Central Texas hits fourth peak in COVID-19 case numbers, APH says

The omicron variant of COVID-19 introduced itself to the United States right before the holidays, and it has taken off, ever since.

"Ninety-nine percent of what's circulating is omicron in Texas," said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin/Travis County Health Authority.

The surge sparked the county to move up to stage five restrictions, hoping to not overwhelm the healthcare system. But the omicron variant has now left hospitals with low staff levels, creating a need for the public to be sure to take measures to avoid needing hospital care. 

But there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. "Locally case numbers reported to APH have declined. Hospital numbers appear to be plateauing. UT modelers project peak and ICU admissions in early to mid-February," said Walkes.

But that can only happen if the community makes the choice to follow stage five guidelines such as masking, socially distancing. Austin Public Health’s director said they are making strides in vaccine distribution for January. "We've distributed 3,365 total vaccines," said Adrienne Stirrup, APH Director.

Doctor Walkes is encouraging all, even after recovering from an infection, to get vaccinated and later, boosted. "Natural immunity is not as good as receipt of vaccine and booster," said Walkes.

Although the numbers are looking better overall, local school districts are still facing challenges. "As of Jan. 4 when schools reopened we were reporting 107 cases, and now we are well over 5,000 cases," said Walkes.

Travis County Commissioner, Brigid Shea expressed frustration with the state, hoping lawmakers can create a unified mask policy for campuses. "Without a uniform policy we are seeing chaos on the schools. There are so many kids getting sick, so many teachers, staff getting sick, schools having to shut down et cetera," said Shea.

Doctor Walkes also said if your kids are eligible go ahead and get them vaccinated. Ninety-one percent of pediatric hospital admissions she is seeing in our area, are among the unvaccinated.

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