Austin Public Health says COVID-19 clusters could be associated with UTEP football game

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Photo Credit: Jack Myer | Daily Texan Staff

Austin Public Health has seen indications that some COVID-19 case clusters are associated with the football game against UT-El Paso on Sept. 12, said APH Chief Epidemiologist Janet Pichette.

The University’s COVID-19 dashboard did not show any large spikes in cases after the game.

Ahead of the Sept. 12 game, 1,198 tests were administered to Big Ticket holders. Of those, 95 tested positive for COVID-19. While 15,337 people attended the game, only Big Ticket holders were required to be tested and confirmed negative for COVID-19.

University spokesperson J.B. Bird said University contact tracers have not seen evidence of transmission among students attending the football game.

“Students had to have a negative test result to get tickets to the game,” Bird said. “All people thinking of attending the game are reminded to stay home if they are sick or have symptoms and to follow all safety protocols.”

Pichette said APH has conducted contact tracing of UT-Austin students and provided their findings to the University.

“There have been a lot of lines of transmission that have been associated with not just the game itself, but with those social gatherings,” Pichette said. “People who are gathering to watch the game, in some settings, are actually transmitting disease to each other.”

 

APH Director Stephanie Hayden said most cases in Austin have come as a result of social gatherings and extracurricular activities.

“If you have been exposed to an individual that has tested positive for COVID-19, whether you have the symptoms or not, it’s going to be important for you to come in and test,” Hayden said.

Dr. Mark Escott, Austin Public Health interim medical director and health authority, said that although it is important for students not to socialize with each other, it is more important for them to not socialize with people outside of their age group.

“The University of Texas has a rich tradition of social responsibility amongst their students,” Escott said. “I'm hopeful and confident that will continue."

Escott told Travis County commissioners this week that younger people should be more careful in protecting themselves against COVID-19. Escott said the 10-19 age group previously made up 7.1% of all hospitalizations and has now dropped to 2.1%, but the 20-29 age group has increased from 13.3% of all hospitalizations to 15.9%.