‘It’s not time to take off our masks,’ Austin Public Health says as COVID-19 vaccination at just 6 percent
AUSTIN (KXAN) – With only about 6% of the county’s population aged 18 and over being vaccinated, health officials say the idea of lifting the mask mandate doesn’t suit them well and shouldn’t end anytime soon.
During a press conference on Corpus Christi Thursday, Governor Greg Abbott suggested that all statewide orders, including the mask mandate that began in July, could be lifted “very soon”. Although he didn’t give a specific time frame, Dr. Jason Pickett, the Austin-Travis County’s Alternative Health Authority, said the state was not ready to remove him on Friday.
“I’m really looking forward to the day I don’t have to wear a mask when I’m in public or in a store, but I don’t think we’re still there,” Pickett said. “We are nowhere near herd immunity, vaccination or natural infection, and despite the heroic and tireless efforts of our Vaccination Task Force, many people still need to be vaccinated before we are protected from the virus in this way.
Health officials aren’t sure how winter weather will affect COVID-19 in Travis County
Pickett said there is ample evidence that wearing a mask reduces the spread of COVID-19 and that wearing a mask is “right not just for you but your neighbors as well.”
“Wearing a mask is a very simple, extremely inexpensive, and virtually harmless way of stopping the spread of infection,” Pickett said. “It works. We’re not ready to take our masks off yet.”
How did the winter storms affect the spread of COVID-19?
Nobody knows anymore, and they probably won’t know for another week, said Janet Pichette, Austin’s chief public health epidemiologist.
“There were people who sought refuge together to flee homes that lacked heat, electricity or water, but at the same time the weather and terrible road conditions largely restricted people’s movement in the community and prevented them from going to Going to work and being closer to strangers, ”said Dr. Jason Pickett of the Alternate Health Authority in Austin-Travis County.
Courtney Perkins lost power in her apartment on East Sixth Street on Monday, February 15.
“It was crazy here,” she said. “We charged our phones in the car, used the gasoline, and then the gas stations ran out of gas.”
After about two days without water, she and her boyfriend went to a friend’s hotel room for a shower.
“I think people have pushed COVID into the background and they were like me, it’s more important to find food or water or a safe place to sleep that isn’t that freezing,” Perkins said.
She wasn’t worried about COVID-19 either, but is still monitoring her symptoms just in case.
“We haven’t seen an uptrend yet, but we’re still catching up,” said Pichette. “If someone thinks they could have been exposed, or if they know something about it, we recommend that they quarantine themselves from other people and do tests.”
Pichette said they could see a spike in cases next week if they catch up on the data entry, and then once testing resumes at normal pace after the winter storms, which are largely behind us.
Updates to the APH registration website
Stephanie Howard-Hayden, director of APH, said they “are constantly providing updates” and rely heavily on the public to notify them when they have problems accessing the site.
She said she only post dates on Tuesday and Thursday. On Thursday 5,700 appointment slots were available and 10,000 people tried to get them.
“We continue to see that there is more demand than supply,” said Hayden-Howard. “We ask people to be patient with us.”
Hayden-Howard said the queuing feature that was just added to the site worked fine.
There are still reports of people in Phase 1B experiencing issues with the website. Whether appointments are canceled or confirmation emails are missing, Hayden-Howard said there are several groups working on the site trying to bring it up to date.
“The team is constantly improving the system,” said Hayden-Howard. “We see things go so much better, but every system doesn’t make it perfect.”
Vaccination center at COTA
The drive-through vaccination station on the Circuit of the Americas race track is currently a closed sales point for customers of Community Care. The clinic group offers health care for people without health insurance.
Hayden-Howard said it is “very exciting” to see the site up and running and she hopes it will expand soon.
Circuit of the Americas drive-through COVID-19 vaccination site could deliver 50,000 doses per week
“Community Care acts as a safety net,” said Hayden-Howard. “As we continue to do well with this effort, we plan to do more of it.”
Hayden-Howard said Travis County Judge Andy Brown was one of the project leaders and there were several counties being vaccinated with Community Care customers.