AUSTIN, Texas - As COVID-19 cases plateau in Travis County and more people seek out increasingly diversified private testing as options, Austin Public Health officials said in a briefing Wednesday that they are observing a decreased demand for testing and labs less burdened by regional surges have greater capacity.
For these reasons, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott says APH is resuming asymptomatic COVID-19 testing.
“We've been seeing a decrease in the number of individuals who are signing up for testing, as a result we are going to lower the threshold for testing which will allow some asymptomatic testing to occur again,” said Escott.
Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden said officials were notified “just this week” that hospitals were out of surge capacity.
“That was really good news for us as a community and we wanna stay on that path,” she said.
It is a path Austin Travis County medical experts believe may be threatened by upcoming high school, and collegiate football games.
“My major concern is that if we have a football game on September 5 with 25,000 people that by September 19 we're gonna be closing schools again and kids are gonna be learning virtually.” said Escott, calling the plan a “big mistake.” He told reporters Wednesday that he looks “forward to reviewing UT’s plan regarding their stadiums.”
A complete shift to virtual learning is a possibility Escott says schools should be prepared for, adding that health authorities plan to recommend schools reopen at 25 percent maximum occupancy, with social distancing -- something he says could be flexible based on infection rate.
“As the community risk decreases and we have controlled transmission of the disease, we may be able to take a little bit more risk by moving students closer together allowing additional students to have in-person education,” Escott explained.
He says he would like the community to be at stage two or lower before school starts. Wednesday, the community was in stage four. Escott and Hayden say many case clusters are being traced back to close get-togethers.
"I think the key to breaking through is to ensure that we're eliminating those gatherings where we can. Not having barbeques, not having the pool parties, you know delaying birthday celebrations or doing those virtually," said Escott.
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