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Austin-Travis County reports first COVID-19 child death

Dr. Desmar Walkes said that the child, who died over the weekend, had previous health conditions and had been on a ventilator for over a month.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin-Travis County officials have reported the first child death from COVID-19 complications in the area.

During a press briefing Tuesday morning, Medical Director Dr. Desmar Walkes said that the child, who died over the weekend, had previous health conditions and had been on a ventilator for over a month. She also said hospitalizations are up overall in children.

"There's an increase in the number of admissions of pediatric cases, those under the age of 18," Walkes said. "And for the period of July 1 to Aug. 29, we had 108 admissions to [the] hospital from pediatric cases and 33 of those have been admitted to ICU."

Tuesday also marked the first time the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has released the number of children currently in the hospital with COVID-19. DSHS data shows that as of Aug. 30, there are 15 children in the 11-county Trauma Service Area (TSA) who are in the hospital with coronavirus. The KVUE Defenders have been asking for these numbers for weeks.

Walkes also said during Tuesday's meeting that there has been a "marked increase in school cases" across Texas with schools reopening and not using the mitigation efforts that were in place last year.

"Just in the last week in Travis County, we had 817 cases with 17,240-plus contacts identified. As the TEA is not requiring quarantining at this time, not all of those close contacts that have been identified have been informed," Walkes said, adding, "There have been 67 clusters identified in Travis County ISDs, which is also of concern."

But the news on Tuesday wasn't all grim: health experts said that the area appears to be seeing a plateau in the seven-day moving average, though case numbers in schools have gone up "tremendously" over the past week.

"We're cautiously optimistic about what that – whether that, this plateau that we're seeing is going to persist or whether we're going to see another increase in our cases," Walkes said. "So, we're still in Stage 5. We have exceeded our staffed ICU bed capacity. And we should not stop our efforts as a community to keep our numbers going down."

Health leaders say everyone should remain vigilant by getting vaccinated, staying home when they're sick and getting tested if they feel ill.

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