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Fall could be 'normal or near normal' if Austin avoids third surge, Escott says

With new case reports down to less than 100 cases a day since March 16, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Mark Escott said that Austin could be "normal or near-normal" by fall.


In a press conference on Friday, APH officials said that things are looking up but there are still concerns, including the lifting of the mask mandate, less-safe celebrations during Spring Break and the rise of two variants in the city.

Escott said that the risk of a third surge will continue to dissipate in the coming months.

"When we look forward to the fall, September, October, November, it seems likely at this stage that events during that kind of time frame are going to be normal or near-normal," Escott said. "Spring and early summer is a little bit more concerning, there's some more uncertainty there, (but) we can expect for things to start to look more normal as we go through the summer."

Although new case reports have been down and continue to drop, Austin Public Health says the UK and California variants of the virus are continuing to spread in the Austin area. While some studies have shown the current vaccine to be effective against new variants, others say it is too early to tell.

This week, APH received 12,000 doses from the state, and about 25% of Austin area residents have now received at least one dose of the vaccine. Although the state has lifted vaccine qualifications to those aged 50 or older, the city continues to prioritize 1A and 1B individuals who have still not received their vaccine.

More complications arose from the department when the system experienced a glitch on Monday and Tuesday, meaning thousands were unable to schedule their appointments. Making up for lost time, Thursday evening, APH vaccinated 4,600 individuals who were kicked out of vaccine scheduler earlier this week.

As vaccines become more plentiful and accessible, APH has begun to make changes to the current vaccination system. Starting in February, the department offered mobile vaccinations to sites including senior living centers and other facilities, and Escott said that the city will begin moving away from vaccination hubs and into neighborhood vaccination sites to make vaccines more accessible.

"As more vaccine becomes available, we've got to have the shift of our strategy," Escott said. "But as the supply chain improves, we know that successful public health vaccination strategies involve public and private partnership... I think as we go through April, and certainly into May, we're going to see more and more of those traditional providers having vaccines available for folks so they can just travel down the street and get the vaccine rather than then having to drive a significant distance to one of these large sites."

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