City of AustinFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Advice comes as new control order instructs healthcare facilities to implement sanitation and screening measures
Critical advice has been issued for people in Austin-Travis County who are aware they have had contact with an individual with COVID-19.
Interim local heath authority Dr. Mark Escott has laid out important guidance aimed at reducing the spread of the disease as investigations into the first local cases continue.
Based on these first three cases, Austin Public Health (APH) epidemiologists and nurses are currently conducting contact tracing on hundreds of people.
The new advice states:
- Any individual who is aware of close unprotected contact (within 6 feet) of an individual with COVID-19 should stay home and monitor their temperature and symptoms for 14 days.
- Individuals aware they have been in the same room, but not within six feet, of an individual with COVID-19 should self-monitor their temperature and symptoms for 14 days, avoid close gatherings where they cannot maintain 6 feet of separation from others, including mass transit and air travel.
- Individuals exposed to a case who become symptomatic, including with a cough and/or fever, should stay home and contact their primary care provider or telemedicine provider for advice and assessment of testing priority with Austin Public Health.
- Anyone who is feeling ill - even if they are not aware of any contact with a COVID-19 case - should also stay at home.
Austin Public Health is working in collaboration with the Dell Medical School and local healthcare systems to rapidly increase the availability of testing, including locations for drive-through testing.
Separately, Dr. Escott has issued a new control order instructing all healthcare facilities in Austin-Travis County to implement a range of sanitation and screening measures.
The new specified control measures, which impact hospitals, doctors' offices, clinics, and other healthcare facilities, mandate that:
- “Help Prevent Disease” signs provided by Austin Public Health must be displayed prominently in all healthcare facilities.
- Hand sanitizer must be available and supplied to employees, patients, visitors, and volunteers.
- The facility must symptom check all employees, patients, visitors, and volunteers prior to entry and may not allow any persons into the facility who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, unless they are patients.
- The facility will develop a plan to screen, identify and, when required, isolate individuals and patients presenting to healthcare facilities using CDC recommendations to assess and further direct the care of patients and individuals presenting to the facility.
- The facility will apply the same approach of screening, identifying and, when required, isolating healthcare workers employed by or affiliated with the facility.
- All healthcare workers should self-monitor their temperature prior to and at least once during their shift.
- Any suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 should be reported to Austin Public Health in the usual manner for notification of reportable disease.
“Preserving healthcare system functioning is paramount during the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Escott. “I believe this order is an appropriate control measure to ensure healthcare facilities can continue to provide care for all patients at the appropriate level while reducing the transmission of disease.”
The order follows similar measures last week aimed at securing long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. Separately, emergency rules have been adopted mandating restaurants and other food establishments to take a range of actions to reduce the possibility of exposure to COVID-19 in Austin-Travis County.