3 coronavirus cases confirmed in Austin

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin confimed another case of the coronavirus disease following its announcement of the first two cases in the county Friday. Austin Public Health said early Friday morning it received two presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Travis County. These are the first two confirmed cases in this area.

“Austin and Travis County has joined a seemingly growing number of cities and counties that have positive cases in their area,” Austin Public Health interim health authority Dr. Mark Escott said at a press conference.

“Austin Public Health has received two presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 overnight in our jurisdiction. These represent the first two cases in our area,” he said.

A man in his 60s is hospitalized, and a woman in her 30s is quarantined at her home, Dr. Escott said. Both tested positive for COVID-19.

The woman is a Galveston County resident aged between 30 and 35, Galveston County Health District confirmed.

She was tested at St. David’s Emergency Center-Bee Cave, and was then sent home for self-quarantine that same day.

“We understand this presumptive positive case may concern our community, but at this time there is no evidence of community spread,” said Dr. Philip Keiser, Galveston County local health authority

The man was brought to St. David’s Medical Center via EMS and was placed in isolation. According to a statement from St. David’s HealthCare he is in critical condition.

The third, a woman in her 60s whose case is believed to be travel related, was confirmed Friday afternoon. UT Austin President Greg Fenves said Friday his wife had tested positive. APD did not confirm whether she was the third case.

“Our epidemiologists are working around the clock to track these individuals, their contacts, even before they got sick,” Dr. Escott said. “We’re testing people every day.”

Neither case is believed to be community spread, which means the illness did NOT come from an unknown infected person with whom they had come into contact.

“At this stage, these do not represent community spread of the disease which means they are epidemiogicially linked to another case or to another jurisdiction,” Dr. Escott said.

Escott said the two cases aren’t related. One of the cases is linked to a case in Montgomery County near Houston, and the other case came from the person being transferred to the Austin area from a rural region of Texas.

“We have no evidence that the person was ever outside of a hospital in Austin or Travis County,” Escott said.

He continued to explain that patients are routinely transferred from rural regions to the Austin area because the hospitals are more equipped for advanced-level care.

“So individuals particularly from rural communities are often transferred to major cities because we have the tertiary care, we have the expertise,” Escott said. “We have a world-class healthcare system which means as this issues grows across the state, we can expect people from rural communities to be sent to major metropolitan areas to provide that expert level of care.”

A presumptive positive case means a local test has come back positive but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not confirmed the results with its own test.

Austin Public Health says these first two confirmed cases has elevated the city’s response to Phase 3 of a five-phase plan, adapted from its pandemic flu plans:

  • Phase 1: Persons Under Monitoring
  • Phase 2: Persons Under Investigation (Testing in Progress)
  • Phase 3: Confirmed Case (No Person-to-Person spread)
  • Phase 4: Limited Person-to-Person Spread (Close/Household Contacts)
  • Phase 5: Person-to-Person Spread in the Community

The Austin-Travis County Emergency Operations Center remains activated.

APH says it will work to educate the city’s elderly population and those with preexisting medical conditions. The average age of people who have died from the coronavirus disease in the United States is 78 years old.

Escott urged the public to be vigilant with hand washing, and when soap isn’t available, to use hand sanitizer. If you feel sick, stay home.

“The virus isn’t going to jump up and grab you,” he said. “If you’re sick, you need to stay home.”

Austin Public Health interim authority Dr. Mark Escott. (KXAN photo/Todd Bailey)

“The City of Austin and Travis County will be evaluating additional protections for the community based on these positive cases,” the city said in a news release. “At this time, we have not made any additional changes to current regulations around mass gatherings or other public health standards but will keep the public updated if this information changes.”

APH said it will continue to coordinate with local, state and federal public health and health care partners.

They also urged everyone in this area to continue to practice proper hygiene:

  • Wash your 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.
  • If you have symptoms of respiratory illness including cough, fever and shortness of breath, please contact your health care provider. It is important to call ahead before arriving at a clinic, urgent care or emergency department to avoid potential spread.

Friday morning, Judge Sarah Eckhardt tweeted a statement addressing the two cases ensuring residents that city officials are doing everything they can to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in Austin.

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