AUSTIN (KXAN) — With perhaps the biggest celebration of sports in the country coming up with the Super Bowl on Sunday, public health officials want to remind the public that maybe they call an audible this year and stay home.
Austin Public Health officials pleaded the public to not go to large gatherings for the Super Bowl on Sunday, saying those types of gatherings, especially indoors, could be “super spreader” events and undo the work the public has done to get cases in decline.
The agency tweeted Thursday urging people to make hot wings for just themselves this Super Bowl Sunday.
There will be increased patrols this weekend from city and state officials, looking for bad behavior at bars and restaurants.
City code enforcement, environmental health services, the Austin Police Department and the Austin Fire Marshal’s Office have highlighted this weekend on their calendars. Add that to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which will be running open and undercover surveillance across the state.
“Ultimately it’s about keeping your customers safe and keeping your employees safe, so we can keep the infection rates down,” Chris Porter, TABC spokesman, said.
The TABC said since June 2020, it’s conducted 35,000 inspections across the state. Only 800 locations have received violations. If a location repeatedly breaks the rules, the agency will take action to suspend or terminate its liquor license. But Porter said the goal is to educate first and penalize second.
APH is hoping it doesn’t come to that.
“We need folks to continue to stay home, only go out if they have to and to celebrate the Super Bowl at home, with the family that lives in their household,” Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said.
Restaurants like the Smokey Creek Cajun in Round Rock are altering their business model to provide safety to customers.
Executive Chef Wesley Ash said the bar and grill will close down early for a private watch party of 75 people. That’s less than 25% capacity.
“It should run pretty smooth that way,” Ash said. “A lot of people want to stay safe the way we do, and they respect the fact that we are taking the extra measures.”
The possibility of a TABC visit does not intimidate or discourage Ash. He said the safety protocols have become second nature.
“We are not doing the right thing only when the TABC is coming or when it’s Super Bowl Sunday. We are trying to do the right thing 100% of the time, all the time,” Ash said.
Escott said while vaccines are coming to APH every week, the 12,000 doses per week aren’t nearly enough to vaccinate the 150,000 people in Travis County that qualify for Phases 1A and 1B.
Texas will get more than 400,000 first doses of the vaccine next week. Starting on Monday, people can call a new COVID-19 hotline to ask questions about the vaccines.
That same service will be making outbound calls to people aged 80 and older. APH officials said it’s because they are not checking their emails as frequently and are missing important reminders and opportunities to make an appointment.
APH said you’ll only be able to schedule vaccine appointments on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so expect to get a call on Monday or Wednesdays.
“We are asking people for patience. We are asking people to ensure they are reaching out to their loved ones who may be older and have underlying health conditions. Ensure they have signed up for a vaccination. If they are not computer savvy, help them out. Make sure they are in line,” Escott said.
The area is still in Stage 5 of COVID-19 risk, but the numbers for key indicators are on a downward trend. The seven-day rolling average of new hospitalizations is down significantly from its peak of 94 on Jan. 9. The average moved down to 63 following 64 new hospitalizations Thursday, and the positivity rate is slowly falling at 12.4%.