AUSTIN (KXAN) — Leaders from Austin Public Health said the first University of Texas football game on Sept. 12 brought multiple clusters and “a lot of lines of transmission” of COVID-19.
While some of the cases were traced back to the estimated 18,000 fans in the stands for the game against UTEP, experts said more were connected to viewing parties.
“There have been some indications that there have been some clusters associated with the University of Texas – UTEP game,” Chief Epidemiologist Janet Pichette said. “More importantly, there have been a lot of lines of transmission associated with not just the game itself, but with those social gatherings that have been associated.”
While exact case numbers from the game itself haven’t been released, APH Director Stephanie Hayden said the cases reflect the way the virus is spreading in the community outside of game day.
“There’s always an impact when you put a large number of individuals together in a setting,” Hayden said. “Whether it’s a UT football game that they’re attending, or gathering outside of the arena, where they’re watching the game together, most of our positivity is as a result of some type of social gathering.”
UT plays its next home football game Saturday at 11 a.m. against TCU.
Impact on Halloween
APH leaders urged families to consider starting a new tradition for Halloween, noting that people should start planning for the entire holiday to look very different this year.
“I don’t encourage the gathering, but it’s all about behavior, so individuals have to make the best choice for them and their families,” Hayden said.
Hayden suggested families get creative and consider hiding candy in their backyard for their kids, similar to Easter.
If people insist on trick-or-treating, she said make sure to wear a face mask at all times.
“In the event individuals do go out and get candy, please do not allow the children to eat the candy immediately, have them put the candy aside for a day, and then have access to the candy,” she said.
Hayden added that Austin Public Health will soon publish guidance for families specifically about Halloween.
Reaction to President Trump’s COVID-19 Diagnosis
APH leaders said they hope President Trump’s recent COVID-19 diagnosis would help serve as a reminder to the community that the disease can “touch anyone.”
Dr. Mark Escott, the interim health authority for Austin-Travis County, said it also shows the importance of having multiple layers of protection.
“That’s the testing. It’s the case investigation and contact tracing, but also it’s the masking and the social distancing and the personal hygiene,” Escott said. “We have to make sure that we are being careful, not only in the workplace, not only when we’re at grocery stores or at restaurants, but in our personal lives, with our friends and family.”
Escott said simply not having symptoms, or having symptoms but a negative COVID-19 test result, is not enough.
In the case of the president, preliminary numbers from March and April in Austin show people with a similar profile did not fare well. Escott said people ages 70-79 who did not live in nursing homes were hospitalized at a rate of more than 37%, while more than 12% died.
Escott said President Trump has additional factors working both for and against him.
“When we look at the president’s known risk factors such as obesity, that’s going to increase his risk compared to someone who doesn’t have any risk factors,” Escott said. “We also have to remember that the president has unlimited access to health care, he has unlimited physician resources, and certainly we expect that his risk will be on the lower end of that estimation.”