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Austin Readies Response For Coronavirus Spread

Gabriel C. Pérez

Travis County and the City of Austin say they’re monitoring the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, and collaborating daily with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health officials.

Austin Public Health went so far as to call COVID-19 a "pandemic," which the World Health Organization has been reluctant to do as of Friday afternoon. 

The city agency says since there has yet to be a confirmed case of COVID-19 in Austin, it is in phase one of containing the virus. Agency officials say they receive manifests of travelers arriving from China as frequently as three times a day.

They are watching those individuals’ health under a Person Under Monitor (PUM) control order. They are also limiting their movement, as well as their contact with others.

Lauren Ancel Meyers, a mathematical epidemiologist who models the spread of disease at UT Austin, says that while containment strategies seem to be working, should a case arise in Austin, the strategy would shift to limiting COVID-19’s effects.

“In a mitigation phase, when you feel there are lot of people that could be exposed, at that point you really focus your efforts on minimizing the spread, minimizing the severe outcomes of the disease,” Meyers said.

She says following CDC and Austin Health’s recommendations will help limit COVID-19’s spread, as well as other respiratory illnesses that are already here, like a cold or flu.

Meanwhile, a joint statement from the Texas Conference of Urban Counties says the risk of COVID-19 remains relatively low at this time.

It went on to say, “There will always remain a possibility that we may not be able to prevent this virus from reaching our community.” The statement was co-signed by Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, as well as the five other most populous counties in the state: Bexar, El Paso, Dallas, Harris and Tarrant counties.

There are two new cases at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, which means there are eight confirmed cases of COVID-19 under quarantine there. Three more are awaiting confirmation. They were part of a group of 144 U.S. evacuees brought from a cruise ship originally quarantined in Tokyo. The two-week Lackland quarantine will lift Monday for most of the passengers.

Jimmy is the assistant program director, but still reports on business and sports every now and then. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @maasdinero.
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