Never miss a story
Sign up for our free daily morning email...
...and afternoon text update
×
(City of Austin)

Travis County is reporting declines in new confirmed COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and positive test results—as well as four new primary and secondary school clusters.

Despite continued declines in new confirmed COVID-19 cases and related hospital admissions, four primary and secondary schools in Travis County are now reporting clusters, defined as three or more positive cases at a single location, local health officials said Tuesday. More than 25 cases have been reported across the four schools.

Many of these clusters stem from athletic programs, such as strength and conditioning activities for football teams, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said. He did not provide the names of the four schools; Austonia filed a public information request for more information and is awaiting a response.


This news arrives one day after The University of Texas at Austin confirmed two positive COVID cases at its residence halls. Student newspaper The Daily Texan also reported on a third confirmed case at the off-campus Scottish Rite Dormitory over the weekend.

Since classes began last week, the university has reported eight confirmed cases on its public dashboard.

As health officials have predicted, the return to in-person schooling has led to confirmed cases among students. This is why Escott and others have recommended that schools reopen in phases, starting at no more than 25% capacity, despite pushback from some parents.

"It's important to note that disease spread is happening," he said.

Continued declines

Despite these clusters, Travis County has positive news to report.

The moving average number of daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases is now 89—as low as it was in early June, pre-surge—and the number of related hospitalizations and testing positivity rate also continue to decline.

Just over 6% of Travis County residents who were tested for COVID last week returned positive results, according to Austin Public Health data. While disparities continue—with much higher rates of positivity among Native American and Latino residents—the overall rate continues to fall.

The overall positivity rate for COVID-19 tests conducted in Travis County last week was 6.2%, but that rate varies widely across demographics. (Austin Public Health)


Escott said he would like to see the positive rate fall below 5% for all demographics before moving to a Stage 2 risk designation, which comes with fewer restrictions.

Area ICUs are also out of "present danger," Austin Mayor Steve Adler said Tuesday, with local hospital systems Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David's HealthCare reporting a combined occupancy rate of 73% on Monday.


The Austin metro is reporting fewer COVID-related hospital admissions and a lower ICU occupancy rate. (Rational Anarchy/Reddit)


But this does not mean Austinites should relax their precautions, especially given that Labor Day festivities and continued school openings could lead to an increase in new cases.

"On June 10, we were at less than 90 [new confirmed daily] cases [on average]," Escott said, comparing it to the current average. "It only took us three weeks to reach our peak of 558 cases a day … but it took us two months to get down from that peak."

Other news

Austin Public Health released the names of long-term care facilities that have reported outbreaks after previously refusing to do so, citing privacy concerns.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office ruled in July that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission should disclose such information, according to a news release from the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.

The nonprofit had advocated for the release of such information, arguing that revealing the names of impacted facilities "does not identify an individual resident."

Escott included the names of local facilities with current clusters in his weekly update to council members and county commissioners.

Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott shared the names of local long-term care facilities that have COVID clusters for the first time on Tuesday. (Austin Public Health)

Popular

Two days shy of the one-year anniversary of Texas' first confirmed case of COVID-19, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that he will rescind statewide pandemic restrictions, including business capacity limits and mask mandates, next week. Although businesses—especially those tied to the hospitality industry—have suffered financially over the last year, many Austin establishments are rejecting Abbott's order.

Keep Reading Show less

(AUSTIN, TEXAS) Austonia has hired Claire Partain as a reporter covering Austin FC, the MLS expansion team that will be Austin's first major league sports franchise.

Partain is a former sports editor for the The University Star, Texas State University's daily newspaper. She edited, covered sports, produced podcasts, and hosted a pre-game TXST football tailgate live series. Partain has been freelancing with the company since January, prior to accepting a staff position.

A native of Fairfield, Texas, Partain grew up playing youth soccer. In her high school years, she played alongside her mother in what was then called the Freestone County Hispanic Women's Soccer League.

Claire's coverage philosophy: "I like to bring out the humanity of sports, and I want to make this the most accessible sports coverage possible."

She notes that soccer is the predominant sport for young people. "It's a global sport, and we're more connected to the world than older generations."

That approach fits the team's already visible presence in Austin, says Austonia CEO Mark Dewey. "Austin FC has established itself as a leading Austin brand, one that stands for a more unified Austin community, a bigger global presence for Austin and fun. Austonia shares those values."

Partain's soccer coverage begins immediately, with her free, hosted text service—Austonia FC. For updates, special access and inside info, all moderated by Claire, sign up below.

Austonia is the city's independent, free, locally-owned and all-digital source for Austin news, information and entertainment.

Connect with Austonia through its daily email newsletter and text updates, @austonianews Instagram feed, @austonianews and @austinist Twitter feeds, @austonianews Facebook page and its website austonia.com.

Two hours after Gov. Greg Abbott announced that state mandates on wearing masks and limiting business capacities would be lifted, Mayor Steve Adler wrote a letter to the city urging residents to keep their masks on and stay safe.

Keep Reading Show less