The Centers for Disease Control is citing the response to an early outbreak of COVID-19 in a group of University of Texas students who traveled together to Mexico as an example of how to handle similar clusters in the future.
The students left for Cabo San Lucas just one day after Travis County reported its first COVID-19 case. Upon return, about a third of them—60 total—tested positive for the disease and infected at least four other people.
The outbreak "among a young, healthy population with no or mild symptoms" was ultimately controlled "with a coordinated public health response that included rapid contact tracing and testing of all exposed persons," according to a CDC analysis published today.
The CDC believes this model may help contain future COVID-19 outbreaks as schools plan to reopen.
The UT Health Austin COVID-19 Center, a multidisciplinary team established in early March to help with the university's pandemic response, investigated the cluster and trained medical students, public health students, and clinical and research staff members to trace contacts and help coordinate testing for those who qualified.
Other actions—including a municipal shelter-in-place order issued in late March and UT-Austin's weeklong transition to remote learning—helped limit the spread of the disease, according to the study.
The study's authors recommend that schools and universities prepare for similar outbreaks.
"Contact tracing and testing of close contacts, regardless of symptoms, is important in limiting spread, especially in young and healthy populations living in shared housing and in controlling future COVID-19 outbreaks that might occur as schools and universities reopen," they wrote.
The efficacy of contract tracing, however, has diminished as the state of Texas continues its reopening.
"Right now, what happens when you call somebody who's a positive and you ask them where they've been over the past week, they've been everywhere," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said at a virtual press conference on Wednesday. "They've had contact with hundreds of people."
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Austin police have charged Kaitlin Marie Armstrong, a local cyclist, for the murder of Moriah "Mo" Wilson.
Wilson, a rising star in the gravel and mountain bike community, was found dead with gunshot wounds inside an East Austin home on the night of May 11 when she was in town for the weekend Gravel Locos race in Hico, Texas.
Police believe Wilson was having a relationship with a man Armstrong was also in a relationship with. The man, another gravel cyclist, Colin Strickland, has since issued a statement on the murder.
In his statement, he said he had a brief romantic relationship with Wilson in October 2021 before he resumed his relationship with Armstrong, but that he remained friends with Wilson. "There is no way to adequately express the regret and torture I feel about my proximity to this horrible crime. I am sorry, and I simply cannot make sense of this unfathomable tragedy.
NEW: Austin professional cyclist Colin Strickland has just released a statement about the murder of cyclist Moriah Wilson, clarifying his relationship with her and expressing “torture about my proximity to this horrible crime.” pic.twitter.com/KnIna3mWrE
— Tony Plohetski (@tplohetski) May 20, 2022
Wilson, a 25-year-old Vermont native living in Colorado, had won a slew of races becoming a fan favorite. She had just become a full-time racer this year.
Anyone with information on this crime can contact Austin police at 512-974-TIPS or contact Crime Stoppers anonymously at 512-472-8477.
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Austin has added 24-hour security to the city-owned Pecan Gardens property, which will be converted into supportive housing for people exiting homelessness, after the former hotel was found with months of damage and vandalism May 5.
The building, which was broken into and stripped of copper and had people illegally sleeping inside of it, has been secured, Kelly said in a Friday press conference. Kelly said the city confirmed a measure to implement 24-hour security, including updates every 60 days until the property opens up as supportive housing.
"We cannot let this happen to any vacant city-owned property ever again," Kelly said. "This blatant act of disregard and criminal behavior will not be tolerated in our community."
The city bought the former hotel in August 2021 for $9.5 million with plans to renovate the property into a 78-unit supportive housing property. Those 55 or older that are experiencing chronic homelessness can qualify to live at the site once it is completed in late 2022-early 2023.
While the council was set to discuss a $4 million deal with Family Eldercare to begin converting the property Thursday, Kelly pulled the item for a later executive session due to security concerns. But the council did approve an item to authorize city leaders to begin negotiating other renovation contracts.
"I want to thank my colleagues for pumping the brakes on this contract and realizing that we owe the community not only an apology, but reassurance that the protection of the assets the city owns is vital to the success of achieving our intended goals," Kelly said.
When the building was found vandalized May 5, Kelly, who presides over the district containing the property, said damage included:
- Damage spanning all three floors of the building and is in nearly every room.
- The entire hotel was stripped of copper.
- Destroyed washers, dryers, air conditioners and electrical wiring.
- People sleeping at the hotel without permission.
On Tuesday, Austin’s Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Gray apologized and said there was no security due to a delay in processing the request.
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