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Big events like ACL, Longhorn football not likely by end of 2020, Austin health official says

Dr. Mark Escott said he can't imagine large-scale events taking place through the end of 2020, especially events that have more than 2,500 people.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin Public Health answered some COVID-19 questions on Wednesday, May 20, including whether or not health leaders believe large events in the Austin area will take place this year.

When KVUE asked about the possibility of having the Austin City Limits Festival or Longhorn football this year, Dr. Mark Escott said he can't imagine large-scale events taking place through the end of 2020, especially events that have more than 2,500 people. 

"Mass events are a challenge and, as I said last week, I believe large events were the first thing we turned off and they'll be the last thing we turn back on because of that risk of exposing a lot of people to others," Dr. Escott said. "We are working on a plan to help forecast what we think is going to be reasonable, but looking through the end of December, we don't have any indications at this stage that we would be able to mitigate risk enough to have large events, particularly ones over 2,500."

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Dr. Escott added that could change if there is a good treatment or rapid tests for people upon entry.

"A lot is changing very quickly. If we identify an effective treatment that can be administered early in the case of transmission, that's going to be a factor," he explained. "If we identify ways to rapid test such as through saliva that could be done at the gates before people go in, that's a potential factor."

Even if we continue to flatten the curve but there is no vaccine in time for ACL, Dr. Escott said it depends on how flat the curve is to see what would happen next.

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"If we maintain things flat, and certainly if we can decrease hospitalizations, then we'll think about moving from stage three to stage two, which will open things up a little bit more as far as gatherings are concerned," the doctor said. "A small increase, not a big increase. We really have to get to that green level, stage one, before we are going to be willing to have any sizable events. I think that's an incentive for us to work hard at social distancing."

The doctor added he will continue to give advice to the community regarding mass events, and said the community should stay vigilant and follow the recommendations.

"As much as we want things to be back to normal, they are not back to normal yet," Dr. Escott said.

WATCH: Austin Public Health answers COVID-19 questions live

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