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COVID-19

Austin's COVID-19 Outlook Is Slowly Getting Better

VaccineLineAP_JR_1-14-21.jpg
Julia Reihs
/
KUT
Hundreds of Austinites wait in line outside the Delco Activity Center for COVID-19 vaccines from Austin Public Health on Jan. 14.

Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the Austin area are slowly decreasing. The city’s interim health authority says the change is happening because residents are reducing transmission by wearing masks and staying home as much as possible.

Dr. Mark Escott said the numbers are declining slowly, but nonetheless it’s a move in the right direction. The number of daily new cases peaked 10 days ago, and hospitalizations peaked more than two weeks ago.

“All the measures this week show significant improvements in our COVID-19 situation in Travis County,” Escott told a joint session of county commissioners and Austin City Council members Tuesday.

Austin Public Health did not see a surge in numbers as a result of New Year’s celebrations as had been expected. Escott said he believes part of that can be attributed to local officials taking steps to enforce a curfew.

“The first day of declining [hospital] admissions was exactly 10 days after the implementation of the curfew by the city and county,” Escott said. “That 10- to 14-day period is exactly when we’d expect to see impacts from policies on admissions to the hospital.”

APH Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard said improvements are being made to the online portal where people can sign up to check their vaccine eligibility. APH expects to deliver 12,000 more vaccine doses this week. Escott said until more vaccines are given FDA approval, doses will continue to trickle out to people slowly.

Hayden-Howard says APH continues to focus on vaccinating eligible 1A and 1B populations, including those working in close quarters with children. Hayden-Howard said she spoke with school superintendents on Monday and that APH will send a survey to child care providers to gauge how many who work in the field might be eligible for a vaccine.

“Because the children that they’re working with typically are not wearing a mask, they are in very close proximity to the children and that is an area of concern at this time,” Hayden-Howard said.

The alternative care site at the Austin Convention Center is now hosting 28 patients, and staffing capacity has been increased to serve a total of 50 patients. Escott said it’s possible the site could be used to care for patients from other parts of the state still experiencing a surge.

The monoclonal antibody infusion center in Southeast Austin has served more than 300 people since it opened at the beginning of January. Escott said the center can now serve about 90 people per day after the Texas Division of Emergency Management expanded capacity over the weekend.

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

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