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Health Officials Urge Austin-Travis County Residents To Keep Up Good Work Slowing COVID-19 Spread

Chairs are stacked at an empty day care center.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Chairs are stacked at an empty day care center.

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Austin and Travis County residents are doing a “great job” preventing the spread of the coronavirus in the area, Austin Public Health’s interim health authority said during a news conference Wednesday. 

Dr. Mark Escott said the area reached its goal of reducing the positivity rate to below 5% before schools started class. Despite positive COVID-19 data trends, he warns people have to resist the temptation to relax safe distancing and hygiene measures.    

“The biggest concern is keeping the vigilance going,” he said. “I think we’re all very concerned about ‘pandemic fatigue’ and folks just growing tired of masking and social distancing.”

The number of cases in the area has plateaued again, he said. The seven-day average of new COVID-19 hospitalizations has been stuck near 20 for about two weeks, keeping the city in stage 3 of its risk-based guidelines.

Escott said he has concerns about discussions around reopening bars and the upcoming Texas Longhorn football game at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday. UT Austin is limiting the stadium’s capacity to 25%, but that could still result in a gathering of more than 20,000 people. 

“Is it better than 50%, which was the original proposal? Absolutely, and I’ll say that I’m pleased that UT has dropped that number and banned tailgating,” Escott said. “But there’s still going to be risk there.”

Based on the current rate of transmission in the county, Escott said about 40 to 50 people could show up to the game infected with the virus. 

Sunday will mark six months since Austin Public Health reported the first positive case of COVID-19 in Travis County. As of Wednesday, the area has confirmed more than 27,000 cases, and 399 people have died from the disease. 

Escott said despite the positive progress, and with the holidays approaching, people will need to continue with safe measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

“The pressure to be more normal is going to increase,” he said. “Obviously our focus right now is on keeping our schools open and safe and keeping our business open and safe. We can do all those things if we stay vigilant.”

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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