APH provides updates on omicron surge in Austin/Travis County

Austin-Travis County continues to deal with the latest COVID-19 surge, fueled by the omicron variant.

"We are seeing increases in our hospitalizations, particularly those not protected by vaccine and in those people with medical conditions that make them more vulnerable," said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin/Travis County Health Authority.

Austin Public Health said Friday, this omicron surge is particularly more challenging, expressing concern for the healthcare system. Austin’s latest isolation facility is also nearly full.

"Staff are getting sick, relief contract staff the state has sent to help us during this time are also getting sick," said Dr. Walkes.

The city and Travis County also are calling upon businesses to help slow the spread, issuing orders, requiring owners to put signs on their door, outlining what their protocols are, and listing information about stage five guidelines. The Austin Code Department, police officers, and the fire marshal are authorized to enforce this, and fine businesses $1,000 dollars if not compliant.

"The new orders are more about helping business owners understand their rights and flexibility of choice to protect their employees and patrons," said Adrienne Stirrup, interim APH director.

The city will be giving out 96,000 free masks to local businesses Wednesday. Modeling at the University of Texas, and reports from around the country show a decline in numbers slowly beginning, a silver lining....but health officials say that is dependent on one thing.

"Modeling can't predict human behavior. So it really is going to depend on the community response to the clarion call to arms," said Walkes.

Businesses can pick up masks on Wednesday Jan. 19, at these locations:

City of Austin African-American Cultural & Heritage Facility  

  • Address: 912 East 11th St. Austin, TX 78702 
  • Directions: Mask distribution will occur at the rear of building on Juniper Street. 
  • Time: 1 – 4 p.m. or until all masks are distributed 

City of Austin Economic Development Department Offices 

  • Address: 5202 East Ben White Blvd. Austin, TX 78741 
  • Directions: Mask distribution will occur on Memory Lane near Suite 550.  
  • Time: 1 – 4 p.m. or until all masks are distributed 

City of Austin hosting mask distributions for local small businesses
Free COVID-19 vaccine clinics being held Jan. 14-17 around Travis County
$1K fine possible for Austin businesses that don't comply with COVID orders
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