AUSTIN, Texas — During the Oct. 27 Travis County Commissioners Court meeting, Austin Public Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott told county leaders the "projections for Thanksgiving are bleak" if the public does not actively reverse the COVID-19 transmission rate.
Escott warned the commissioners that if there was a Thanksgiving coronavirus outbreak in the community, it would take a long time to come back from it, much like the Austin area saw in July.
"The trends and projections continue to display a significant worsening locally in Austin. Currently, it is suggesting we will break into Stage 4 territory of risk as early as Nov. 4," Escott said.
Here are a look at the statistics Escott eluded to in his meeting with Travis County Court Commissioners:
COVID-19 general numbers
- New confirmed cases of COVID-19 – 102 new cases on Oct. 26, 86 seven-day moving average, has oscillated between 85 and 100 in past 14 days, but Escott says it's flattening off
- New hospital admissions – 11 on Oct. 26, 21 seven-day moving average, has oscillated around 22 for the past week
- Current hospitalizations/ICU bed use/ventilator use: Hospitalizations: 114 on Oct. 26, 121 seven-day moving average, been increasing consistently for three weeks; ICU bed use – 43 on Oct. 25, 43 seven-day moving average, also increasing over last three weeks, but flattened out in past three days; Ventilators: Escott did not independently update
- COVID-19 hospitalization by demographic: Latinx 43%, White 40%, 12.7% Black.
- COVID-19 hospitalization by age group: 70-79 top group, 60-69 second top group and 80+ third top group; decrease in 10-19 age group
- COVID-19 positivity rate by week: 3.7% in week 39, 3.8 in week 40, 3.3 % in week 41, 3.9% in week 42 and 3.7% in week 43
- COVID-19 in long term care facilities: 40 new cases in last 14 days; previous 14 days before that had 10 new cases, making it a 4X increase in past 2 weeks
- COVID-19 in Austin-area schools (10/19-10/25): AISD (5 students, 9 staff, 1 other), Charter school (2 students), Del Valle ISD (1 student), Eanes ISD (4 students, 2 staff), Elgin ISD (1 staff), Lake Travis ISD (1 student, 3 staff), Leander ISD (5 students), Pflugerville ISD (8 students, 4 staff), Private (2 students, 3 staff), Round Rock ISD (4 students, 2 staff). Total: 32 students, 24 staff, 1 other
- UT model – Escott says it continues to display a worsening situation; data suggests Austin will break into Stage 4 risk as early as Nov. 4, but the model does not include data of 11 admissions from Oct. 26, which may create a more positive outlook
- UT model: As of Oct. 27 says, the model said there's a 100% chance the "epidemic is growing" in the Austin-area, 110% more infections in "14-day change"; Texas projections: 47% more infections in "14-day change"
- UT model: projects more than 700 hospital beds need to be utilized in the third week of November, which Escott said "would exceed surge we saw in June and July."
- UT model: projects ICU bed use would more than 200 by the third week of November. The June-July surge in the Austin-area oscillated between 160-170.
- Flu season surveillance - Five new flu cases (two Flu A, three Flu B); 1.74% positivity rate (lower than past three years); Escott said the COVID-19 protections and precautions also help with flu, which may play into the lower positivity rate compared to previous years. Escott also stressed getting flu shots.
A commissioner asked Escott about how they could reinforce the urgency of the coronavirus heading into holidays such as Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Escott said Austin Public Health was working on a communication strategy to address the coronavirus fatigue or "COVID-burnout."
He suggested the public adjust their gathering traditions surrounding these holidays for the betterment of public health.
"We all miss those social interactions. I haven't seen my folks for almost a year now because I don't want to put them at risk," Escott said. "Our advice right now is this: We don't want you to gather with people outside your household. But if people choose to do that anyway, they need to be smart about it. They need to mask during those interactions ... They need to social distance. If they plan on going to visit an elderly family member or visit loved ones for Thanksgiving, then they should lock themselves down for the 14 days prior to that. Again, the most protective thing to do is to continue virtual interaction ... to develop new traditions."
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