AUSTIN, Texas — Austin-Travis County health leaders held a press conference on Thursday morning as Austin and the state of Texas reported increasingly high COVID-19 rates this week.
Mayor Steve Adler said the stay-at-home and wear-mask orders in the area would likely be extended before their expiration on June 15.
According to Austin leaders, if the city reaches 20 new hospital admissions per day, measures must be taken. This standard was set when the city had approximately eight admissions per day and that number has since risen to 13 admissions per day.
On Wednesday, Texas reported 2,504 new cases and 32 new deaths. For the third day in a row, the state also reported a record-high number of new hospitalizations at 2,153.
According to the City of Austin, Travis County reported 129 new coronavirus cases on Thursday. The total now stands at 4,238 confirmed cases with 101 deaths. At least 104 people have been hospitalized in the county while 3,316 people have recovered.
As more businesses reopen across the state, health officials want to remind the public to continue to stay vigilant and practice proper hygiene to prevent the spread.
"We're beginning now to see spikes that are alarming," Mayor Adler said. "It's still early. And we still have the opportunity to get a handle on this. But it's going to take the entire community being really disciplined and vigilant."
Adler said the new numbers of cases of COVID-19 are concerning and are beginning to outpace the number of tests in the area. Adler said the important thing to focus on right now is not the number of hospital beds available, but making sure those hospital beds that are available are sufficient.
Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said that this surge is not yet out of control, but will take a community effort to keep it from getting out of hand. Escott said no cases of COVID-19 have been traced back to the recent protests in the city yet.
Escott said he's hopeful that the use of masks at protests helped to prevent much of the spread of COVID-19.
Adler said that as the state sees the type of surging going on in hospitals, he hopes it will also take similar action to Austin/Travis County. He said he is concerned that the city and county are moving toward a dangerous range of new hospitalizations per day.
"If we want to keep the economy open, we have to wear masks," Escott said. "We have to use social distancing, we have to stay home when we're sick, and we have to follow those personal hygiene messages. If we do that, we can do both successfully."
Escott said precautionary measures must be taken in order to prevent unnecessary deaths due to COVID-19.
"Unlike hurricanes, where we can't change the weather, we have the ability to change this," Escott said. "We have the ability to change the size of the storm by our community action. And that's really the takeaway message."
Former County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said that at this time, businesses are not yet going to be shut down again, but if the local number of hospitalizations per day reaches 20, measures will have to be taken.
"No one wants to slow down the opening of the economy if there's any way to avoid it," Adler said. "And we are in the 'any way to avoid it' stage. And that's why we need everybody's discipline."
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