After weeks of an apparent flattening, Austin Public Health reported 1,034 active cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday—the highest caseload since mid-August.
"It is a gradual but significant increase in the number of cases," the department said in a press release issued on Thursday.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Austin-Travis County reported 148 and 154 new cases, respectively, about a 50% increase from the seven-day moving average of 96.6 reported previously.
(Austin Public Health)
More than half of those who tested positive at APH testing sites were between the ages of 20 and 39 years old, according to APH.
The numbers suggest that those who recently participated in a gathering, such as a Halloween party, have had a higher risk of encountering someone infected with the virus. As a result, APH recommends that everyone who gathered outside their household last weekend get tested and self-isolate at home.
"APH cannot prevent a spike in cases ahead of the winter holidays without the support and cooperation of our entire community," the department said. "An increase in case numbers will lead to needless hospitalizations and deaths."
This spike follows a few weeks of local health officials cautiously reporting a relatively flat COVID curve, which bucked the trend of rising caseloads across Texas—and the world.
On Wednesday, the U.S. reported a record-breaking number of new COVID cases—at least 107,000—marking the first time since the pandemic that the country has broken six figures in a single day and prompting fears of a coming surge that will be worse than the one seen this past summer.
El Paso also set a new record on Wednesday, with 3,100 new COVID cases reported, and remains under a countywide shutdown order. Hospitals are at or near capacity, the Texas Tribune reported, and four temporary morgues have been set up.
Across Europe, the U.K. and France have recently reentered lockdown due to similarly swelling caseloads.
"It is important that we … learn what has happened in other cities across our state and in other countries," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said on Monday. "And the lesson learned is that when things start to look better, then we want to celebrate, and we want to change and open things up aggressively."
Most businesses and area schools have reopened, at varying capacity levels, but bars remain closed for at least the next week and a half, per a county order.
"We don't want the reopenings to be short-lived," Escott added.
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More vaccines could be headed to Austin as FDA greenlights single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine
This story was updated Monday to include that the vaccine received official approval by the FDA this weekend.
The Food and Drug Administration approved the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine that is to be shipped out this month, increasing the number of vaccines available.
In a virtual meeting on Friday, the FDA Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee unanimously approved of the U.S.'s third available COVID-19 vaccine, which was officially approved on Saturday. Federal officials say 4 million doses will go out nationally this week, with an expected 20 million doses to be available by the end of March. The Texas Department of State Health Services has said it expects to receive about 200,000 doses, but has not released a timeline of when doses will be shipped and available.