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Austin Health Officials Won't Relax COVID-19 Guidance This Month

A pilot drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination site at the Toney Burger Activity Center in South Austin on March 20.
Julia Reihs
Cars line up at at drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination site at the Toney Burger Activity Center in South Austin last month.

Numbers tracking the coronavirus pandemic in the Austin area have stopped improving and could worsen, new projections show.

The projections released Friday by UT's COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, show lines flattening in the weeks ahead and possibly rising. The consortium reports a 32% probability that the pandemic will worsen here and a reproduction number of .91. A rate above 1 would mean the pandemic is growing in severity.

"We're seeing plateauing of the projections for hospital admissions, ICU admissions and hospital utilization," Austin Public Health interim Medical Director Dr. Mark Escott said in a briefing. "And as of today, entering the stage 2 is off of the projections through the first week of May."

APH had earlier suggested restrictions could be eased as soon as the end of this month if new hospitalizations averaged fewer than 10 per day. But daily hospitalizations have remained closer to 20, the threshold for the current stage 3 level of risk.

Escott urged increased precautions to prevent the pandemic from getting worse.

"It means we have to work harder to continue those protections: the masking, the distancing, the hand hygiene, staying home when we're sick, getting tested, and isolating from other individuals when we have any of the symptoms of COVID-19," he said, "and we've got to work on getting more vaccines out."

APH is opening its vaccine availability to anyone 18 and older starting Monday and urging people at higher risk, including public-facing workers, to get an appointment.

Escott also announced some brighter news Friday: Since last month, hospital stays have been shorter and mortality rates have been lower. He credited vaccination efforts and the use of monoclonal antibody treatments, which help to reduce severity of the disease.

Trey Shaar is an All Things Considered producer, reporter and host. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @treyshaar.
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