AUSTIN, Texas – The COVID-19 omicron variant is responsible for the pandemic’s largest surge yet, leaving Austin Public Health (APH) Epidemiology and IT Units with thousands of case reports to cross-check. APH staff explored ways to automate the data entry process to ensure dashboard data is as timely and accurate as possible. The new process rolled out in phases over the last several months. Thursday afternoon’s dashboard update includes an additional 5,878 cases—the final batch from the backlog.
Austin-Travis County’s COVID-19 Surveillance Dashboard now reflects a more complete view of the scope of infections throughout the pandemic. The area continues to experience a second wave of omicron infections spurred by subvariants BA.5 and BA.4. The initial omicron surge in January and February resulted in an influx of more than 70,000 new cases and presented challenges to an already taxed public health system.
"We thank the APH staff members who continued to work diligently throughout this pandemic in an effort to process the cases received during this unprecedented omicron surge,” said Chief Epidemiologist Janet Pichette. “This information is key to understanding the impact of COVID-19 on our community and strengthening planning and response efforts.”
The backlogged cases appear on the Surveillance Dashboard’s epi curve on the date of onset/test collection for the case. The 5,878 cases were distributed over several months.
Thursday’s update also highlights the loss the community is experiencing as a result of COVID-19. Epidemiologists investigated and verified COVID-19-related deaths and confirmed the person’s community of residence. These investigations involved cross-referencing with state records, tracking down lab results and confirming medical records.
The assessment resulted in an additional 138 COVID-19-deaths, bringing Austin-Travis County’s total to 1,718. The deaths appear on the dashboard on the year in which they occurred:
- 14 in 2020
- 99 in 2021
- 25 in 2022
“The work we’re doing to ensure the accuracy of COVID-19 data collection is essential to understanding just how devastating this virus has been and continues to be,” said Austin Public Health Director Adrienne Sturrup. “Each death represents someone’s family member, a beloved friend, a trusted coworker. We must continue working to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect each other.”
After a decline in COVID-19-related deaths in April and May (11 deaths), Austin-Travis County reports 25 lives lost in June and July. COVID-19 remains one of the leading causes of death in the community. Getting up to date with COVID-19 vaccines is still the best way to protect against serious illness and death. Visit Vaccines.gov / Vacunas.gov to find a provider near you.
Free COVID-19 tests
APH encourages testing before and after gatherings, especially if you plan to be in close contact with individuals who are at risk. APH's Metz Elementary testing site (84 Robert T. Martinez Jr. St., Austin, TX 78702) provides free PCR and rapid antigen tests. A third round of free mail-order COVID-19 test kits is available through the federal government.
Free masks (N-95 respirators)
Use the CDC’s mask-locator tool to find pharmacies near you that provide free masks (N95 respirators). It does not show current inventories, so check with the location for availability.