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Before the Thanksgiving holiday, Austin Public Health sent thanks to the Austin community for masking and getting vaccinated but also warned of another possible surge if COVID precautions are not taken this holiday season.

In a press conference on Tuesday, health leaders urged Austinites to get tested if they've engaged with people that they aren't sure are vaccinated or are sick before visiting other households; to wear a mask when there is high community transmission; and to get the vaccine or booster shot.

Health officials said they are focusing on the community transmission rate, which is the way the virus is spreading, heading into the holidays since transmission is seen before hospitalizations. At a current rate of 60 cases per 100,000 residents, Austin Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said transmission is substantial and everyone is recommended to mask indoors and in public places.

Walkes pointed to other cities, like El Paso, that is seeing an uptick in their transmission rate heading into Thanksgiving.

"We came off Halloween and we pretty much kept cases at bay, but we want to maintain a flattened curve as we enter into the holiday... cold and flu season," chief epidemiologist Janet Pichette said. "It's going to be all the more crucial to make sure you have vaccine on board in the coming months as you get ready for the Christmas and other holidays, and to make sure you are doing those preventative measures that we always ask you to do."

The department said it is already seeing a 33% increase in the number of new cases from two weeks ago to last week.

The seven-day moving average of hospital admissions has continued to stay in the Stage 2 threshold of APH's risk-based guidelines, although it has not transitioned out of Stage 3 officially to avoid the community easing off precautions that could lead to another surge. Austin recently came off a summer surge due to the Delta variant, which carries two times the virus, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

APH is encouraging residents to wear a mask when transmission could be high, such as in an indoor setting, and to get extra protection from booster shots, which are now available to everyone over 18 years of age. Those who received their vaccine before May are recommended to get a booster.

"The only thing you should be bringing to the Thanksgiving table is fixins', not COVID," Walkes said.



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