Austin Public Health moves away from COVID hospital admissions as key indicator for risk stages

Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden said it is not time for Travis County to let its guard down. The health agency has seen a decline in daily COVID-19 hospital admissions and new cases but still considers the county in stage 4 risk guidance.

Wednesday's 7-day moving average for hospital admissions was 29, well below stage 4’s risk-based guidelines of 40 or higher. Looking at the chart the Austin Travis County area should be in yellow, stage 3. Stage 3 allows for non-essential travel and gives the green light to shop and dine. 

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The pandemic has drastically impacted businesses shutting doors and making it difficult for small businesses to operate at limited capacity. Director of the Texas Small Business Association, Annie Spillman said the organization is working on legislation to help provide economic relief for small businesses.

Members have reported low sales and are struggling to maintain staffing. Spillman said if local governments and health officials see an improvement in the public’s behaviors and the numbers reflect it, businesses should have been able to open at full capacity.

RELATED: Austin Public Health: High COVID-19 case counts due to backlog

“Whether or not they are making a profit at this time, all they are asking the government is to open their doors and keep them open for business,” Spillman said. “You can trust that small business owners especially, will follow and have shown that they’ve followed health and safety guidelines.”

New case data has not been up to date. Austin Public Health’s Chief Epidemiologist Janet Pichette said the state has experienced a backlog in cases caused by a data glitch to Texas's electronic system. On August 13th, APH received 2,200 new cases they are still working to process, some from as far back as April.

RELATED: FEMA awards $1.8M grant to Texas DPS for COVID-19 response

“We are going to be doing some data queries probably over this week to try to determine what this impact is in our total number,” said Pichette. 

Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said his office is working on moving away from hospital admissions as their key indicator for the stages of risk-based guidelines and instead may look at the positivity rate and new cases for thresholds.

“We are still considering ourselves at stage 4 and we want to keep it that way until we can get below 5% in terms of positivity across the board,” said Dr. Escott. “Certainly we want to be more protective in our advice as we approach September 8th in the expected return of some students to school.”

Dr. Escott said the county met a new milestone this week reaching 337 Covid-19 deaths making COVID-19 tied for 4th in the leading cause of death in Travis County.

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