Updates on COVID19
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Community anxiouslywaits for broader vaccine distribution as supply slowly growsweek byweek
Community remains in Stage 5 Austin Public Health ocials moved the Austin-Travis County community to Stage 5, its highest stage of risk, on Dec. 23. The area is still in Stage 5 as of Jan. 19, although hospitalizations and COVID-19 testing positivity rates have dipped slightly since peaking in mid-January. Under separate state orders, businesses are not allowed to open at more than 50% capacity. APH recommends the following behaviors to maintain safety under Stage 5 risk- based guidelines: • avoid gatherings outside one’s household • limit shopping and dining to essential trips • avoid nonessential travel • businesses should operate through contactless options, such as curbside and delivery, if possible
BY OLIVIA ALDRIDGE
Travis County vaccine providers have received enough doses of the Pzer and Moderna vaccines to give a small fraction of its population their rst out of two shots. As of Jan. 22, only individuals in Phase 1 under state guidelines are eligible—that includes health care workers, individuals over age 65 and those with underlying medical conditions. People vaccinated with one dose People fully vaccinated Small slivers of HOPE
Entering 2021, many Austin-area residents are seeking an initial dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and many are hitting dead ends. Since Texas began distribution of the Pzer and Moderna vaccines in mid-December, Travis County has received 126,550 doses of the vaccine as of Jan. 21, accounting for a fraction of its 1 million-plus residents over the age of 16, the youngest age at which someone can currently be vaccinated. As allotments to the area grow health authority, has continued to preach patience and has called it a “miracle” that eective vaccines are already in circulation. Vaccines continue to be distributed to both private providers, such as hospitals and pharmacies, and public ones, including Austin Public Health. In January, the Texas Department of State Health Services classied APH as a regional vaccination hub, chosen for its capacity to vaccinate 1,000 people or more in a day. Since then, APH has received two shipments of 12,000 vaccine doses, which have primarily been oered to members of distribution Phase 1B—people over the age of 65 or who have a qualifying underlying health condition. However, with the week by week, Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County interim
County population ages 16+* 1,016,090
State population ages 16+* 22,448,443
Travis County Judge Andy Brown tours one of the tented treatment spaces at the infusion center.
OLIVIA ALDRIDGECOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
*ONLY INDIVIDUALS AGES 16 AND OVER CAN RECEIVE THE COVID19 VACCINE DATA UPDATED AS OF JAN. 19.
SOURCE: AUSTIN PUBLIC HEALTHCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER Health leaders say new COVID-19 therapeutic infusion center will help relieve hospital overow A regional COVID-19 therapeutic infusion center opened in southeastern Travis County at 2901 Montopolis Drive, Austin, on Jan. 6 following approval by Gov. Greg Abbott through the Texas Division of Emergency Management in late December. The facility has the capacity to treat about 25 patients a day with antibody treatment Regeneron, but Jason Pickett, Austin-Travis County alternate health authority, said leaders hope to build that capacity to 75 per day. “We’re hoping that this resource will help to decrease the number of patients that are hospitalized from this disease,” Pickett said Jan. 13. With coronavirus hospital admissions spiking, the Austin Convention Center began accepting patients as a eld hospital in January. Pickett said he hopes the infusion center’s treatment will help slow hospital admissions, but that “need far outstrips” availability. Patients are referred from APH’s COVID-19 testing sta as well as health care organizations such as CommUnityCare. The facility, in the parking lot of CommUnityCare’s Southeast Health & Wellness Center, does not accept walk-ins.
SOURCE: TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF STATE HEALTH SERVICES COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
news conference. APH has wavered from that policy in several instances, however. In one case, APH said sta administered leftover vaccine to people who had waited in line without an appointment. Hayden-Howard said this was to avoid wasting any leftover doses in vials; since the Pzer and Moderna vaccines require cold or ultra-cold storage, their shelf life is limited once the product has thawed. “Vaccine is not wasted if it is in the arm of a Texan,” Escott said Jan. 13 after the event. Escott also said Jan. 19 that APH would set aside a limited number of doses for local judges and key governmental sta in order to protect “the continuity of government.” He has advocated for the state to set aside vaccines for state legislators as well as they work in Austin through the 87th Texas legislative session.
“I’m talking about hundreds of people who are going to be in contact for six months. That represents a risk for a superspreader event,” Escott said. “Essential government services must continue, and COVID- 19 remains a threat to those essential government services.” Vaccines will likely not be extended to the general population— or even prioritized essential workers—until allocations for both APH and other local providers increase. County commissioners have expressed hope that President Joe Biden’s plan to distribute 100 million vaccine doses within 100 days will be eective in increasing supply. However, Escott said the circumstance most likely to help is the expected emergency authorization of a third vaccine, one manufactured by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, expected toward the end of January—a cheaper-to-produce option than the Pzer and Moderna oerings currently being distributed across Texas.
vaccine limited, many members of this group have still been unable to book an appointment. APH representatives say they will continue
“VACCINE IS NOT WASTED IF IT IS IN THE ARMOF A TEXAN.” MARK ESCOTT, AUSTINTRAVIS COUNTY INTERIMHEALTH AUTHORITY
to update the portal with additional appointment slots as further vaccine shipments arrive. Anyone who signs up in the portal who is not yet eligible will be notied when adequate supply is available. “Priority right now is individuals that are 65 years of age and older, including our communities of color,” APH Directer Stephanie Hayden-Howard said at a Jan. 12
SOUTHWEST AUSTIN DRIPPING SPRINGS EDITION • JANUARY 2021
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