Austin-Travis County could hit peak COVID-19 cases in coming weeks

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — We likely haven’t seen the peak in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Austin-Travis County for this wave, Austin Public Health leaders announced as they restarted their weekly question-and-answer sessions regarding the area’s COVID-19 response.

As of Friday morning, the Austin-Travis County dashboard showed the seven-day rolling average of new hospitalizations appeared to be slowly dropping. With Thursday’s data in the system, there were 79 new COVID-19 admissions that dropped the average to 77. At its highest point in the most recent Stage 5 designation, the moving average was at 84 on Aug. 11.

There were 741 new COVID-19 cases reported Thursday.

Though COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations appear to be leveling off slightly, Janet Pichette, APH’s chief epidemiologist said they have a backlog of cases they still need to process, and she anticipates schools restarting will keep case numbers, and subsequently hospitalizations, from declining.

“We may not see the actual effect of increase in cases for another week or so,” she said of schools restarting. Pichette said it will likely take several weeks to identify hot spots in schools.

As those case numbers and hospitalizations continue to rise, health experts are asking people to mask up, social distance, get vaccinated and seek out alternate treatments should you test positive for COVID-19, among other COVID-19 safety measures.

In Friday’s briefing, Dr. Desmar Walkes, the local health authority, said they are starting to see relief in hospitals in the form of additional staffing being brought in from outside of the state. She said an alternate care site is not being opened yet, because staff is needed in existing hospitals.

“The plan itself is ready to go,” Walkes said when asked for an update on the alternate care site.

Walkes also said staffing is helping area hospitals avoid mass critical care guidelines, which would be implemented if hospitals and ICUs were overrun with patients. Those guidelines would regulate who gets care.

“We will continue to monitor the situation with regards to the beds and staffing needs of our hospitals and as we get to a point where there is a shortage to the point where we need to make the change to implement those plans then those plans will be implemented,” she said. Walkes said as of right now, hospitals are able to operate at a standard level of care.

As in all briefings with health experts, they talked largely about the importance of the community getting vaccinated.

After announcing plans earlier this month, Austin Public Health launched an incentive pilot program where people can an extra $50 for groceries if they haven’t gotten their COVID-19 shot. The H-E-B gift card is for people who receive their first or second dose. People can get the gift card at an eligible APH location, and there are only 2,000 available.

Neighbors can call 311 for information about where to get the vaccine.

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