A rising number of daily confirmed COVID-19 cases and an increasing positivity rate at city-run drive-thru testing sites are evidence that a surge is looming, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott told Travis County commissioners this morning.

"Certainly based on our modeling, as well as some of the other dynamics that we're seeing in the community, including increasing risk-taking behaviors, decreasing use of masks and social distancing, anecdotally, we certainly expect to see a surge begin to happen," Dr. Escott said.

Yesterday, Austin Public Health recorded a new record for the number of new confirmed cases: 86.

"This is about two to three weeks after the reopening of the state, and this is about the time we'd expect to see an increase in cases as a result of that change in policy," Dr. Escott said.

Another piece of evidence suggestive of a surge is an increasing rate of positive COVID-19 test results.

Since Austin Public Health in mid-April debuted a public enrollment system, which allows residents to sign up for free testing at drive-thru sites, the testing capacity has increased—although resources are still limited. Up until mid-May, the positive rate was hovering around 3% to 4%, but last week it was 8.5%.

"Again, this indicates to us that we are starting to see the beginnings of a surge," Dr. Escott said.

County commissioners spoke about news coverage showing hoards of revelers congregating at Lake Travis and bars on Rainey and Sixth streets; the mayor has, on social media, asked people to be more cautious.

"The public is hearing mixed messages," Dr. Escott said, with one side pushing for economic recovery and the other urging confinement. "We've got to be in the middle somewhere."

A sharp increase in cases could overwhelm the local healthcare system and force a second economic shutdown. To avoid this outcome, Dr. Escott stressed the need for continued caution and urged residents to wear masks while in public, and to practice social distancing.

"We're seeing what happens when we're successful at prevention because it's not real yet to the community. They don't know people by name who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 or died," he said. "I know all the names."


(Pexels)

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Sponsored by Tito's Handmade Vodka

Tito's Handmade Vodka will provide 21,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to Austinites (Austonians?) for free on July 2 via contactless pickup.

Tito's For Austin

"Due to the recent spike in cases of COVID-19 in Texas, we wanted to make our hand sanitizer more widely available to the local community," said Taylor Berry, VP of Brand Marketing at Tito's Handmade Vodka. "We're starting in our hometown of Austin, with plans to expand to additional Texas cities in need."

  • Where: Krieg Softball Complex parking lot, 222 S. Pleasant Valley Road.
  • When: Thursday, July 2, 12-6 p.m. or while supplies last.
  • Details: All passengers must wear masks; limit three bottles per car.
  • More: Tito's For Austin



Since beginning production in late March, Tito's has donated hand sanitizer to critical frontline workers at over 500 organizations in Central Texas, and to 25 states and counting across the United States. Due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Austin, Tito's Handmade Vodka is shifting its hand sanitizer distribution strategy to make it available to the public for free.

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