Austin Public Health investigating first possible case(s) of coronavirus

Voters did not let coronavirus fears prevent them from lining up and hitting the polls on Super Tuesday. Austin Public Health Interim Medical Director and Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said he had no problem voting in the morning.

"I voted today because there is no substantial risk of contracting COVID-19 at this point in this community," Dr. Ecott said. 

Amid concerns of COVID-19, Austin Public Health met with Travis County Commissioners to provide an update on the agency's response phases. The county is currently in phase 2: investigating a possible case or cases of the coronavirus in our area.

RELATED: Officials say no confirmed coronavirus cases in Travis County but there are cases under investigation

"What that means is we have somebody whose sick, who has a travel history consistent with the CDC guidance and that we requested that CDC test the samples," said Dr. Escott.

At least one patient was identified Monday and Austin Public Health said they'll be monitored up to 48 hours. Tensions over containment is spreading fast as the death toll in the U.S. climbs to nine people. There are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Travis County but with SXSW just weeks away, people have petitioned to have the event canceled.

"There is not clear evidence that canceling mass events changes the spread of disease in a community, this is why the CDC has not made a recommendation about canceling mass gatherings," Dr. Escott said.

RELATED: Austin Public Health ‘closely monitoring’ coronavirus amid petition to cancel SXSW

Austin Public Health activated their department operations center, adapted current pandemic flu plans for COVID-19 and are following their five-phase response plan. While health officials track the respiratory illness they are urging the public to not panic and instead exercise common hygiene practices.

"There may be a time in the future where the stakes are higher, we are not there today. We are not at the point of closing schools or closing businesses or altering what we do every day in the city of Austin and Travis County,” said Dr. Escott. "We are monitoring the situation, we are enhancing our plans, we are revising our plans that have been in existence for a long time for pandemic infections."


Austin Public Health is meeting Tuesday night with a newly created advisory group made up of health officials and experts in the area to develop a plan moving forward. APH scheduled a meeting with city leaders Wednesday morning to provide an update.