(Austin Public Health)

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Austin's COVID-19 fatality rate—defined as reported deaths per confirmed cases—continues to drop in recent weeks.

It's a decrease that the city attributes both to better treatments and to a rising number of cases among young people, but public health experts caution that the available data may not yet show the full picture.

Travis County has confirmed 13,864 cases as of Thursday evening and reported 159 deaths, for a case fatality rate of around 1.1%. This is down from 1.8% on June 22 and 3.6% at the end of April.

Better strategies for handling COVID

There are signs that the COVID-19 case fatality rate in Travis County is declining—at least to some degree—because doctors are better prepared for it, among other factors.

Doctors are also more familiar with how to treat COVID-19 patients than they were in early March, and have improved treatments. Those include:

  • convalescent plasma therapy
  • the antiviral drug remdesivir
  • improved ventilator management

In recent weeks, there has been an increasing number of cases among people ages 20 to 39, who have a higher probability of recovering.

The caveats

Many of Travis County's confirmed cases have been reported in the last two to three weeks, which means those patients have likely not yet required hospitalization—or died.

"The deaths that are going to happen for the people in the hospital just haven't happened yet," University of Texas at Austin professor and COVID modeler Dr. Lauren Ancel Meyers told Austin City Council on Thursday.

So it remains unknown whether the recent surge in COVID-19 cases will correspond with a surge in deaths.

"We expect that it will take a few weeks to understand the full impact of the increasing cases on the resulting deaths in our community," an Austin Public Health spokesperson wrote in an email to Austonia.

Travis County COVID-19 mortality by age

(Austin Public Health)

The COVID-19 case fatality rate also varies widely, even as it appears to decline overall.

The virus remains disproportionately fatal for certain groups. People over 60 years old account for 11% of confirmed cases but 85% of deaths. Just over 10% of Travis County's population is over 65 years old. (The U.S. Census Bureau does not provide more detailed information.)

Deaths also vary by race and ethnicity:

  • Black residents, who make up 9% of Travis County's population, account for 6% of confirmed cases but 10% of reported deaths.
  • Latino residents—34% of the population—account for 51% of confirmed cases and 41% of deaths.

This article has been updated with new information, graphs and quotes.

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