AUSTIN (KXAN) — This week, Austin and Travis County opened a new facility where people can go to safely quarantine after catching COVID-19, and it’s already almost full. Local leaders said the increased need for places for people to go to deal with the illness illustrates how rapidly the omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading throughout the area.
Austin Public Health would not specify where this new COVID-19 isolation facility is located, but shared it opened Tuesday to meet the increasing need for space. The city and county are now using two hotels as isolation facilities — the new one has 71 beds, while the other has 75. In an email, a spokesperson for APH told KXAN that “occupancy is high” at both locations.
During a briefing Friday morning, Janet Pichette, APH’s chief epidemiologist, said people should be careful about who they encounter right now and take all safety precautions necessary to avoid infection, including wearing a mask and getting vaccinated.
“Basically, anyone you may encounter now may have COVID,” Pichette said. “While they may have mild symptoms, they are still extremely infectious.”
The two isolation facilities provide free lodging and other services for those who do not have anywhere to safely isolate due to COVID-19. Here’s who’s eligible to secure a bed at one of the locations:
- Unvaccinated people who need to quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure, which means coming within six feet of someone who tested positive for longer than 15 minutes without a mask.
- People who have COVID-19 symptoms but have not been tested.
- People who have COVID-19 symptoms and are waiting for test results.
- People who tested positive for COVID-19.
The city specifies that guests must remain in their rooms for their isolation period, and they have to be able to care for themselves. No visitors or pets are allowed. The facilities also have meals, hygiene products, masks, gloves, in-room telephone, wireless internet and television.
Other resources available around the clock include an emergency medical team, security and on-site staff members who can deliver items to guests’ rooms. Behavioral health professionals are also on site Monday through Friday and are available via TeleHealth on weekends.
To make arrangements to stay at one of the isolation facilities, people can call the intake line at 737-615-3989.