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Austin Public Health Urges Community To Continue Precautions, Says COVID Is 'Not Done With Us Yet'

Matthew Ruiz gets vaccinated agains COVID-19 at a clinic on Saturday.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Matthew Ruiz gets vaccinated agains COVID-19 at a clinic on Saturday.

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About 7,000 first-dose vaccine appointments were scheduled through Austin Public Health's online portal Monday night, Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard said. More will open up Thursday.

All adults in Texas are now eligible to receive a vaccine, causing some local officials to be concerned that more vulnerable populations might be left out in the rush. APH said it is continuing to prioritize appointments for health care workers, people over 50, people with underlying health conditions, school staff and child care operators.

APH is encouraging people aged 80 and older who live in Travis County to call 311 to set up an appointment.

"It allows them a chance to set up their transportation if they need that, and then they're able to move in and out," Hayden-Howard said.

She said demographic data of people who've received a vaccine through CommunityCare and at the mass vaccination site at Circuit of the Americas will be merged with Austin Public Health's data "over the next couple of weeks."

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been decreasing and flattening in Austin and Travis County. Despite these positive trends, the city's interim medical director says people need to keep up their guards to protect themselves and their neighbors.

"We're not done with COVID yet. COVID is certainly not done with us yet," Dr. Mark Escott said. "If we hunker down and continue to [mask and distance] and not take too much risk, then ... summer looks much, much better."

On Friday, state District Judge Lora Livingston ruled Austin and Travis County could continue local mask mandates in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus here.

The area remains in stage 3 of Austin Public Health's risk-based guidelines, but the latest projections from the UT-Austin Modeling Consortium show numbers could be low enough by mid-April to move down in risk to stage 2.

Escott says it's still too early to know just how much impact spring break activities will have on local COVID numbers and expressed concern about Easter gatherings this weekend. He said April will be a critical month as more people get vaccinated.

"I know we all want to get back to normal and socialize and do other things we've done in previous years, but we just need another month or two," Escott said.

Austin Public Health's online COVID vaccine and testing portal will be down Tuesday night for maintenance.

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

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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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