Austin-Travis County health leaders worried about holiday weekend after 36 people died of COVID-19 this week


AUSTIN (KXAN) — While case numbers and hospitalizations are slowly declining in Austin-Travis County, that was not the focus of a media briefing the Friday before Labor Day weekend. Dr. Desmar Walkes, the local health authority, instead started by offering a moment of silence for 36 people who died of COVID-19 locally over the last week. Of those, 12 deaths were reported Thursday alone.

“All of the numbers are showing that we are moving in the right direction but those deaths weigh heavy on my mind,” Dr. Adrienne Sturrup, the interim APH director, said. Local health leaders say almost all hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are people who are unvaccinated.

While those COVID-19 metrics do appear to be trending down, health leaders are worried about the looming holiday weekend where folks are expected to travel and gather at much higher levels than they did last year.

Of the events expected to happen over the weekend, perhaps the most glaring is the first UT football game. Tailgating and stadium attendance are not being restricted.

“The tailgating parties are the places where we’re really, really concerned,” Walkes said. She pointed to people gathering for long periods of time and being more likely to remove their masks to eat or drink.

“You might want to stay out of those tailgate parties if you’re not protected by vaccinations, watch the game at home,” Walkes said.

The Austin-Travis County COVID-19 dashboard shows 71 new hospital admissions were reported Thursday, bringing the 7-day moving average down to 68.

Dr. Walkes has previously said that while daily admissions are trending down, that doesn’t necessarily reflect how full area ICUs are. People with the delta variant tend to be seriously sick and require medical attention for longer periods of time.

There are 582 people in area hospitals with COVID-19 right now, 212 people are in the ICU.

The best protection against serious illness or death from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated, health leaders said, as they do in all briefings. You can find vaccine locations near you or sign up for an appointment on the APH website.

The second best line of defense against the virus is wearing your mask.

“We are getting ready to go into a three day weekend for rest, relaxation and fun with our families, let’s do it safely,” Walkes said.

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