AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Public Health officials said Friday almost 9,000 kids aged 12-15 are partially vaccinated against COVID-19.

Cassandra DeLeon, APH’s chief administrative officer for disease prevention and health promotion, said that’s encouraging considering the approved Pfizer vaccine has only been available for about a week.

“We really want to encourage parents and families and anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated, to get it,” she said. “It’s available in many locations.”

APH Interim Director Adrienne Sturrup called this week one of “milestones.” Together with Travis County officials, there have been 400,000 vaccine doses administered in the area and nearly half of the population eligible for vaccines has been fully vaccinated.

“We’re in a good place in the community in respect of managing COVID,” she said. “We will continue to work with our communities to reach out to those zip codes and areas where we’re still seeing disparaties. We’re on the right track toward getting to herd immunity.”

Mask mandate becomes a recommendation following Gov. Abbott’s order

Dr. Mark Escott, the interim health authority gave his last media briefing Friday before he moves into his full-time role as the city’s chief medical officer. He said that while he doesn’t agree with Abbott’s order prohibiting public health authorities, that’s not the thing to focus on.

“Now’s not the time for us to be in conflict. It’s time to focus on the message,” he said. “And the message is that unvaccinated people, or partially vaccinated people, need to wear a mask in public.”

Escott said he had revised the health authority rules just hours before Abbott announced his executive order to make mask mandates simply recommendations, so Escott had to change the local rules again and announced those changes Friday.

Escott said that with Abbott’s order, he’s afraid unvaccinated people will stay that way and could potentially “allow COVID to fester for longer.”

He said Travis County has less than half the death rate and transmission rate of any metropolitan area in Texas, and he said that’s because the community has been more diligent about masking and social distancing than anyone else.

He also said that 99.9% of people in Travis County who are fully vaccinated haven’t developed COVID-19, and it said that’s better than any of the best flu shots the area has had.

Escott acknowledged that Abbott’s decision in June to make masks mandatory was a “very unpopular thing to do for a Republican governor,” but Escott said he was “very grateful” for the governor’s decision.

End is near if community ‘continues to stay in the fight’

Escott said the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in Travis County is near, but only if people in the community commit to one last push to get vaccinated and continue to mask until then.

He said case fatality rate is as low as any city in the U.S., and the unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the U.S.

“Masking has worked,” he said. “We’ve found the right balance.”

He said it could take 2-4 weeks to “kill the snake” if people keep going with what has been working.

“We’re talking about a very quick progression to zero cases,” Escott said. “I hope people in the community continue to stay in the fight and be a model for the rest of the United States”