Why is Austin-Travis County not in the risk-based guidance of Phase 2 COVID-19? – Community News
Covid-19

Why is Austin-Travis County not in the risk-based guidance of Phase 2 COVID-19?

AUSTIN (KXAN) — About a week and a half after Austin-Travis County hit the average number of hospital admissions to qualify for Phase 2 risk-based guidelines, health leaders announced the area would remain in Phase 3 due to a statistic showing how common is community spread in Travis County.

Health leaders said they already took the community’s transmission rate into account when deciding to move to a new phase, but they haven’t introduced that metric to the public yet.

Before Friday, the metric largely used to determine what stage the area was in was the seven-day moving average of hospital admissions, which is still on the dashboard and will continue to count toward what stage we’re in, health leaders said.

So why now? Why were the community transmission levels not introduced in, say, August?

In a joint Austin City Council meeting where Travis County commissioners met Tuesday morning, Dr. Desmar Walkes on projections from the University of Texas COVID-19 modeling consortium that, according to Walkes, showed “if we move quickly to phases 2 and 1, we may have peaks in the November and December time frame.” KXAN has requested those forecasts.

Walkes said several factors may have contributed to those models showing an upward trend: vaccine efficacy declines six months after vaccination, an increase in social gatherings as the holidays approach, and people relaxing and taking off their masks.

“Their (UT Modeling Consortium) recommendations were to lower the barrier and the thought was that that would help raise public awareness about masking,” Walkes said.

In an interview with the UT Modeling Consortium last week, KXAN learned that modelers were in talks with APH about whether the current risk-based guidance system would be effective enough to stop that potential spike during the holidays.

“We have been working with the City of Austin to re-evaluate the podium reopening strategies and the general warning system,” said Dr. Spencer Fox, associate director of the UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, us Wednesday.

While near-term models show we’ll be at a plateau, or even see a bit of a dip in the number of cases and hospitalizations, Walkes says UT models show that this won’t hold up if Austin-Travis County isn’t diligent. is.

“I think we’ve seen that there’s significant immunity in our population, but there isn’t enough immunity to prevent a major pandemic wave and so that’s our concern right now,” Fox said last week.

Those concerns were reflected in Tuesday’s COVID-19 briefing for policymakers, as Walkes explained why their announcement is now happening on Friday.

“Our goal is to prevent a wave,” Walkes said.