AUSTIN (KXAN) — With the winter weather gripping Austin until next week, those who need to reschedule COVID-19 vaccination appointments will be able to do so, health officials said Friday.
Icy roads have wreaked havoc on drivers trying to get around town, and every traffic authority in Austin is basically pleading that people stay off the roads while they’re covered with ice. Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard said APH will work with people who want to reschedule due to weather.
“In the event that inclement weather causes us to make a change in our schedule, we will notify individuals by email, text, and phone call,” she said. “We are going to continue to monitor the weather to see how it would affect our vaccine appointments from today until Tuesday of next week. We ultimately want people to be safe.”
The latest staging numbers on the Austin-Travis County COVID-19 dashboard show a significant drop in the 7-day rolling average of new hospitalizations and active cases. Health officials moved the area from Stage 5 risk level to Stage 4 Tuesday due to declining hospitalizations and cases.
Dr. Mark Escott, the interim health authority, said he’s pleased to see the numbers fall. The rolling average of active cases is at 299, and that’s the first time it has been below 300 since Dec. 9, Escott said. The rolling average of hospital admissions is now officially within Stage 4 risk levels at 48.
As long as people wear masks, social distance and hand their hands frequently, the numbers should keep going down, Escott said.
“If we continue those protective actions, then by the time we hit March and April we’ll be in a much better situation in our community,” he said, “and we can really decrease the impact of COVID-19.”
When it comes to vaccinations, Hayden-Howard said she’s very concerned about the lack of Hispanic and Black people who are getting the shots. She said APH has established a phone line to make calls to Hispanic and Black people and let them know about the vaccine. She said the city will partner with organizations and groups to help populate a list of people to call.
“It’s going to be important to us to use that line to reach those populations,” she said. “We need to be nimble in our operations and will continue to modify them to increase enrollment in our platform.”
Escott added that while 70% of the vaccines have gone into the arms of people aged 65 or older, those younger than 64 are more than likely still in the workforce and performing their work in face-to-face fashion, thus inherently at-risk for COVID-19. As the hospitals become less stressed, the area needs to mix in more vaccines for those 64 years and younger, yet still in Phase 1B.
Hayden-Howard said APH is working on a mobile vaccine plan where they can take the vaccines to folks who may not be able to make it to a site.
“We definitely want to be in a space from a mobile perspective that we can provide vaccines to people who are elderly, disabled, and their caregivers,” she said.