(Austin Public Health)

Travis County residents are taking advantage of Austin Public Health's free COVID-19 testing service as reported cases continue to spike—even though they may have to wait in a long car line before reaching the drive-thru station.


Between June 8 and June 15, APH conducted nearly 2,500 tests—more than double its previous weekly count, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said this week.



Wednesday evening, Travis County reported its largest daily increase—220—in confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic started. The previous record was 161 new cases reported on June 9. (Due to maintenance on the Travis County COVID-19 dashboard, Wednesday is the most recent data available.)

But Dr. Escott has explained that the spike is not merely reflective of increased testing but also of the virus' quickening spread.

"We have widespread community transmission in Austin, in Travis County, across Texas, across the United States," he said. "And we're seeing that demonstrated in the new cases that we're experiencing and the rapid growth of those new cases."

A key indicator of a surge is an increasing rate of hospitalizations. The seven-day rolling average of new daily hospital admissions as of Wednesday was 24.3, up from 13 a week ago.

This change led APH to advance the local threat level from stage 3 to 4, according to the five-stage system its staff developed with the COVID-19 Modeling Consortium at the University of Texas.

Although the number of confirmed cases and COVID-related hospitalizations are rising, the rate of positive test results has largely remained steady, APH data shows. Between late April and early June, the positive rate was 5.83%. Since June 8, 5.72% of tests have returned a positive result. This positive rate, however, varies widely across race and ethnic groups. Dr. Escott said Wednesday that the positive rate for Hispanic residents tested by APH between June 8-15 was 23.5%. The rate among black residents was 7% and among white residents 3.1%.

(Gecko Studio/Adobe)

High demand across the country has led to slower turnaround times for COVID-19 test kits.

The surge in Austin's COVID-19 cases is overwhelming the public health system trying to fight community spread.

"We can't get people tested right now," said Dr. James Marroquin, an internal medicine doctor practicing in Austin. "To me, that's a scandal."

Keep Reading Show less
(Austin Public Health)

Travis County has seen its COVID-19 fatality rate—defined as the reported deaths per confirmed cases—drop since late April.

The mortality rate for COVID-19 patients—defined as reported deaths per confirmed cases—in Austin has dropped from 3.6% at the end of April to 1.8% on June 22, a decrease that the city attributes both to better treatments and to a rising number of cases among young people, who are more likely to recover.

Keep Reading Show less
(HodgePodge Media)

With an endless number of podcasts out there, how does anyone decide what to listen to? Start with the homegrown. We've put together this list of 12 local—or nearly local—podcasts you won't want to miss.

Keep Reading Show less
(Mike Mareen/Adobe)

Texas is the home of the pickup truck—roughly one in five sold in the U.S. is bought here. But the next model to be made here may be one unlike any seen before.

Keep Reading Show less

Austin Mayor Steve Adler issued a "Stay Home, Mask, and Otherwise Be Safe" order, effective from noon today until Aug. 15, requiring all individuals to wear masks and social distance. The order prohibits outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people.

Keep Reading Show less
Governor Abbott Implements Face Covering Requirement To Slow The Spread Of COVID-19

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Thursday requiring all Texans to wear masks "over the nose and mouth" in public spaces. It applies to counties with at least 20 confirmed COVID-19 cases and reverses the governor's previous policies.

Keep Reading Show less
(Austonia reader poll)

The coronavirus pandemic has altered or canceled summer plans for many. We asked you earlier this week, "What are your travel plans this summer?" The majority voted "staying home."

Keep Reading Show less