(Stock Photo)

After weeks of sustained decline, the Austin area is seeing a slight increase in the number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases, which local health authorities attributed to spread among older children and young adults.


"We are no longer plateaued, no longer decreasing, but increasing over the past 11 days," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said during his weekly City Council briefing.

Travis County reported a seven-day moving average of 69.6 daily new confirmed cases on Sept. 3, the lowest it had been since early June. Since then, however, that average has increased to 105.4.

Escott attributed this change to increased transmission among children and young adults, pointing to rising positivity rates among high school and college students.

The positivity rate among 10-to-19-year-olds tested for COVID-19 in Travis County has increased over the last four weeks, Escott said, and is now significantly higher—12% to 14%—than the overall positivity rate, which was 4.8% for tests conducted last week.

The highest positivity rate recorded by Austin Public Health is among high school students, Escott said, followed by college students.

On Saturday, 95 University of Texas at Austin students tested positive for COVID-19 when trying to gain entry to the Longhorns' game. The university required the 1,198 students who attended to get tested prior to entering the stadium; the resulting positivity rate was 7.9%.

Because UT Austin used rapid antigen tests, however, those positive results are not counted toward the county caseload and are instead considered "probable," as per CDC guidelines.

Despite the uptick in the local daily caseload, the average number of daily COVID hospital admissions has declined over the same period; since Sept. 3, it has dropped from 18 to 14.8. Escott said this is explained by the increase in cases among school-age residents, who have a very low risk of requiring hospitalization.

"As we see younger people getting infections, our case numbers are going to increase. But the risk of hospitalizations being dramatically less than for older adults, we can see that increase in cases but not expect to see an increase in hospitalizations," he said.

The average number of COVID-19 hospitalizations continues to decline, despite the slight uptick in new confirmed cases.(Austin Public Health)


Although the risk of hospitalization remains much lower for younger people with COVID, they pose a risk to others, who may be more likely to require hospitalization—or even of dying—from the disease.

As a result, Escott urged high school and college students, especially, to avoid risky behavior, such as socializing in groups.

"We have to make sure that that disease does not spread beyond that age group," he said.

(Eva Rinaldi/Creative Commons)

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