Austin Public Health stays with Stage 3, concerned about Omicron variant

Not a lot of people were driving into the DELCO Event center parking lot Tuesday morning where COVID vaccines were provided. Locally, 1.8 million doses have been given out since the shots became available. 

Its estimated 67% of Travis County, 5 and older, is now fully vaccinated. 

Despite that, 127,000 residents have not received a second shot and 265,000 remain unvaccinated. The conflicting numbers were presented Tuesday during the weekly health authority briefing. 

Mayor Steve Adler raised a red flag and warned against overconfidence. "In another 3 weeks, 4 weeks, we could be wishing we had done a better job over these next 3 weeks in getting to that place," said Mayor Adler.

That place is Stage 2 on the public health COVID restrictions chart

A lack of confidence, in a way, is being used to justify keeping the Austin area at Stage 3. That recommendation was made despite trigger points, involving COVID cases and hospitalizations, being at the Stage 2 level. 

Doubling down on getting children vaccinated is the game plan. Current efforts have resulted in 24% of Travis County children getting a shot. While that’s much higher than the state rate of just under 12%, it shows the vaccine is still a hard sell for a lot of parents.

"I don't trust anything that somebody wants to make you get," Joshua Boicourt.

Others are taking a wait-and-see approach. "I think we are just waiting to see how results come out, and how people react to it, the kids. I'm pro but would just like to see more results," said Angel Delgadillo.

Another reason for holding at Stage 3; the new Omicron variant of COVID 19. During the APH briefing, a map was shown of how the variant has moved from South Africa. It has mutated more than 40 times, but only mild symptoms are reported with it- so far. 

A more immediate issue locally was brought by Health Authority Desmar Walkes. Since the outbreak began- there have been 122,630 confirmed COVID 19 cases in Austin/Travis County. Of that number- 9,902 are vaccine breakthrough cases. 49 of the breakthrough cases have resulted in death.

"15 of those were long-term care facility residents, and again as I mentioned, had chronic medical conditions, including things in stage renal disease and cancer," said Walkes.

Another community health situation that could influence what stage Austin is in; is the flu. Local cases are now popping up - but currently, the number is tracking at a lower pace than in years past. Concerns about the flu by city and county leaders prompted a request to have the health authority start tracking flu cases on the new dashboard that’s been redesigned.

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