Austin Public Health is awaiting the results of initial tests sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia
No positive test results for COVID-19 have been received by Austin Public Health (APH) as of 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 5.
APH is awaiting the results of initial tests sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia earlier this week. A number of additional individuals remain under monitoring following their return from travel abroad.
“This is a normal and expected process that has happened more than 75 times across the state over the past six weeks,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Austin Interim Health Authority.
However, Dr. Escott stressed that Austin-Travis County is prepared for the possibility of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Proactive preparedness measures have been undertaken by APH, in coordination with local, state and federal partners.
“We are ready to work with hospitals, physicians, clinicians, schools, places of worship and all members of the community to effectively combat and prevent the spread of this virus,” said Dr. Escott.
Utilizing and modifying the current pandemic flu plan, APH has developed a five-phase plan, which is currently operating under Phase 2:
- Phase 1: Persons Under Monitoring
- Phase 2: Person(s) Under Investigation (Testing in Progress)
- Phase 3: Confirmed Case(s) (No Person-to-Person spread)
- Phase 4: Limited Person-to-Person Spread (Close/Household Contacts)
- Phase 5: Sustained Person-to-Person Spread in the Community
Additionally, APH activated its Department Operations Center on February 5, followed by a partial activation of the Austin-Travis County Emergency Operations Center (ATCEOC) on March 1. Under the partial activation, the ATCEOC has established a planning team and Joint Information System (JIS) that meets daily to discuss any changes and impacts of COVID-19.
People can help prevent the spread of all respiratory viruses, including influenza and COVID-19, by following these measures:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow or use a tissue to cover it, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
If people feel unwell they should contact their primary care provider before going to a clinic, urgent care or emergency department, to prevent any potential spread.
An Expert Advisory Panel has been formed consisting of more than a dozen physicians from around the community. They include experts in infectious diseases, pediatrics, emergency medicine and internal medicine, as well as physicians from higher education and public schools. The panel is working on recommendations and guidance regarding mitigation and prevention strategies for mass gatherings.
“Right now there is no evidence that closing South by Southwest or other activities is going to make this community safer,” Dr. Escott said. “We are constantly monitoring that situation. We’ve asked this group to evaluate that. And if there’s any evidence that our community will be safer by closing down mass gathering events, we will do that.”
All businesses and restaurants are urged to display information to encourage people to follow good hygiene practices to keep the community safe. Flyers in English and Spanish can be downloaded at www.AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.
Yesterday, Dr. Escott, Austin Mayor Steve Adler, and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt held a press conference to update the community. To view the press conference visit https://austintx.swagit.com/play/03042020-974. For more information regarding COVID-19 visit www.austintexas.gov/COVID19. This page will be updated as new information becomes available.