Austin Public Health Resumes COVID Testing And Vaccinations After Winter Storm Put Them On Pause
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Austin Public Health is resuming COVID-19 vaccinations and testing after the winter storm put operations on hold for more than a week. But the agency, whose staff itself was impacted by the weather that left thousands without power and water for days, warns that it will take time to get everything back to normal.
“It will require an immense amount of staff time, work, and effort to resume all of our operations to the full capacity and efficiency that we were seeing before the weather hit,” Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County’s interim health authority, said in a press release. “We appreciate the community’s understanding and patience as we work through any bumps along the way.”
The storm delayed about 3,300 vaccine appointments that had been scheduled last week. APH says it’s working to reschedule those appointments and asks those who had an appointment to keep checking their phone and email for updates.
The vaccine call center was impacted by the power outages, but APH says it’s getting the phone line back up and running so it can reach patients without internet access.
The agency says it will extend hours of its vaccination sites to try to get as many people vaccinated as possible. The agency currently has 7,000 first doses and 7,500 second doses left from the state’s Feb. 7 allocation. APH also said it has received 12,000 second doses from a Feb. 14 allocation.
"We have already provided 55,000 doses and were in the midst of scaling up operations for second doses when the winter storm hit," Cassandra DeLeon, chief administrative officer for APH’s Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division, said in a press release. “We lost eight days of operations, but we are fully dedicated to those who need their second doses and are scaling up resources as much as possible to provide all remaining vaccine this week.”
People still need an appointment to get their first and second dose of the vaccine.
APH’s COVID-19 testing sites will open back up with their normal schedules on Monday. People can schedule a test here. The sites at Ana Lark Center and Southeast Branch Library also accept some walk-ups.
“If you have been experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and were unable to get a test due to the weather conditions, continue to self-isolate for at least 10 days since symptom onset and at least 1 day following the resolution of fever and improvement of other symptoms,” APH advises.
Before the storm, APH had been testing about 10,000 people a week.
The agency had to also put COVID-19 data reporting on hold during the storm because of a power outage, so its dashboards didn’t get updated last week. Those efforts are getting underway again, but APH warns that since not a lot of testing could take place last week, the numbers reported in the coming days “may be skewed.”