COVID-19 numbers in Austin-Travis County are up 86% since start of Dec

Austin Public Health officials say that by the end of the year, COVID-19 will be the third leading cause of death in Travis County.

While vaccines are being administered, officials say it is not enough to stop or slow down any surges, or spikes, that will come from holiday gatherings. "It's going to take some time to have enough vaccine to cover enough of our community to achieve that herd immunity," said Cassandra DeLeon, Interim APH Assistant Director. 

Austin Public Health officials warned that if numbers continue as they are, a surge in Austin is likely to be devastating. "We don't want to have to be in that situation regarding who gets care and who doesn't, but that is the reality of an overwhelming surge," said Dr. Mark Escott, interim Austin Travis County Health Authority. 



Escott said Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio are also all surging. He added if or when resources need to be deployed, we likely won’t be first to get them. "We’re fourth in line," he said. "And my concern is that resources may not be here in time that we need them."

Vaccines have started to be distributed, but only to those in the "Phase 1A" category, Escott said. Those include the direct health care providers and those who are at the highest risk. 

"We still have to get through our health care workers, then we have to get through our nursing care workers and nursing care residents," Escott said.  

He said it will take time for everyone to get vaccinated, if they choose. But, said they have a group working to ensure those in the community know when their time will be. 

If the county is to see a spike in cases, it would likely come around the first or second week of January. "By the 7th or 8th of January we can expect to see the impact on cases, then the following week the impact on hospitalizations and the ICU, and then further down the road another two or three weeks, on deaths," Escott said.  

Janet Pichette, APH’s chief epidemiologist, says that they don’t want to see a repeat of what happened after the Thanksgiving holiday. "We just want to make sure everyone has a happy and safe holiday, so again our prevention measures are critical," she said. 

Pichette said it is vital that community members continue to practice personal responsibility during this time. Meaning, continuing to wear your mask, social distancing, and if someone else isn’t wearing their mask or following the guidelines, make sure that you are. 

Stephanie Hayden, Director of APH, added that if someone is going to be going out to do shopping or running errands, it is best to designate one person and keep that person the same. 

Officials also said if you do plan on traveling, the best method is by car. But, if you do fly, try double masking for added protection. And when you do come back, self-quarantine for seven days, then get tested. 

For testing information, visit Austin Public Health’s testing website.