AUSTIN, Texas - Austin Public Health has provided an update on COVID-19 to the Travis County Commissioners Court.
Dr. Mark Escott says that APH is seeing a downward trend in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. He says hospitals have enough space and recommends people have their elective surgeries at this time saying that it's important to "utilize the opportunity to get their health taken care of."
Escott also said there the positivity rate within the Latinx community is at almost 14% and that it is lower for African Americans, Asian Americans, and White non-Hispanic communities. He says officials want to zero in on the Latinx community because they're hoping the rate decreases before the start of school as close to 1/3 of staff and more than 50% of students identify as Hispanic within Austin Independent School District.
APH has also seen an increase in the positivity rate for school-aged children. Dr. Escott says schools should open up at 25% capacity even if cases decrease.
Austin Public Health also issued a statement on return to work guidance. It said:
We have been informed that many employers are asking employees that have tested positive for COVID-19 to provide proof of multiple negative tests before allowing those employees to return to work. This practice is not currently recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nor Austin Public Health (APH) since individuals with mild or moderate COVID-19 remain infectious no longer than 10 days after symptom onset. Requiring re-testing places unnecessary financial burden on the employee.
APH echoes recommendations from the CDC on guidance for individuals who have had COVID-19 on returning to work. Current health guidelines require individuals stay home at least 10 days following the onset of COVID-19 symptoms and at least one day following the resolution of fever with improvement of other symptoms.
The focus of the free tests provided by APH and partner organizations is to identify new infections and limit the spread of the disease, not to re-test individuals who have had the virus and recovered. It is resource-intensive and inefficient to re-test individuals who have already tested positive.
We understand that employees and their employers want their workplaces to be safe and do not want to risk transmission by asymptomatic individuals. Following the CDC/APH guidelines will allow everyone to work in a safe environment while also ensuring that COVID-19 tests are still available for those who need it most.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler made comments prior to Dr. Escott's update in his most recent "Got A Minute" segment.
Given the cases of COVID-19 in Travis County, Adler says the guidance will likely suggest delaying the opening of schools for in-person instruction until after Labor Day. That's a move that Austin Independent School District's board recently voted to do at its meeting.
Travis County is still under Stage 4 of its risk-based guidelines.
Mayor Adler says city leaders will continue to look at both hospital admission rates and infectivity numbers.
As for schools, once they do open, it would be on a limited capacity to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure.
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While the number of cases decreased a few weeks ago, they now seem to be holding steady in Travis County, which Mayor Adler says has him concerned.
"I'm concerned about the plateau. That's what we're seeing in so many cities across the country that are able to protect their hospitals but once we protect the hospitals and people aren't scared, people start gathering more," Adler says.
The mayor said city and county leaders will extend COVID-19 restrictions that are already in place.
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