AUSTIN (KXAN) — We’re not seeing lines around the block at testing sites in downtown Austin right now, but the co-founder of Curative says the positivity rate they’re seeing in patients is higher than it was during the first three COVID-19 surges and is approaching omicron levels from December.
Pair that with the lowest testing numbers we’ve seen since July of last year, and Isaac Turner says its likely COVID-19 is spreading in our community right under our noses.
“We’ve been seeing high positivity since the middle of April, so we really believe there is a lot of people out there with COVID who just aren’t testing with a lab that is reporting to public health,” Isaac Turner with Curative said. He also notes that at-home testing likely plays a big role and that case numbers are underrepresented.
“A lot of that is due to the confidence, I think, people have that COVID is over but our positivity rate and our viral data suggest that there is a lot more COVID spread than people are really aware of,” Turner said.
On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention bumped the COVID-19 risk level in Travis and Hays counties to “medium.” The risk levels are low, medium and high and are determined based on three factors: the number of new cases in the past seven days, new hospital admissions in the past seven days, and the percent of staffed hospital beds being used by COVID-19 patients.
“We’re seeing steady increases in case totals and hospitalizations which is incredibly concerning,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “We need everyone to do their part, especially those who are at higher risk. Wear a mask inside when gathering with others. We know that this will help protect loved ones at risk for poor outcomes and our hospital system.”
The CDC has the following recommendations for people depending on which COVID-19 Community Level their county is in:
- Stay up-to-date with COVID vaccines
- Get tested if you have symptoms
- Same precautions as low risk and:
- Talk to your health care provider about whether you should wear a mask and take other precautions if you are at high risk for severe illness
- Same precautions as medium risk and:
- Wear a mask indoors in public
- Additional precautions may be needed for people at high risk for severe illness
“We all have mask fatigue, but wearing a mask is what’s necessary to keep COVID-19 in check,” said Austin Public Health Director Adrienne Sturrup. “Testing and getting vaccinated and boosted are also critical. Take a test and stay home even if you only feel slightly sick. Get up to date on your vaccines at your doctor’s office or at one of our clinics.”
Vaccinations for children
Meanwhile, Austin Public Health is preparing to vaccinate our youngest pocket of the population, children five and younger, who to this point have not had the ability to get vaccinated. That’s why APH was training nurses this week.
“We prefer people to go to their pediatrician,” Nelda Garcia with APH said. “If not, APH does provide that for people. What we do is we have nurses who are trained to give vaccines to children of all ages.”
White House health leaders said vaccines for young children could be available by the end of this month. A Federal Drug and Food Administration review of Pfizer and Moderna is scheduled for next week, the CDC would be tasked with handing down their approval shortly after.
“This age group doesn’t get quite as ill as other age groups but the thing is, it’s what they can do they can carry and spread it,” Garcia said, encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated when those shots do become available.
“All of this is prevented with a simple vaccine and wearing your mask and washing your hands.”