Austin’s COVID-19 operations resume after being sidelined by winter storms

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Public Health restarted COVID-19 operations Sunday after a week’s worth of winter storms canceled vaccine and testing appointments, while also limiting data entry for the area.

The Austin-Travis County COVID-19 dashboard hasn’t been fully updated with daily case numbers since Feb. 12. Hospitalization data was updated Saturday, according to APH.

The local health authority said that case data is delayed because “staff could not safely travel to the location to input information.” The data entry location was also out of power. Due to the data issues last week, APH says the COVID-19 case numbers coming out over the next week may be skewed. 

APH says personnel joined with City and County departments in the emergency weather response while also planning for mass vaccine distributions in order to catch up from the crippling effects of the week-long storm.

“It will require an immense amount of staff time, work, and effort to resume all of our operations to the full capacity and efficiency that we were seeing before the weather hit,” Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority, said in a statement. “We appreciate the community’s understanding and patience as we work through any bumps along the way.”

If you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and were unable to get a test last week, APH says you should continue to self-isolate for at least 10 days since your symptoms started and at least one day after breaking fever and other symptoms improve.

COVID-19 vaccine distribution

APH says vaccinations resumed Sunday and additional sites will expand back to normal operation throughout the week. APH is working to reschedule vaccine appointments for the estimated 3,300 people who had appointments canceled starting Feb. 13.

You should check your phone and email frequently for updates if you had a previous appointment. Phone banks, which were affected by power outages, will be back online to call people without internet access.

At the moment, APH says its staff is manually scheduling each person with a new time, date and location, but plans to create a queuing system soon.

Approximately 7,000 first doses and 7,500 second doses remain from the Feb. 7 state allocation before the winter storm. Additionally, APH received 12,000 second doses from the state for the week of Feb. 14, according to the release.

You must have an appointment to receive the vaccine. Second doses will be prioritized to ensure they are given as close to the 28-day interval as possible. However, the CDC’s updated recommendations say there is no maximum time between the first and second doses for either vaccine. 

“We have already provided 55,000 doses and were in the midst of scaling up operations for second doses when the winter storm hit,” Cassandra DeLeon, Chief Administrative Officer for the APH Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division, said in a statement. “We lost eight days of operations, but we are fully dedicated to those who need their second doses and are scaling up resources as much as possible to provide all remaining vaccine this week.”

COVID-19 testing update 

All testing operations will resume their normal schedules Monday. You can schedule a test through APH.

APH says neighborhood testing, which allows for some walk-ups, is available at these locations:

  • Ana Lark Center (1400 Tillery Street): Tuesdays and Fridays 2-7 p.m., Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays 9 a.m.-2 p.m.  
  • Southeast Branch Library (5803 Nuckols Crossing Road): Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays 8 a.m.-1 p.m., and Wednesdays 3-7 p.m. 

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