Tuesday, June 28, 2022

COVID-19 Precautions Warranted Ahead of July Fourth Holiday Weekend

Austin Public Health (APH) is monitoring widespread transmission and declining immunity, including reinfections. Health officials recommend preventive measures to help minimize the spread of COVID-19 during Independence Day celebrations. Last week Travis County’s COVID-19 Community Level was upgraded to medium.  

With so many gathering and traveling to celebrate the holiday, indoor masking is recommended, especially if you’re at risk for serious illness from COVID-19. Stay home if you’re experiencing symptoms, even if it’s just a scratchy throat or you think it’s “just allergies”. Before gathering, get up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, including any recommended booster doses, to protect yourself and your community. 

"We’re seeing concerning trends with our disease indicators which is especially worrisome as we head into a holiday weekend. The new omicron sublineages BA.4 and BA.5 are overtaking BA2.12 and are causing reinfections that are more likely to cause lung problems in at-risk people and may lead to hospitalization and the need for ICU care. People of all ages and risk levels will be gathering and should be mindful of each other,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “Test now, get up to date with your vaccines, and try to celebrate this weekend outdoors. Taking these steps will help protect loved ones and our hospital systems.” 

A key surveillance metric, new cases per 100K population in the last 7 days, climbed above 200—a threshold signaling increased risk. Additionally, new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100K population for the last week rose to 5.8, and the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients the last week rose to 2.5%. 

“We have highly-trained staff at our testing and vaccine sites that are here to help make sure you have a safe weekend with family and friends,” said APH Director Adrienne Sturrup. “We encourage families, especially those with young children, to come to our Old Sims clinic to start getting up to date with COVID-19 vaccines.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends COVID-19 vaccines for everyone 6 months and older. APH offers vaccine to all eligible age groups. While most children in Travis County get their vaccines from physicians’ offices, APH is prepared to fill in the gaps until supply is more widely available. Appointments aren’t required at the Old Sims Elementary Gymnasium clinic (1203 Springdale Rd., Austin, TX 78721). 

  • Wednesday and Thursday: 2-7 p.m.  
  • The clinic will be closed on Saturday, June 2, for Independence Day weekend.

The Shots for Tots program is also available for underserved communities. 

Free N95 respirators   

Wearing a well-fitting mask offers protection for yourself and those around you. Free N95 respirators are available at some local pharmacies. Use a feature on the CDC’s website to find a location 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. A third round of free mail-order COVID-19 test kits is available through the federal government. You can also pick up free rapid antigen tests at APH's Metz Elementary testing site (84 Robert T. Martinez Jr. St., Austin, TX 78702).   

Testing and Vaccination Information   

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

APH clinics offer COVID-19 testing and vaccinations without an 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

A list of Travis County vaccine distribution events can be found online.   

The APH Mobile Vaccination Program brings vaccine clinics to businesses, churches and more. APH is asking all organizations to fill out an online form to request a pop-up clinic. 


About Austin Public Health  

Austin Public Health is the health department for the City of Austin and Travis County. Austin Public Health works to prevent disease, promote health and protect the well-being of all by monitoring and preventing infectious diseases and environmental threats and educating about the benefits of preventative behaviors to avoid chronic diseases and improve health outcomes.