City of AustinFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Get tested prior to travel or gathering for the holidays
AUSTIN, TX - The University of Texas at Austin Health Services has notified Austin Public Health (APH) of preliminary lab results indicating the presence of the COVID-19 omicron variant in three individuals in Austin-Travis County. If laboratory results are confirmed by genetic sequencing, which will take several days, these will be the first cases of omicron identified in the area. Public health officials continue to warn the community in hopes that people get tested before gathering or traveling for the holidays.
The individuals who tested positive did not travel internationally which provides a strong indication that community transmission of the omicron variant in Austin-Travis County is occurring. Everyone should continue to take all precautions to protect themselves. This includes wearing masks, following social distancing practices, staying home if sick, getting fully vaccinated or receiving a vaccine booster. These protective measures also apply to those who were diagnosed with COVID-19 previously.
“Our community learned first-hand the dangers new variants can pose. The delta variant arrived in the summer and is still in our community. Now we have the omicron variant,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “Our mission and our approach remain the same. Get vaccinated, get boosters, stay home if you are sick, wear your masks to protect yourself, your loved ones, and our hospital systems from this virus.”
Preliminary reports indicate the omicron variant is a highly transmissible form of COVID-19. However, it is still too soon to know the severity of disease.
"It was inevitable that the omicron variant would arrive in Austin, and we are closely following the data to understand how this new variant will impact our community and hospital system as we continue to fight the delta variant," said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. "As we prepare to spend time with loved ones this holiday season, it is now more important than ever to get the vaccine and your booster shots. And it’s always best to wear masks indoors if you’re around unvaccinated people."
Common symptoms caused by the omicron variant include cough, congestion, runny nose and fatigue, and are the same as other COVID-19 variants. Anyone who feels ill should stay home and get tested.
“We knew it was only a matter of time before the omicron variant would reach Travis County. I am confident our community will step up and do what is necessary to mitigate any potential surge,” said Travis County Judge Andy Brown. “In the meantime, I encourage everyone to get fully vaccinated and boosted six months after your second dose. And until our Health Authority says otherwise, you are encouraged to wear a mask as recommended by the risk-based guidelines.”
All three vaccines continue to provide protection from COVID-19 and its variants. Vaccines are readily available at APH and Travis County clinic sites as well as pharmacies, medical offices, and community clinics. Everyone 5 years of age and older can and should get their vaccines.
Boosters and third doses are recommended to provide additional protection from COVID-19. As of Friday, Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots are available for everyone 16 years and older. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters are available for everyone 18 and older.
Get tested, get vaccinated, get boosted
APH clinics provide COVID-19 vaccinations and testing on a walk-up (no appointment needed) basis. COVID-19 vaccinations are free and require neither identification nor insurance. For additional information or to schedule an appointment, call 3-1-1 or visit www.AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.
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