New omicron subvariants cause spike in COVID-19 cases in Austin area

The City of Austin says COVID-19 cases are increasing in the area, and two new omicron subvariants have been detected in Travis County. 

The city is recommending those who have not yet been vaccinated to do so, and get booster shots and continue to wear masks in situations where social distancing is not possible.

"These rising numbers and new subvariants are very concerning, especially at a time when many will be traveling and gathering with loved ones," said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. "We need everyone to get vaccinated and boosted, especially children who are now eligible for boosters. Masks also provide an extra layer of protection for yourself and others." 

The county's current Community COVID-19 Level is listed as "low" and as of Friday, new cases of the virus per 100K population in the last week is 174.81. If that metric reaches 200, the Community Level will move to "medium," according to the city. 

The two new omicron subvariants that have been confirmed in Travis County are BA.4 and BA.5. Austin Public Health (APH) reports that BA.2 accounts for most of the current infection in the Austin-Travis County area. However, APH says BA.4 and BA.5 have proven to be more transmissible abroad. 

Reports from the CDC say these two subvariants now account for over 6% of COVID-19 cases nationwide.

APH recommends anyone at risk of serious illness should get up to date with vaccines as soon as possible. 

"APH staff members are working hard to provide the tests and vaccines necessary to keep our community safe and control the spread of COVID-19," said Director Adrienne Sturrup. "Come by one of our clinics to get up to date with your vaccines, get tested at Metz Elementary if you feel a sniffle, and continue to follow the guidance that we know works."

The city is providing the following information for residents:

Expanded Booster Eligibility 

Everyone 5 and older is eligible for a COVID-19 booster dose. Children 5-11 are eligible five months after completing their primary vaccine series. Everyone 50 and older is eligible for a second booster dose at least four months after their first booster.  

Free N95 respirators 

Check with your local pharmacy (H-E-B, CVS, Walgreens) about free N95 respirators. You can also use a feature on the CDC’s website to find a location offering free N95 masks near you.  

Free COVID-19 tests 

APH encourages testing before and after gatherings, especially if you plan to be in close contact with individuals who are at risk. A third round of free mail-order COVID-19 test kits are available through the federal government. You can also pick up free rapid antigen tests at APH's Metz Elementary testing site.  

APH testing and vaccination information  

Find vaccine providers using ( in Spanish) or by texting your zip code to 438829 (822862 in Spanish) to find a nearby clinic.        

APH clinics offer COVID-19 testing and vaccinations without an appointment, although creating an account online in advance saves time. COVID-19 vaccinations are free and require neither identification nor insurance. For more information and to schedule an appointment, call 3-1-1 or 512-974-2000 or visit        

The APH Mobile Vaccination Program brings vaccine clinics to businesses, churches and more. APH is asking all organizations to fill out an online form to request a pop-up clinic.