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Austin Health Officials Are 'Cautiously Optimistic' COVID-19 Cases Will Continue To Decrease

Cars line up for CommUnityCare's drive-thru COVID-19 testing at Hancock Center.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Cars line up for CommUnityCare's drive-thru COVID-19 testing at Hancock Center.

Austin Public Health officials said Wednesday they believe the number of new coronavirus cases in the area is going down. This comes three weeks after Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order requiring people to wear face coverings in public to help slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority at Austin Public Health, said the number of cases and hospitalizations has plateaued recently and is now starting to decrease slightly. He said APH assessed a record 6,000 COVID-19 tests last week, and the city’s private testing partners have also increased their capacity to test for the virus.

“I think we’re doing a good job at testing, and I don’t think that’s contributing to the decrease in cases,” he said.

Janet Pichette, APH chief epidemiologist, said she's “cautiously optimistic” that the plateau will continue in a downward trend and said APH will be exploring data for all the factors that could be contributing to that decrease. 

Watch the news conference below:

A field hospital set up at the Austin Convention Center was supposed to open on Tuesday. But the opening was delayed in an effort to prioritize staffing needs at area hospitals. 

“Our hope is that we will never take any patients to the alternative care site,” Escott said. “That [site] serves as a buffer in case we overshoot, in case we don’t have enough capacity. There’s no indication right at the moment that hospitals will need to transfer patients to that facility.”

He said the biggest concern right now is the intensive care unit capacities in hospitals, as well as making sure that medical professionals are available to care for the patients in those units.

“Our hospitals are doing well. They’ve got space still at all levels of the hospital,” he said. “The personnel are strained. They’re tired. Our hope is that through the continued effort of the community, we can continue to decrease that burden.”

If there is a spike in COVID-19 cases as a result of the Fourth of July holiday, Escott expects the data to reflect that by the end of this week.

This post has been updated.

Got a tip? Email Jerry Quijano at Follow him on Twitter @jerryquijano.

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Jerry Quijano is the local All Things Considered anchor for KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @jerryquijano.
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