIKE? WE'RE SEEING INCREASES IN THE NUMBER OF CASES IN OUR PEDIATRIC POPULATION.

AND IT'S ANTICIPATED THAT THOSE NUMBERS WILL CONTINUE TO INCREASE THE SCHOOL REOPENS, PARTICULARLY IN THOSE WHO ARE UNABLE TO BE VACCINATED OR HAVE NOT GONE TO THE VACCINATED YET.

UM, IN OUR HOSPITAL SYSTEMS, WE'RE SEEING CHILDREN AND ADMITTED.

AND FOR THE MOST PART, THOSE ARE CHILDREN THAT ARE UN-VACCINATED, THAT ARE REQUIRING HOSPITAL CARE.

THAT WAS THE LAST QUESTION FROM REPORTERS.

UM, UNLESS I COULD ASK A FEW MORE, I'M JUST KIDDING.

THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH.

WE APPRECIATE YOUR TIME, BUDDY.

AND WE DO THINK DR.

WACHS, APH, INTERIM DIRECTOR, ADRIAN STIRRUP, JUDGE, ANDY BROWN NEAR STEVE ADLER, LAURA HUFFMAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE GREATER AUSTIN CHAMBER AND OUR BULL REPORTER, BETTY CROSS FROM CVS, AUSTIN.

WE APPRECIATE EVERYONE JOINING US TODAY.

HAVE A GOOD ONE.



* This transcript was compiled from uncorrected Speech-to-Text.