AUSTIN, Texas — With flu season, Halloween and other fall holidays looming, Austin Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott told Travis County commissioners Tuesday that COVID-19 metrics were on an upward trend recently and urged the public to remain vigilant with adhering to safety precautions.
"Halloween doesn't look too bad, but Thanksgiving is going to be ugly if we don't change our actions now," Escott said.
Escott said there were 97 reported cases on Oct. 19 to bring the seven-day moving average to 93, which he said has increased over the past 10 days.
Similarly, new admissions to the hospital, hospitalizations, ICU hospitalizations and ventilator use have all been on an upward trend, as well. Escott said the seven-day moving average for hospitalizations (97) and ICU hospitalizations (36) were the highest they had been since Sept. 15. He said the seven-day moving average for ventilator use (23) was the highest it had been since Sept. 14. All three metrics have sustained a two-week upward trend, according to Escott.
Escott also updated the commissioners about the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium data, which he said had increased from a 66% chance "the epidemic is growing" a week ago to "almost 90%."
KVUE checked the UT model the morning of Oct. 20, and the UT model had increased to a 96% chance "the epidemic is growing." Read more about the UT model data here.
Escott updated the county commissioners on the coronavirus numbers in area school districts as well.
WATCH: Dr. Mark Escott gives COVID-19 update to Travis County commisisoners (fast forward to nearly one hour and 30 minutes into the stream)
According to Escott, Austin ISD reported seven total cases (two students, five staff, two other); Charter schools reported one case (one staff); Del Valle ISD reported two cases (one student, one staff); Eanes ISD reported (seven students); Lago Vista ISD reported three cases (one student, two staff); Leander ISD reported zero cases, Pflugerville ISD reported six cases (three students, three staff) and private schools reported two cases (two students). In total, there were 18 students, 14 staff, two other (campus visitors, volunteers, repair persons) reported to have tested positive for coronavirus in the county's school system.
At the end of Escott's report, county commissioners asked for an update on guidance surrounding festivities for holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving. Escott reverted back to CDC guidance, which suggests people do not partake in traditional trick-or-treating or other social gatherings.
Instead, Escott proposed other alternative ways for people to celebrate Halloween and other fall holidays.
"We have published some guidelines, which are consistent with CDC's recommendation. The recommendation is that individuals do not do door-to-door trick-or-treating and create a new tradition this year," Escott said. "Some folks are doing a candy hunt, similar to an Easter egg hunt. My family is doing a piñata."
Escott said there are a number of ways people can still participate in festive activities while remaining socially-distant, such as virtual Halloween costume contests. He said he believes six months is going to be the "absolute minimum" amount of time that the public will need to continue being vigilant with coronavirus precautions. Escott said nine to 12 months was more realistic, depending upon the timing of vaccine approval and distribution.
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