Tracking more COVID-19 cases among construction workers, their families

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Since Gov. Abbott deemed all construction essential during an order in late-March, construction workers have remained on the job through much of the pandemic.

Now, Austin Public Health and worker advocates say they’ve been watching “significant increase” this month in the spread of coronavirus among these workers and their families

APH has not released the number of clusters at construction sites citywide, telling us it’s still compiling the data. A cluster is considered three or more cases in a similar location.

The city does say it was actively monitoring clusters or possible clusters at “25 businesses or construction locations” during the first two weeks of May.

“We have business outreach teams to encourage and communicate with employers in the construction industry to encourage testing,” said an Austin Public Health spokesperson. “We are leaning on our partners in the community to keep their workforce healthy especially if they are considered essential businesses or choose to open for business.”

Central Health employees have been reaching out to points of contact for these construction companies.

CommUnityCare has tested nearly 4,000 people in the county and has seen the clusters first-hand.

“I can tell you that there was one construction company with whom we tested 48 individuals and we had 26 positives,” said Alan Schalscha, Chief Medical Officer of CommUnityCare Health Centers.

Efforts also include local donations of face masks for construction workers. On Monday morning, Austin Mayor Steve Adler led a group of city leaders to distribute 100,000 medical-grade masks to construction workers.

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