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'We never thought we would get back to this level this soon' | Doctor says Austin hospitalizations starting to look like exponential growth

The seven-day moving average for new hospital admissions continues to rise in Austin-Travis County, surpassing Stage 4 COVID-19 levels.

AUSTIN, Texas — As the seven-day moving average for new hospital admissions continues to rise in Austin-Travis County, surpassing Stage 4 COVID-19 levels, an emergency room physician in Austin said it's starting to look like exponential growth.

Dr. Natasha Kathuria said the surge of hospitalizations and ICU admissions in Austin is surprising. She said an overwhelming number of patients are unvaccinated. Also, she said instead of elderly patients, the bulk are between 20 and 50 years old.

“The fact that we would be facing another surge when we have vaccines so readily available for anyone 12 and older is really quite astonishing and a little disheartening, to be honest,” Kathuria said.

Kathuria said the delta variant is “more transmissible and infectious among the young than it was before.”

“The great majority of our elderly are vaccinated now,” Kathuria said. “They took the vaccine very seriously, our elderly population, and rightly so – they’re the ones who are most at risk. And so our younger patients are the ones who are mostly unvaccinated. So naturally, if they get COVID, they’re more likely to fall ill.”

Kathuria said low morale is straining hospitals. Texas is also currently facing extreme nursing shortages, especially in Austin-Travis County.

As health officials said the move to Stage 4 of Austin-Travis County’s COVID-19 risk-based guidelines is “imminent,” Kathuria said it is best to wear a mask while indoors or in crowded areas, even you’re fully vaccinated. She also recommended children younger than 12 who are ineligible for the vaccine wear a mask, not only at school but when gathering with others indoors.

RELATED: LIST: Masking policies for school districts in Central Texas

“We need to protect our children very closely as we enter these next stages of this pandemic,” Kathuria said.

Kathuria said the COVID-19 vaccine’s safety profile is "second to none” since doctors usually can identify concerning side effects of vaccines within two months of first administration. She is encouraging young people to get vaccinated now more than ever.  

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