Austin health leaders warn of new surge in COVID-19 cases

AUSTIN ( -- Austin health leaders are warning of a rise in COVID-19 infections across Travis County.

Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said now is the time to act to flatten the resurgence. "If we want to avoid having a very ugly Thanksgiving, we’ve got to be very safe this Halloween," Escott said.

Since the beginning of October, the 7-day moving average of new hospitalizations across the five county area has jumped from 10 to almost 20. The number of active cases has also increased by more than 200 since the beginning of the month, to 849 as of Tuesday evening.

The latest modeling data from University of Texas researchers is showing a 96% chance that the virus is spreading in Travis County. "Our cases are rising, the number of people admitted to the hospital are rising, our ICU numbers are rising, our ventilator use is rising," Escott said. "This is not an Election Day gimmick. This is real."

With early voting in full swing, Escott praised the efforts from local elections officials. "That process is very impressive," Escott said. He praised efforts to maintain social distancing, touch-less registration, and latex finger guards.

"The risk of transmission is extremely low for in-person voting," Escott said.

Officials also continued to warn of the possibility of a twindemic - flu season along with the coronavirus. "It is flu season, it is upon us," warned Austin Public Health director Stephanie Hayden, imploring residents to get flu shots. "Please reach out if you have insurance. Contact your insurance. Contact a pharmacy. You can show up to a pharmacy, you can get the flu shot there."