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(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%.

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