AUSTIN, Texas - Across the country, the belief is that U.S. citizens are fighting two pandemics: racism and COVID-19. That sentiment is reflected in Austin. Now health officials are worried about a possible spike in coronavirus cases.
“We are encouraging individuals who may have participated in the protests, please go to our website and take the assessment and sign up for a test,” said Stephanie Hayden, Austin Public Health director.
The health authority says the protests are an ideal setting for transmission.
“I was pleased to see many people participating in peaceful protests and wearing masks. That should help mitigate that risk, but social distancing was impossible in many of those locations,” said Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority.
As of June 3, Austin-Travis County has 3,433 confirmed cases of COVID-19, but the University of Texas at Austin models predict the actual number could be seven to eight times more.
Dr. Escott said we need to pay close attention to hospitalizations, which are now just under 100 in the five-county area. “We have a hospitalization rate overall of 16 percent and a case fatality rate of 3.6 percent. Our hospital capacity is certainly in a good situation right now so we can handle additional capacity,” said Escott.
The disease continues to disproportionately infect and be more severe in people of color, which prompted the health authority to come up with a targeted approach to this fight.
“The department is working on a holistic road map which will be a plan for us to address our concerns with health disparities as well as disproportionate rates of people of color in our COVID-19 data,” said Hayden.
Until there is a vaccine, everyone will need to continue to wear face coverings, wash hands frequently, socially distance, and stay home when sick, even with businesses reopening.
FOX 7 Austin is working to keep you up to date with coronavirus, with both local and national developments. You can also get the latest COVID-19 news from around the country at coronavirusnow.com.