AUSTIN (KXAN) — The moving average of new COVID-19 cases in the Austin-Travis County area has increased by 50 percent from Sept. 1 to Sept. 21, according to Austin Public Health.
Despite the significant uptick in cases, the number of patients needing hospital care has dropped nearly just as much.
During the same time period hospital admissions fell by 20%. The number of hospital beds and ICU beds being used dropped by 45% each, and the number of ventilators in use declined by 56%.
“Our hospitals are in a very good situation right now, there’s plenty of room for individuals who are in need of health care,” said Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott.
Escott said he hopes people will take this opportunity to get caught up on care they may have previously put off, including physical examinations, elective procedures and immunizations.
With many Austin area schools already back open, and Austin ISD resuming some in-person learning in less than two weeks, APH leaders said they feel confident the spread of the coronavirus can be contained, so long as people take appropriate precautions.
Escott said that isolated cases are inevitable, but the priority is preventing large outbreaks. He also said that cases are occurring almost exclusively outside of the classroom. As of last Friday, local primary and secondary schools had reported nearly 50 cases.
“They’ve been in band, they’ve been in cheerleading, they’ve been in football, they’ve been in swim teams, they’ve been in a congregate setting,” he said.
So long as students keep abiding by protective measures like masking, social distancing and hand washing, cases can be limited to small clusters, Escott said.
APH currently has a strike team dedicated to working solely with local school districts. The team is doing both case identification and contact tracing.
With flu season officially starting next week, APH leaders said they’re highly concerned about a so-called “twindemic” — dual epidemics of both the flu and the coronavirus.
Last year during flu season hospitals in the five-county Austin metro area nearly ran out of capacity, according to APH.
“Obviously, if we have a repeat of a bad flu season this year, that leaves little to no capacity for COVID-19,” Escott said.
Health officials said this should serve as an urgent reminder for people to get flu shots as soon as possible.
“It’s critically important for us to manage the thing that we can manage very well, because we have a vaccine,” Escott said.