(City of Austin)

Austin Public Health is no longer offering free COVID testing to anyone who applies.

As Travis County's COVID-19 caseload and related hospitalizations continue to surge, Austin Public Health is grappling with its limited resources—and recently announced that it will restrict testing and contact tracing to specific cases.


"Austin Public Health, the city and the county simply don't have the resources, the personnel, to provide for everybody everything they need," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott told Travis County commissioners Tuesday.

In response, APH is shifting its pandemic strategy.

Testing

APH opened up its free testing service to all residents on June 5, following mass protests, but announced last weekend that it would scale back, only offering tests to those who are symptomatic, live in group settings like nursing homes, or are members of other vulnerable populations.

Dr. Escott said APH is also looking to transition at least some of its testing load to private companies, and asked residents with health insurance to seek out testing from their doctors rather than through APH's free service.

"We're going to have to return to duty—to investigate other disease outbreaks: HIV, STDs, foodborne illnesses," he said of APH staff. "There are a lot of other things that public health do normally that we can't really do very well right now because we're all invested in COVID-19."

Testing can be subcontracted out to private companies more easily than other public health services, Dr. Escott said.

Contact tracing

APH is also rethinking its contact tracing strategy in the face of uncontrolled community spread, focusing on those patients with the most recently conducted tests and who live in group settings.

"For the vast majority of cases we can't tell [where they originate]—and we can't tell because we have hundreds and hundreds of people a day who are testing positive," Dr. Escott said Tuesday. "And those hundreds and hundreds of people have contacted at least dozens and dozens of people."

Another concern is an antiquated reporting system among labs, which means that some test results are faxed to APH and require manual input into an electronic database. This leads to delays between when people are tested and when contact tracing can begin.

"Getting results in 7 to 10 days is relatively useless," Dr. Escott said.

(Realtor.com)

The pre-renovated backyard of the Rogan house on Lake Austin.

Austin-based podcast host Joe Rogan, recently called one of the most influential media personalities in the country, paid at least $14.4 million for the luxury lake house he's now living in on Lake Austin, according to local real estate sources and a report by Variety magazine.
Keep Reading Show less
(Tito's Handmade Vodka)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 oz Tito's Handmade Vodka
  • 2 oz cloudy apple juice
  • 1/2 oz ginger syrup
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 4 ginger slices, muddled
Directions: Muddle ginger slices in a shaker. Add remaining ingredients and ice. Shake and strain into a glass over fresh ice. Garnish with an orange twist.

The Texas Longhorns will face off with the Texas Tech Raiders this Saturday.

On Saturday, the Longhorns will travel to Lubbock to face off against Texas Tech in the Big 12 season opener for both teams.

Keep Reading Show less

The November election is among us and here's what you need to know about propositions on the ballot.

In addition to voting for president, members of Congress and Austin City Council this Nov. 3., local voters will find two propositions at the bottom of their ballot with both addressing mobility issues in the city of Austin.

Keep Reading Show less

(Steven Joyner)

No city is perfect, but if we're just talking about looks, Austin—with its lush green nature spots and lakes—is pretty spectacular. Here's a look at what makes Austin the perfect place to "staycation."

Keep Reading Show less
(Photo by Maile Wilson)

Brené Brown is on to her next project, a podcast signed with Spotify.

Author and University of Texas professor Brené Brown signed a deal with Spotify for the platform rights to her new podcast "Dare to Lead," available Oct. 19.

Keep Reading Show less
(Austonia staff)

Barton Springs pool will reopen on Saturday after being closed since late June due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Barton Springs and Deep Eddy pools will reopen this Saturday on a modified schedule after being closed for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keep Reading Show less