Austin officials discuss first two positive coronavirus cases in Travis County at press conference

Neha Madhira

Editor’s note: This story is part of The Daily Texan’s coverage of how coronavirus concerns are affecting UT-Austin. Read the rest of our coverage here.

Austin officials held a news conference Friday morning to discuss the first two presumptive positive cases in Travis County and their efforts to mitigate the spread of the new coronavirus. 

Both cases are not believed to be community spread, meaning the illness did not come from an unknown infected person, according to a Friday morning city of Austin press release. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a case is considered presumptive positive when a test is ruled positive by a local lab and confirmed when a CDC lab then confirms the test as positive.

“Austin Public Health has received two presumptive positive cases overnight,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County interim health authority at the press conference. “We have one male in his 60s who is hospitalized in our area, and the other (is) a female in her 30s who is being quarantined at home.”

One of the patients is connected to another case in Houston, and the other is in a hospital after being transferred from a rural area, Escott said. 

Escott said this means Austin is now in Phase 3 of five of the city’s COVID-19 plan, which means there are confirmed cases in the area with no person-to-person spread.

Epidemiologists are working to track these individuals and their contacts before they became sick, but these do not represent community-spread cases of the disease at this stage, Escott said.

While officials are monitoring contacts of the people who tested presumptively positive for COVID-19, the other individuals either have no symptoms or mild symptoms at this stage, Escott said. 

Mayor Steve Adler said city and county officials are meeting regularly to analyze the virus and change orders as needed.

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said now is not the time to panic, but to continue preparing for the virus by keeping good hygiene and staying at home if people feel sick.

“Panic will make us weaker,” Eckhardt said. “We are in this together. You can be assured that we have been meeting with all relevant parties and doing the preparation necessary. We are fortunate as a community that we have a phased plan in place very early.”

Stephanie Hayden, Austin Public Health director, also attended the conference.

This story was updated to clarify on the definition of presumptive positive.