Austin Public Health on one-year of COVID in Austin, Travis County

As we look back on a year ago, much has changed. 

"I made the statement then that this will be disruptive," said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Health Authority for Austin-Travis County. "I had no idea how long the disruption would last, and I don't think anyone of us had that concept; we hadn't faced something like this before."

Throughout 2020, we lost interaction with loved ones, friends, and family. 

"There have been so many people that have waited an entire year," said Stephanie Hayden, Director of Austin Public Health. 

However, many have gained insight. At the beginning of the pandemic, officials didn't know much about the virus. They had to make tough decisions - the very first one: canceling SXSW

Dr. Escott said the decision wasn't easy. He consulted with the CDC, state leaders and ultimately made the decision to cancel one of Austin's most popular events. 

As the year would go on, many more events would follow suit. Restrictions would be put into place and a "new normal" was how things were described. Escott said because of how APH and city officials acted, it resulted in how Austin has fared during the pandemic. 

"To ramping up testing, to locking down when we needed to lockdown, to masking for as long as we needed to mask, I think this is why Austin is doing better than every other metropolitan jurisdiction in Texas, and most others in the U.S., because we are willing to come together as a community and tackle these difficult problems," Escott said. 



As we've learned to adapt and overcome hurdles that have been placed in front of us, many have been working behind the scenes trying to ensure the safety of our community.

A year ago, not much was known about the virus, now, there are three different vaccines.

"Just to know a year ago today we didn't even have a vaccine that was available, and so knowing that thousands of people will come through here just alone will receive that vaccine, I'm overjoyed," said Hayden. 

Saturday more than 2,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine went into the arms of those who were eligible.

The county also moved to stage 3 on the COVID-19 risk-based guideline chart. 

"I'm pleased that at this stage we are able to safely transition to stage 3, which opens up businesses to 75 percent, as the recommendation and allows people who are low risk and for low-risk households to travel as well," Escott said. 

This is the first time the county has been at this stage since November.

And Escott adds as more community members get inoculated, that risk will continue to go down.

"As we gain a percentage of individuals vaccinated, there's a gradient effect; the risk will continue to decline," he said. 

However, while progress is being made, and efforts are ramping up, officials say it's still not the time to let your guard down.

"Be alert and aware, making sure the social distancing is still happening because those things are proven and we want folks to continue to do that," Hayden said.