AUSTIN, Texas - The US has reached a sobering COVID-19 death toll of 200,000 people, reminding all that we are far from done with the virus. “There are mixed messages that COVID-19 is not that dangerous. It is extremely dangerous it's much more dangerous than flu,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Health Authority, Austin Public Health.
In his weekly update with Travis County commissioners, Escott said numbers and hospital capacity are in decent shape right now. “We are very pleased with our hospital capacity right now. There is plenty of room for folks in the hospital,” said Escott.
He said the positivity rate or the number of people who are testing positive just within the last week has gone up. “I presented week 36 at 4.8 percent, it has increased to 5.4 percent positivity for that week,” said Escott.
With schools reopening, Commissioner Jeff Travilion expressed concern for students located in parts of town with Title One schools and proposed creating strike teams to test those areas.
“Dove Springs is a hot spot and I’m wondering if we can work through Austin Voices United, and Central Health and also work with Education Austin to figure out a strike team that can help test teachers and youth before they go back to a school environment,” said Travillion.
“Our Latinx population has about twice the risk as to the general population of those high school students in terms of positivity,” said Escott. “With an increase in the positivity rate, there is a concern about a possible twindemic."
“We talked many times about a twindemic, epidemic of COVID-19 and influenza and our hospitals will not be able to handle surges in both. When we look at last year and the bad flu season we had, our ICU capacity was maxed out just from flu,” said Escott.
Escott urges all to receive flu shots as soon as possible. This will help free up any needed hospital beds if the situation becomes dire this fall and winter. “If you can imagine flu plus COVID-19 it's not going to be sustainable,” said Escott.