AUSTIN (KXAN) — Compared to just a couple months ago, case numbers and hospitalizations in Austin-Travis County are trending down significantly.
During a COVID-19 media Q&A Friday, Janet Pichette, the chief epidemiologist for Austin Public Health, said both the 7-day rolling average of hospital admissions and average case numbers are trending down roughly 70% from what they were two months ago.
She also noted older populations aren’t accounting for as many deaths as they were earlier in the pandemic. The average age of death right now in Austin-Travis County is 58 years old. Of the last 30 deaths reported, two of those people were under the age of 30, “which is a huge difference,” Pichette said.
Pichette pointed to vaccination rates among older populations as the reason behind that shift in who’s dying because of COVID-19.
According to the Austin-Travis County COVID-19 dashboard, roughly 150 new cases of COVID-19 were reported Wednesday. The number of people on ventilators and in our ICUs went down from the day prior.
“We are in good space right now. We have good indicators showing we have declining numbers of cases,” Pichette said. “We would like to keep it that way.”
When will we be in Stage 2?
Austin-Travis County is currently in Stage 3 of its COVID-19 risk-based guidelines, but as hospitalizations continue to drop, we have neared the threshold for Stage 2.
The metric largely used to determine which risk-based guidelines we’re in is our 7-day moving average of hospital admissions. The threshold for Stage 2 would be when we hit 14. We’re currently at 16.
“We also look at vaccination rates and we look at staffing issues and so it’s a lot of consideration of all those aspects of the impact of this pandemic on our healthcare and our ability to take care of the community,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, the Austin-Travis County health authority.
Concerns about international surges of COVID-19
While the news that Austin-Travis County has dropped its numbers nearly to Stage 2 levels is promising, health leaders said Friday that they’re also monitoring what’s going on overseas.
In the UK, a subvariant is forcing case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths in the wrong direction. It’s something health leaders say they’re following closely and working to avoid here locally.
“We’re very concerned about what’s happening in the UK currently. They saw a decline and decrease in cases in early September they’re now seeing the reverse happening,” Pichette said.
Pichette urged anyone who might be traveling out of the country to take great precautions because “disease is just an airplane ride away.”
Boosters, shots for kids on the way
APH has said it will be revealing more information about booster shots Friday, but Walkes indicated it had been given guidance from the appropriate agencies and that they were prepared to start rolling out booster shots after the FDA authorized Moderna and J&J shots.
Unlike in February, when vaccine availability was limited and only APH was was giving shots, health leaders anticipate this go around will be much smoother.
CVS Health announced Friday it will start giving Moderna boosters at its more than 9,800 pharmacies starting Friday. Walgreens also announced it is distributing Moderna and J&J booster vaccines to approved individuals.
Health leaders at Friday’s briefing also said Pfizer shots for children ages 5-11 are likely “on the horizon.” They said they are working with partners to make sure that distribution will be swift.