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Austin's Seeing Its Highest COVID Cases Since August. Most Of Those Cases Are Among Younger People.

Pedestrians wearing masks cross South Congress Avenue in July.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Pedestrians cross South Congress Avenue in July.

Active COVID-19 cases in Austin have hit their highest levels since August – a rise health officials have largely pinned on 20- to 39-year-olds.

In an announcement Thursday morning, Austin Public Health said more than half of its positive tests in the five-county Austin area were among folks within that age range. It urged people who may have gone to parties over the Halloween weekend to get tested.

APH said as of Wednesday there were 1,034 active COVID cases in the Austin area, the most since Aug. 15.

"These numbers indicate that those who recently participated in a gathering have had a higher risk of encountering someone infected with the virus," APH said. "We encourage everyone who was involved in gatherings outside of their household this weekend ... to get tested for COVID-19 this week."

People who are symptomatic or who believe they may have been exposed to the coronavirus can schedule tests at APH's website.

The callout comes ahead of expected gatherings around the holiday season, a prospect that's been a concern of APH's top doctor, Mark Escott.

Last week, UT Austin's COVID projections for the Austin area suggested a spike this month could be longer – and more deadly – than surges in both June and July.

“It took us a long time to recover from the first surge. And we can expect that this one – particularly if it’s worse than the first one - may take even longer," Escott said last week.

But just a day later, UT's modeling suggested a leveling off that could indicate a lower risk of a winter surge.

Escott and other health officials are urging Austinites to continue social distancing and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.

APH's announcement comes as cases of COVID-19 are surging across the state and nationally. Wednesday, the United States surpassed its single-day record for new coronavirus cases. Johns Hopkins University's COVID-19 tracker showed more than 102,000 cases were confirmed nationwide, breaking the previous record of single-day cases that was set Oct. 30.

In Texas, every major city has grappled with rising cases in recent weeks, though El Paso has seen the most drastic surge. The city saw 3,100 new cases Wednesday, tripling its single-day record. All told, there are nearly 22,000 active cases in the area. 

As of Thursday morning, 134 patients were in Austin-area hospitals for complications related to the coronavirus, according to the city's COVID-19 dashboard.

Got a tip? Email Andrew Weber at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.

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Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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