AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin health leaders say COVID-19 case numbers are continuing to rise in Austin-Travis County. They anticipate as we see further impact of schools reopening on case numbers, hospitalizations will also see an increase for at least a few more weeks.

Dr. Desmar Walkes, the Austin-Travis County health authority, likened the delta variant to wildfire in a media Q&A Friday. The large majority of people who are seriously sick or dying from COVID-19 are people who are unvaccinated, she said.

“This situation continues to grow as we move through this surge. This delta variant is moving like wildfire through our city,” she said.

According to Austin-Travis County COVID-19 dashboard data, there were 71 new hospital admissions Thursday, bringing the 7-day rolling average down slightly to 78. The rolling average has bounced around the past few days, staying between 76-84 since its most recent peak of 84 on Aug. 11.

There were 600 new COVID-19 cases reported Thursday. Friday’s data will be put in the dashboard by late afternoon.

Even though those hospital intake numbers appear to have dipped, or leveled off slightly, Walkes doesn’t think we have seen the peak of this surge yet.

“We serve as the place to take care of patients that require ICU care for a number of surrounding counties, we have a lot of people that are waiting to be transferred into our system and they cannot be because we do not have beds at this point to accommodate them,” Walkes said.

ICU capacity largely depends on the number of staffed beds available. Walkes has talked for weeks about the shortage of staff in our local hospitals, and the need for more.

She confirmed again Friday that staff from out of state has been brought into area hospitals, but Walkes says we need more to meet the growing surge of cases. That staff has been requested through the state, APH says.

It comes as two Austin police officers died of COVID-19, the department announced. Senior Sgt. Steve Urias died Thursday and Senior Officer Randy Boyd died on Wednesday after battling the virus.

“We just stand with them and pray for them and we’ll give them whatever resources we need to help them through this,” Walkes said. Adrienne Sturrup, APH interim director, added that money in the 2021-22 city budget will likely go towards a vaccine incentive program for city employees. She said the program will be revealed in the next few months.

As always, health leaders are asking the community to get vaccinated as the best line of defense against serious illness or death from COVID-19.

You can find locations, sign up for a vaccine using APH’s website.