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Austin Public Health To Release Vaccine Appointments Two Days A Week

Austinites wait in line outside the Delco Activity Center for COVID-19 vaccines from Austin Public Health.
Julia Reihs
People wait in line outside the Delco Activity Center for COVID-19 vaccines from Austin Public Health.

Austin Public Health will release coronavirus vaccine appointments through its online portal only on Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning today.

“If things change and we get more vaccine, then of course we would release more appointments,” APH Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard told a joint session of Austin City Council members and Travis County commissioners Tuesday.

There have been more than half a million registrations for a vaccine through the APH portal. Hayden-Howard said this new policy was established in part so that people “don't need to check the website every day” for availability.

APH also released a vaccine eligibility flowchart Tuesday that highlights the groups that qualify for a vaccine from APH, including those over the age of 65 and those over the age of 50 who either have a medical condition or are in a community disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

The other eligible group is people between 18 and 49 who have a medical condition and are in a community disproportionately affected by the virus. APH did not specify exactly which communities are considered "disproportionately impacted," however.

APH is encouraging everyone to sign up in the portal, even if they do not currently qualify to receive a vaccine dose. The prioritization listed in the flowchart is stricter than the state's 1B designation, which qualifies people 65 and older and anyone 16 and older with an underlying condition that could lead to complications from COVID-19.

People who don't meet APH's current qualifications will be put on a waitlist. Hayden-Howard said there are about 180,000 people 50 or older with a medical condition waiting on an appointment.

Coronavirus cases and hospital admissions are still high in and around Austin, but the city’s interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott says it’s possible the area could come down from stage 5, the highest level of APH's risk-based guidelines, by the end of the month based on projections from the UT Austin Modeling Consortium.

The rolling average for daily new coronavirus hospitalizations is 68 as of Monday. Escott said once that number falls below 60, it would be safe to move down to stage 4.

“We’ve seen some significant drops in the past few days," he said. "My hope is that we will see that drop below 60 sooner than mid-February."

Central Texas businesses were allowed to raise their occupancy limits from 50% to 75% over the weekend after restrictions triggered by high COVID-19 hospitalizations expired. About 12% of beds in the Austin area are being used for COVID-19 patients, while that percentage in other metro areas in Texas remains above the 15% threshold.

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

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Corrected: February 2, 2021 at 5:31 PM CST
An Austin Public Health flowchart initially included in this story was removed due to an error regarding insurance status. APH clarified late Tuesday that people would be given appointments regardless of whether they have insurance.
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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