Austin’s top doctor: COVID-19 school clusters occurring in athletic programs


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Several clusters of COVID-19 in Austin and Travis County have been connected to athletic programs, in particular to strength and conditioning football workouts, according to Austin Public Health interim health authority Dr. Mark Escott.

There are currently four total clusters of COVID-19 in primary and secondary schools, which represents more than 25% of school cases, Escott says. APH defines a cluster as three or more positive cases of COVID-19 at a single location.

APH is recommending the school district send letters to families of athletes, who may be in situations where social distancing and masking isn’t possible or practical, that their households are at high risk for spread of COVID-19.

Student athletes participating in sports should wear masks and distance at home to protect anyone living at the house, APH recommends.

Additionally, APH set up a weekly meeting with points of contact at school districts in an attempt to do contact tracing within the schools. Dr. Escott believes it should be easier to do contact tracing, because districts already have contact information.

The football season started for schools in the 4A to 1A classifications last week. The University Interscholastic League is recommending each school put in health protocols with masking and social distancing at stadiums.

The largest classifications in Texas high school football, 6A and 5A, are not expected to start the season until the week of Sept. 24.

The seven-day moving average of new cases is trending downward at 80 cases, which is a number the area hasn’t recorded since June. However, Dr. Escott is still urging caution because of how quickly the virus can spread when people relax restrictions.

Escott says the last time the area had less than 90 cases in the seven-day average, it only took three weeks for cases to quickly rise, and the area hit its peak. It’s taken two months to come down from that surge in cases.

Right now, testing is available in Austin-Travis County.

“We have more tests than people to sign up for testing, so if folks want to get tested, if they have students who are athletes who have been involved in strength and conditioning activities or practices, and they’re concerned about exposure,” Escott said.

The current seven-day moving average for hospitalizations is 18 — the lowest since June 12.

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