Austin health officials urge the public ‘we cannot let our guard down’ with COVID-19


AUSTIN (KXAN) — As Austin Public Health officials met virtually with media members for their weekly COVID-19 briefing, each made emphatic pleas to the community to continue taking protective measures to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. The health leaders urged the public not to be lulled into a false sense of security by local COVID-19 numbers which are plateauing and no longer spiking the same way they were in June or early July.

Austin Public Health director Stephanie Hayden indicated that measures community members have taken like limiting travel and wearing face coverings have made a different in curbing the virus in the Austin area over the past few months.

“Our success is because all of us have come together and done all of the things [we need to]” she said. “At this time we have to watch our behavior. We cannot let our guard down.”

Hayden also urged community members to only take trips that are essential.

“We’re doing a good job, we’ve got to do a better job,” said Austin’s Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott.

He noted that yesterday Austin reached 337 COVID-19 deaths, which means that COVID-29 is now tied as the 4th leading cause of death in Travis County.

“It’s not like the flu,” Escott continued. “It spreads quicker than the flu and it is deadlier than the flu.”

Dr. Escott spoke in Travis County Commissioners Court on Tuesday and said that based on information from the COVID-19 models for the Austin area, there’s a 50% chance the epidemic locally is increasing, and a 50% chance it’s decreasing.

He said since July 29, the area has been maintaining a plateau as far as cases go, but hospitalizations in the five-county area are decreasing.

About 250 people are scheduled for tests Wednesday, he said, with only 40 people were signed up for drive-thru tests. Dr. Escott said APH can test up to 1,000 people per day, so there’s plenty of testing capacity if people want to get tested. They’ll test anyone, symptomatic or not, he said.

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