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New coronavirus cases plateau in Austin after weeks of decline

After a few weeks of steady decline, the number of new coronavirus cases in Travis County is hitting a troublesome plateau, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said Tuesday.


"This makes us concerned that we are no longer headed in a good direction, that we are flattening out" rather than improving, Escott told the Travis County Commissioners Court. "Particularly because we are about 30 days from the start of in-person schooling, we have to do better."

Nevertheless, Escott said, the various statistics Austin Public Health uses to track the spread of coronavirus in the region show that Travis County has entered Stage 3 territory, potentially giving way to less stringent public-health restrictions in the coming weeks.

But Escott said he is not ready to make that call, which would expand the number and type of businesses considered safe to be open.

For officials to be comfortable downgrading the county to Stage 3 restrictions, Escott said they would need two weeks' worth of numbers supporting that level.

"We've seen over and over again, across the country and across the globe, that when communities relax too soon, it results in a bounce of cases and a repeat surge," Escott said.

Better news, he said, is that ICU and hospital-bed usage in Austin are still down, and the city has more than enough ventilators to handle a large surge in cases.

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