AUSTIN, Texas - As Austin hits the beginning of flu season, the big question commissioners had Monday was, how is Austin doing with the other threat, COVID-19? Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority for Austin/Travis County, says the numbers are flat.
“The result of this flattening has been that projections for up through Thanksgiving in terms of admissions are flat,” he said.
Escott said masks and social distancing are paying off and numbers are remaining flat. “Yesterday we reported 77 new cases in Travis County which brings our moving average to 96,” he said.
To compare, the number of new cases on the 1st of July was almost 600 compared to just 77 reported for Nov. 1st. Doctor Escott said we must keep up the good work to keep these numbers looking this way.
“The lesson learned is that when things start to look better then we want to celebrate, change, and open things up aggressively. In the UK, Germany, France, El Paso, and others around the U.S. and the world have learned the hard lesson,” said Escott.
We are seeing quite the opposite in other areas, specifically El Paso where numbers and deaths continue to rise. Escott thinks El Paso can be seen as a stark warning for Austin, to continue being vigilant, as many have pandemic fatigue.
Ken Casaday with the Austin Police Association worked a jam-packed Sixth Street during Halloween. “I’ve been with the department 23 years, it was one of the busiest Halloween nights I've ever seen,” said Casaday.
He said he wouldn't be surprised if the cases rise in a few weeks, and hardly anyone was wearing a mask. “We've had a disturbing amount of officers come down with COVID this week and last week,” he said.
With such good news at this point in time, commissioners asked Escott about recommendations on reopening bars. “I know bars make everyone nervous but I’m also nervous about these people in that industry,” said Commissioner Gerald Daugherty.
Escott said, if bars can get it right, then they may be able to reopen.
“I feel for the bar industry. I have friends who are affiliated with that and they are hurting right now. If we make the decision to recommend bars reopen then bars have to do a fantastic job of modifying their operations to be safe,” said Escott.
The biggest takeaway from Escott this week is that Austinites should be aware that COVID19 is still with us so we should always be extra careful.