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COVID-19

Austin remains in Stage 5 COVID-19 precautions as hospitals become 'oversaturated,' local officials warn

An ambulance leaving Dell Seton Medical Center in November 2020.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT

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Austin Public Health officials say community spread of COVID-19 remains very high, forcing schools to close and long wait times for emergency medical care.

Emergency departments across the Austin area are full and at times taking in more patients than they have room for, Douglas Havron, executive director for the Capital Area of Texas Regional Advisory Council, said during a news conference Friday.

He said on Wednesday, 281 people were admitted into a hospital but were waiting in hallways or emergency departments for a bed to open up.

“Thirty-six of those were ICU patients,” Havron said. “This is all part of our continued issue with hospital staffing and shortfalls within our health care system.”

He said anyone who is seeking emergency medical care should “be prepared for very long wait times.”

Hospitals are also dealing with the highest number of pediatric admissions, too.

Havron said at the height of the delta variant surge, 36 pediatric patients were admitted to a hospital with COVID. Today, that number is 46, he said.

Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin Travis-County's health authority, said it’s important for parents to vaccinate their children who are eligible for the vaccine — any child who is 5 years old or older.

“We are seeing more cases in schools, which is necessitating closure of certain school campuses," she said. "This is happening because we have staff and student absences.”

Walkes said, in general, absences due to COVID infections are continuing to affect various industries across Austin.

Janet Pichette, Austin Public Health’s chief epidemiologist, said the positivity rates among COVID tests in Austin is also climbing. She said for every 10 people that are testing for COVID right now, four of them are positive.

“If you are out and about in the community,” she said, “this is a reminder that we need to make sure that we are doing all those things that we have said to mitigate disease transmission.”

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