Sustained demand for testing continues to slow turnaround times at public testing sites and thwart contact tracing efforts even though Austin officials are reporting positive trends in COVID data.
The number of COVID-related hospital admissions and daily new confirmed cases are plateauing and indicate recent policy changes—including a state masking mandate and local park closures—are curbing transmission, local officials said.
"This is refreshing news," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said at a press conference on Wednesday.
But Austin Public Health continues to limit access to its free testing service to residents with symptoms or known exposure to the virus even as its capacity has increased dramatically—88% in the month of July.
The department is now conducting more than 6,000 tests a week. "This is roughly double the testing that we did just a few weeks ago, so we're very proud about that," Dr. Escott said Tuesday.
Turnaround times are holding steady—at around five to seven days for tests conducted by APH, according to Chief Epidemiologist Janet Pichette—but are still long enough that patients may recover by the time they learn their results.
"The purpose of testing at this stage is to contact trace, to isolate, to box it in," Dr. Escott said, but he added that current delays render this strategy ineffective.
These issues are not unique to Austin.
Quest Diagnostics, one of the country's largest clinical labs, reported an average turnaround time of a week or longer in a July 20 press statement.
"While some patients may receive their test results in as quickly as 2-3 days, a small subset of patients may experience wait times of up to two weeks," the company wrote.
Quest attributed the delay to increased demand for testing, which it said is highest in the South, Southwest and Western regions of the U.S.
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Austin FC is one seat closer to opening the doors to its new stadium for the 2021 Major League Soccer season.
By Stacy Fernandez
Texas joined the Trump administration's lawsuit against Google, accusing the tech giant of monopolizing the search engine market and controlling how online ads are bought and sold, according to the suit filed Tuesday morning.
Researchers at the COVID-19 Modeling Consortium at the University of Texas at Austin predict there is a 96% chance the COVID-19 pandemic is growing in Austin.
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Popular podcaster—and new Austin resident—Joe Rogan canceled all podcast episodes for this week just days after the controversial music artist Kanye West teased that he would be on the show.
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The parent company of the Austin American-Statesman is reportedly asking some employees to accept voluntary buyouts.
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