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Next Two Weeks Are 'Crucial For Our Community': Austin Public Health Again Urges People To Get Tested

An ambulance loading area outside St. David's Medical Center in Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez
An ambulance loading area outside St. David's Medical Center in Austin.

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Austin Public Health is asking anyone who gathered with people they don’t live with over the Thanksgiving holiday to get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible.

“The next week or two is going to be crucial for our community as we begin to see those individuals that may turn up positive because they may have been exposed to someone who was COVID-positive,” said Austin Public Health’s Chief Epidemiologist Janet Pichette during a news conference Wednesday.

She said that anyone who is waiting on results from a recent COVID-19 test should stay home until their test results come back. Pichette said she expects to see positive tests as a result of Thanksgiving appear in the local data by the end of this week.

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new coronavirus guidelines saying close contacts of people with COVID-19 should quarantine for 7 to 10 days, down from the original 14-day recommendation.

“As we get more data and as we learn more, we will see that this pandemic will evolve and there will be changes to guidance [with] the more information we have,” Pichette said.

Watch the news conference below:

APH’s interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said the change was something that had been expected for a few months.

“This protocol is basically what we’ve been doing for health care workers and first responders for months,” he said. “We know that as you go past a week to 10 days, the chances of developing COVID-19 start to go down dramatically.”

APH Director Stephanie Hayden said during an Austin City Council work session on Tuesday that some COVID-19 vaccines could be distributed in the Austin area by the end of December. Escott says the data clearly shows who should receive the first vaccines.

“The people at the absolute highest risk for COVID-19 … are those living in nursing homes,” Escott said. “So I believe we really need to focus our efforts early on … to those residents and those health care workers caring for individuals in those settings.”

Cassandra DeLeon, a disease prevention and health promotion assistant manager with APH, said APH has had to prepare for various vaccine distributions over the years and preparations for the COVID-19 vaccine distribution are underway.

“We’ve done exercises as recent as last month to prepare and plan for what all the logistical needs we need to put in place to roll out a vaccine,” DeLeon said.

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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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