Travis County COVID-19 positivity rates decrease, may change risk level next week

Lauren Abel

Austin may change it’s COVID-19 risk level next week as COVID-19 positivity and hospitalization rates gradually decrease in Travis County, Mayor Steve Adler said at a Tuesday night press conference.

“Dr. Escott said he wanted to see through the end of the week but maybe make a decision (on changing the risk level) as we turn into next week,” Adler said.

Adler said the Austin area has a positivity rate of 6.9%, but this figure could change as test results continue to come in throughout the week. Travis County currently sits at Stage 4 on the COVID-19 stage ranking.

“This (positive case rate) number was down, in part because we were giving so few tests during the storm,” Adler said. “We lost a lot of data that ordinarily we would have.”

The seven-day moving average for new confirmed cases is at 213 with 187 new cases reported Tuesday. The seven-day moving average for new hospital admissions in Travis County is at 29 with 30 new admissions as of Tuesday. 

Gov. Greg Abbott said he was ending the statewide mask mandate effective next Wednesday, but Adler said wearing a mask is the most effective way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The Austin Chamber of Commerce issued a statement Tuesday encouraging people to wear masks.

“It’s up to us now to take care of one another and to do what it takes to increase the chances that we can get our kids back in school and open our businesses,” Adler said.

According to UT’s COVID-19 Modeling Consortium website, the effective reproduction number, which measures the contagiousness of a disease, is down to 0.52, which means the pandemic is moving toward the end. If the figure is greater than one, an epidemic is expected to continue, and if it is less than one, the epidemic is expected to end, the website said. 

Austin Public Health has updated the scheduling system to include a new queuing system. APH also added more employees at a call center to call people who can’t navigate computers or are homebound, Adler said. 

“Last week, Austin Public Health gave out 33,562 vaccines,” Adler said. “That’s almost half the number of vaccines given out all together.”

Adler said the city will be opening a mass drive-thru vaccination site at the Toney Burger Activity Center and Stadium next week. 

On Feb. 27, Travis County opened a vaccination site at the Circuit of the Americas where they delivered 3,000 vaccines. The city is also looking into opening a mobile vaccine program for people who are most vulnerable that have limited transportation available, Adler said.

“We’re going to get another 12,000 vaccines this week,” Adler said. “The state announced that they were going to get 200,000 of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines.”