AUSTIN (KXAN) — There are now a total of 26 COVID-19 cases in Central Texas as of Wednesday morning.
On Wednesday, the City of Austin announced there is now a total of 23 cases of COVID-19 in Travis County. This is in addition to the three other cases in Hays County.
As the number of cases grows, the city issued new guidelines that will start Monday, March 16 that include:
- All library branches will be closed
- All non-essential Municipal Court dockets will be rescheduled
- Austin Animal Center will be closed to the public
- All pools, golf courses, athletic programs, recreation centers and cultural centers will be closed
Summer camps and spring break activities will happen Monday through Wednesday and will be suspended after that. However, meal services for kids and seniors will continue.
Public safety, trash, recycling, compost pick-up, Austin Water, Austin Energy and transportation services will resume as normal.
City employees that are able to work from home will do so this week. The city is reviewing options for employees who need to still report to work such as increasing social distance and modifying operations.
The first three cases in Travis County involved a man and woman both aged in their 60s, and a woman aged in her 30s who lives in Galveston County.
The woman in her 60s was later identified as Carmel Fenves, the wife of University of Texas President Greg Fenves.
Greg Fenves has been tested for the virus. On Sunday, UT announced that his test came back negative. He will continue to self-quarantine.
One person in Hays County, a 44-year-old, has been discharged from a hospital and is recovering at home, officials said Sunday.
Hays County reported another two cases Monday afternoon. County epidemiologist Eric Schneider said the first person tested at a clinic and is under self-quarantine at home. They are ordered to stay there until they are without a fever for 48 hours without using fever-reducing medication. The second person recently traveled to California and was tested at a clinic after they returned to Texas. They are under self-quarantine at home.
City officials encourage Austinites to:
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow or use a tissue to cover it, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
“I really want to encourage the public not to panic”
Dr. Brynna Connor, who has a private practice in family medicine in Lakeway, believes one of her patients was the sixth patient to test positive in Travis County.
Connor said that this patient had traveled to New York City and that their illness appeared to be related to travel.
Last week, Connor began seeing patients who were displaying symptoms in line with COVID-19, including cough, fever, shortness of breath, and muscle aches. She notes that people who have shortness of breath or a cough can be suspected of having the coronavirus because those are not symptoms that come with the flu. Other patients of hers mentioned they had been in contact with people who tested positive for the coronavirus.
So Connor requested five test kits from the private lab she works with, Clinical Pathology Laboratories, to detect the virus that causes COVID-19. These test kits are used to swab patients’ noses, Connor explained.
One particular patient was showing symptoms and Connor was able to send in the patient’s test kit on Friday. The results came back in Sunday morning as a “presumptive positive.” These test results will then be sent to the CDC for official confirmation.
“Fortunately, at this point, my patient has not been hospitalized, my patient has mild symptoms,” Connor said.
Now, any of Connor’s patients who are able to are encouraged to see her via telehealth or phone consultation.
Already, Connor said that she and her team wear protective gear and sanitize their workspace regularly. But what has been changing is the increase in people with questions and concerns related to COVID-19. Her phone was ringing all day Sunday.
“For most people, we hope that symptoms are mild, we hope that people don’t get severe illness, but for those people who have underlying medical conditions, co-morbid conditions, heart disease, diabetes, our elderly, those who are frail, we have to take extra precautions,” Connor said of COVID-19
Connor believes there has been more of a push among physicians recently to get a hold of those test kits, “because we are seeing an influx into our community — although the cases in Travis County are not considered to be community spread — they are from people who have been outside of our community — we are getting those testing kits available.”
She believes in the next few days, more test kits will be available. A drive-up coronavirus testing center has already been established in north Austin.
In the meantime, she also hopes that people don’t wind up running to the emergency room unnecessarily.
“Our emergency departments are overworked as it is and we need to reserve those resources for people who are going to have more severe illness due to COVID or other viruses and other emergency care,” she said.
Connor also recommends that everyone should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water and avoid large social gatherings. Additionally, she advises her patients that if they are sick, they should avoid the people in their lives who have compromised immune systems, heart disease, lung disease, or respiratory problems.
“We get to decide how fast this virus hits our city”
In an interview with KXAN on Sunday morning, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the people of the city have “been through crises before and we are going to get through this one, too.”
“But in this crisis, we actually have the ability to decide, through our individual and our collective actions, we get to decide how fast this virus hits our city,” he said.
“But we have control, which is why we want everybody to be conscious, we want everybody to do the personal hygiene, wash your hands, don’t go out if you’re sick, and if we all do this together, we are going to get through this fine.”