AUSTIN, Texas - Austin Public Health replaced its weekly media availability to allow medical professionals to speak to the public and urge residents to take the threat of COVID-19 in the community seriously and to ask people to follow necessary measures to protect themselves and others.
Officials say it's important to give the medical professionals the platform because the number of COVID-19 cases and the seven-day moving average of new hospital admissions continue to rise in Austin-Travis County and Texas as a whole.
Some highlights from the news conference:
- Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County, Interim Health Authority said that if things don't change, projections show that by mid-July we will exceed hospital capacity. He said we need to go back to the mindset of April in regards to how we dealt with the coronavirus.
- All the medical professionals on the call urged public to follow guidelines (like wearing face coverings, social distancing, limit unnecessary outings) and to go to the hospital for help if they need it. They said what happens over the next several weeks is entirely up to us.
- Dr. Escott says he doesn't believe now is the time to go to bars. Believes we need to move from reinforcement to enforcement to stop spread.
- For July 4th, Dr. Escott says he thinks people shouldn't hang out in groups of more than 10 and that they really shouldn't be with people outside their family group.
- Dr. Escott says that if a significant change is not made right now, we'll be in a situation in the upcoming weeks where he will be forced to make the recommendation to shut down again.
Besides Dr. Escott, the news conference featured several medical professionals including:
- Dr. John Abikhaled, Travis County Medical Society, President
- Dr. Kirsten Nieto, Dell Children's Pediatric Specialist
- Dr. Jewel Mullen, Associate Dean for Health Equity at the Dell Medical School
- Dr. Christopher Ziebell, US Acute Care Solutions Southwest Medical Director
- Dr. Michael Pignone, Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at Dell Medical School
- Frances Simpson, RN, Seton Medical Center Director of Critical Care
- Dr. Ann Buchanan, St. David's Emergency Care Specialist
- Dr. Pete Zamora, CommUnity Care Chief Medical Officer (Spanish)
Yesterday at a Travis County Commissioners Court briefing, Dr. Escott said the coronavirus caseload and hospitalizations in Austin-Travis County are becoming more of a concern.
“Our hospital admissions have increased 90 percent since May 31. Our ICU bed occupancy have increased 150 percent since May 31, and our ventilator use has increased more than 75 percent since May 31,” said Escott.
Sunday was the highest single-day spike at 506 new cases. However, the most recent number was just 129. Mayor Steve Adler said that was incorrect. In fact, 129 is just a fraction of the real count. “We are not getting all the cases logged in that we want to get logged in every day,” said Adler.
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Adler said the city was so inundated with new cases Sunday, they couldn’t log them all. The tests come from many labs, some who still use fax.
Meantime Gov. Greg Abbott is encouraging Texans to follow safety protocols like social distancing and wearing masks but it not ordering a statewide mandate. He says he has faith in Texans to do the right thing when it comes to keeping each other safe.
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.