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Austin COVID hospitalizations see major uptick as city reaches Stage 5 threshold

Hospitals are seeing increased admissions from COVID as a result of the omicron surge. (Charlie L. Harper III)

Austin's COVID hospitalizations have seen a 135% increase in the past week, reaching the Stage 5 threshold of the city's risk-based guidelines.

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Is COVID the new chicken pox? Experts say herd immunity is on the horizon

Austin Public Health hosted a vaccine event at the Delco Activity Center in Northeast Austin earlier this month. (Christa McWhirter)

With vaccine eligibility expanded to Texas residents 16 and older, an increasing supply of doses and falling hospitalization numbers, many Austinites feel newfound hope that the pandemic's end is, finally, in sight.

And it really could be as public health experts are optimistic that herd immunity is achievable through mass vaccination. With the current rate of vaccinations, herd immunity is achievable by summer, says Shelley Payne, director of the John Ring LaMontagne Center for Infectious Diseases at the University of Texas at Austin. "I think we can hit the goal," she told Austonia.

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Austin health officials: COVID curve is flattening, but vaccine rollout remains slow
(City of Austin)

Austin public health officials pointed to some positive signs—an apparent flattening of new confirmed COVID cases and related hospitalizations as well as a falling community positivity rate—during a special joint meeting of the City Council and Travis County Commissioners Court on Tuesday. But they also tried to manage the public's expectations regarding the ongoing vaccine rollout, which remains slow due to limited supply.

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