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car testing drive thru medical covid
(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.

Popular

Tito's releases (not so?) ugly sweater line for the holidays, profits to charity

Tito's Handmade Vodka

Show your love for Tito's and for the community this year with a wide selection of not that ugly, uglyish, ugly, uglier, and ugliest holiday sweaters.

There's lots choose from, and plenty of accessories like scarves and socks, plus gear for your dog, too.

All of the items can be purchased online or at the Love, Tito’s Retail Store in Austin, TX. 100% of all net proceeds from online or in-store purchases go to one of the nonprofits we’ve teamed up with.

Click here to see the entire collection in the Tito's store.

Mac and Cheese Fest and Free Art Exhibit
Waterloo Greenway, Good Vibrations Installation


🗓 All weekend

🎨 Creek Show Art Exhibit

Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities

All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park

✨ Mozart's Light Show

This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.

6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703

🗓 Saturday

🥊 Kickboxing in the Park

This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.

10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park

🛍 The Front Market

Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.

11 a.m - 5 p.m | 📍Ani's Day and Night - 7107 E Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78741

🗓 Sunday

🧀 Mac and Cheese Fest

Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.

11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway