Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Most COVID-19 deaths reported in Austin-Travis County include people with chronic conditions


Almost a third of the eligible population still is not fully vaccinated

AUSTIN, Texas - More than 1,200 deaths in Austin-Travis County over the last two years are linked to COVID-19. These deaths have strained families, hospital systems and our community. We’ve lost family members, coworkers and friends. There’s still more that can be done to help prevent additional loss, though. Tens of thousands of people in our area still aren’t fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

As of Monday, Feb. 7, 1,282 COVID-19 deaths have been reported in Austin-Travis County. Of those victims, 95% had at least one comorbidity. Conditions described as comorbidities are often chronic or long-term conditions.

More than half had two or more. A person with a comorbidity, which can range from hypertension to asthma, has an increased risk of severe illness caused by COVID-19.

“Much of our community is at high risk for COVID-19 due to comorbidities. These patients often experience severe symptoms of the virus, which can mean longer hospital stays and death,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “Those who are higher risk must get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible. Wear a mask, wash your hands and practice social distancing.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites studies that indicate people from racial and ethnic minority groups often develop chronic medical conditions at younger ages, leaving them more susceptible to the worst of COVID-19. In Austin-Travis County, 49.3% of COVID deaths are among people identified as Hispanic. African Americans account for 11.6%.

“The pandemic highlights the healthcare disparity that people of color experience daily,” said Austin Public Health Director Adrienne Sturrup. “Austin Public Health continues focused outreach efforts to improve healthcare equity and protect as many people from this virus as possible.”

Vaccines and boosters continue to offer the best protection against COVID-19, especially for those who are at high risk with chronic disease. As of Monday, Feb. 7, 71% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated, leaving almost a third of our population unprotected from the virus.

“We’re unfortunately beginning to see a drop in demand at our vaccine sites while the actual need for vaccines remains high,” said Cassandra DeLeon, Chief Administrative Officer for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion for Austin Public Health. “We have locations across the city that allow for appointments and walk-ups. Please get fully vaccinated to protect yourself and others.”

Healthy Places Healthy People, which operates under Austin Public Health, reduces chronic and diet-related diseases and risk factors by coordinating access to community and health services, local and healthy food, physical activity, and tobacco-free living.

February is American Heart Month. The CDC has a page of tools and resources for those affected by cardiovascular disease. 

APH vaccine and testing information 

People can find vaccine providers using Vaccines.gov (Vacunas.gov in Spanish) or by texting their zip code to 438829 (822862 in Spanish) to find a nearby clinic.   

APH clinics offer COVID-19 vaccinations and testing without appointment, although creating an account online in advance saves time. COVID-19 vaccinations are free and require neither identification nor insurance. For more information and to schedule an appointment, call 3-1-1 or 512-974-2000 or visit www.AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.     

To help reserve our emergency rooms for medical emergencies, people who are asymptomatic or experiencing minor symptoms may inquire about testing options by calling 2-1-1 or 877-541-7905, or by visiting 211texas.org. Please don’t call 9-1-1 for testing information. 

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