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Local COVID cases plateau after slight uptick; health authority urges caution ahead of flu season

After a recent uptick in new confirmed COVID-19 cases, it appears the trend line is plateauing again and the local positivity rate is holding steady, at around 6%, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott told county commissioners on Tuesday.

"We've had this increase since the beginning of September that's leveling off a bit," he said.


Escott attributed the increase to new cases among older children and young adults. In the last week, he said, more than half of the confirmed COVID cases reported in Travis County have been among the 10-19 and 20-29 age groups.

Despite this trend, however, the number of COVID-related hospitalizations fell over the same time period—and continues to decline. This is because younger people who contract the disease have a much lower risk of requiring hospital care than older people.

The seven-day moving average number of daily new COVID hospital admissions is 14, down from nearly 18 on Sept. 1.

Additionally, in the last three weeks the number of hospital beds filled by COVID patients has declined 45%, the number of ICU beds filled by COVID patients has declined 49% and the use of ventilators by COVID patients has declined by 56%.

"We're very pleased with our hospital capacity right now," Escott said. "Once again, there's plenty of room for folks in the hospital."

There is still concern, however, that Austinites may be delaying preventative care for fear of taking up space at area hospitals or contracting COVID. Escott encouraged residents not to do this and to stay up to date with their regular appointments—especially immunizations.

The looming flu season has sparked fears of a "twindemic."

Last year, which saw a particularly bad flu season, local ICUs hit capacity from flu patients alone, Escott told commissioners.

"Our hospitals cannot handle surges of both," he said. "We're going to have to ration care."

Escott encouraged Austinites to get vaccinated before the flu season picks up later this fall. He also advised continued caution, especially for those at high risk, or who live with high risk individuals, of contracting COVID-19.

"It's the circumstances of social gatherings (where) we're seeing transmission," he said, explaining that new cases have been tracked to college parties and family gatherings.

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