AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin will remain in Stage 4, according to Austin’s Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott.
Escott gave a briefing to Travis County Commissioners Tuesday. He says although Austin saw an aggressive decline in cases since mid July, that has changed.
A week ago, the decline plateaued, and now it’s shifted to a slight upward trend the past several days in regards to new cases, he says.
Hospital admissions and ICU capacity
Just four days ago, Escott said ICUs were at capacity and on surge protocols.
But as of Tuesday, Escott says area hospitals are reporting ICUs are out of “surge stance,” meaning there’s a normal ratio of nurses to patients.
While ICUs move out of surge protocols, public health leaders say Austin is staying in Stage 4.
Although the city is seeing less than 40 hospital admissions a day, which puts it in Stage 3 territory, Escott says they want to stay in the realm of Stage 3 for two weeks before officially downgrading to that level.
That could could be difficult, since Escott says new hospital admissions have begun to plateau when they were previously declining.
Trends among school-aged children
Positivity rates among ages 10 to 19 are increasing, according to Escott, and the city is also seeing increased hospitalizations in this age range.
Right now, that age group makes up about 6 to 6.5% of the cases in Travis County, Escott says.
Ideally, Escott says they’d like the city to be in Stage 2 by at least Sept. 8, when students are scheduled to start in-person classes.
Escott says Austin Public Health has seen a decrease in people signing up for drive-thru testing as well as a decrease in people attending neighborhood testing.
Escott says there are enough tests available, but Austin Public Health will likely change the requirements for testing in order to allow more people to qualify for it.
Austin Public Health is working with the county to get tens of thousands of masks ready for public distribution, Escott says. They’re currently formulating a roll out plan.
Enforcement of health orders in Travis County
Travis County Commissioners passed a resolution after Escott’s briefing to allow for the enforcement of local health orders in the county.
This measure has already been implemented in the City of Austin, but starting August 14 it will go into effect in unincorporated areas of the county.
This means anyone not following local health orders regarding COVID-19 can be fined up to $500 or face a civil suit, according to commissioners.
The Travis County Sheriff’s Office and Fire Marshal will have the authority to enforce the health orders, and commissioners plan to share the order with smaller cities in Travis County, so they can implement similar measures if they choose.