Austin ramps up COVID-19 testing, health officials warn of large event cancelations
AUSTIN, Texas - The Department of State Health Services said since the COVID-19 pandemic started, Austin-Travis County has tested 22,973 people for the virus. Eleven percent of those tested, tested positive. Early on Austin Public Health stressed the need for testing, to identify clusters of cases.
“We've got CommUnity Care which has done around 4,000 tests, Austin Public Health which has done around 4,000 tests, Austin Regional Clinic has done more than 10,000 tests, and we've got tests being done in hospitals around the region,” said Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority.
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The Hispanic community is being hit hardest by COVID-19. The construction industry is also seeing clusters of cases. More reason why Austin Public Health wants to reach out to workers as well as immigrant families.
“In our immigrant community there is some concern about them being detected and that information somehow will be shared with law enforcement. The other concern we are encountering is people's concern that if they test positive, they'll be out of work for an extended period of time,” said Escott.
Health officials said on Wednesday they plan to roll out an outreach task force to reach these communities. Based on a risk guidelines chart released by the city earlier this month, Austin sits in stage three of its coronavirus response, which means social distancing, and face-covering usage must continue. Only those with low health risks should travel.
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“Our goal ultimately is to make sure our community is safe and we are protecting those most vulnerable,” said Janet Pichette, Chief Epidemiologist at Austin Public Health.
As for life as we know it, things might be different for a while. Dr. Escott said based on where we are now, large events like Longhorns football, and A.C.L. should be put on hold.
“Looking through the end of December, we don't have any indications at this stage that we would be able to mitigate risk enough to have large events particularly ones over 2,500,” said Escott.
He said the only way these can carry on, is if the city identifies a successful treatment for the virus, and if they can rapid test people at the gates of these events.
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