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Austin health leaders say COVID-19 positivity rate, hospital admissions 'flattening'

The positivity rate in Austin started at 16.7% in week one, dropped to 16.2% in week two, and fell even further to 12.8% in week three.

AUSTIN, Texas — In a specially-called joint meeting with Travis County commissioners and Austin City Council, Austin Public Health leaders said that the state of COVID-19 has generally flattened since last week.

Dr. Mark Escott said that it seems the community may be responding to the callout made by APH to double down on disease prevention measures, citing flattening data across multiple fronts. Escott said the peak for the seven-day moving average of hospital admissions was nine days ago at 94, which has now dropped to 88 after 78 admissions were reported on Monday.

"Since [Jan. 17] we've seen some isolations between about 83 and 88," Escott said. "This is a good sign. It's not going down yet, but it's at least flat. Which I think indicates that our community is responding. They are acting in a more protective way."

The positivity rate data was a slide in Escott's presentation that said it "made him happy" because there was a significant drop week to week. Since the start of the new year, the positivity rate in Austin started at 16.7% in week one, dropped to 16.2% in week two and fell even further to 12.8% in week three, Escott said. 

Escott also mentioned the projections from the UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium has flattened out significantly. Last week, Escott told the city leaders that the UT model projected an upward trend in hospital admissions. As of Jan. 19, the model's projections have flattened out into February, and Escott said if the public can continue disease preventative measures, that mark could be potentially pushed back even further.

However, Austin remains in Stage 5 of its COVID-19 response guidelines, and Escott said there is no indication through about mid-February that the city will move down to Stage 4.

This comes as 686 new cases and eight new coronavirus-related deaths were reported Monday. In Travis County, at least 61,468 cases have been reported and at least 600 people have died since the pandemic began. At least 54,862 people have recovered from the virus.

WATCH: Coronavirus in Austin, Texas: City leaders get a Jan. 19 update on COVID-19

As of Jan. 18, 602 people were hospitalized in the county and 176 ICU beds were being utilized for COVID-19 patients out of the 200 benchmark health officials have set as the capacity before hospitals become "overwhelmed." There were also 11 patients transferred to Austin's alternative care site as of Jan. 19.

The conversation among city leaders also comes amid high demand for the COVID-19 vaccine. APH has said in past media briefings that there were not enough vaccine doses to meet the demand of the public who are wanting to be vaccinated. 

Here is a look at the Austin-Travis County COVID-19 dashboard:

RELATED: Texas DSHS confirms statewide shipping delay of Pfizer vaccine

On Monday, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) confirmed to KVUE that shipments of the Pfizer vaccine expected to be distributed statewide Monday have been delayed to Tuesday.

DSHS sent KVUE the following statement

“DSHS has gotten word that based on federal shipping schedules, Pfizer vaccine ordered on Friday and expected to arrive today is now expected to arrive tomorrow, Jan. 19, based on the most current information from Pfizer and our federal partners. The delay impacted 55 of the 263 providers scheduled to receive vaccine this week.”

APH was not affected by this delay, however, because its vaccine distributions have been from Moderna thus far, officials told KVUE.

On Tuesday, Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David’s HealthCare issued a joint statement about hospital capacity: 

Currently, the 2,473 staffed beds within all three healthcare systems are 73% occupied, and the 483 ICU beds are 91% occupied.

KVUE has put together a list of providers that people can register with to get the COVID-19 vaccine in and around Austin. You can view that list here.


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