Thursday, February 16, 2023

Safe Practices for COVID-19 & Flu Encouraged Heading Into Holiday Weekend

As the upcoming holiday weekend approaches, Austin-Travis County continues to see a drop in COVID-19 and flu cases. Austin Public Health (APH) is encouraging the community to follow best practices and keep these numbers down as we head into a busy spring season. 

As of Tuesday, Feb. 14, Travis County’s Community Level sits at low. The indicators that determine Community Level are as follows: 

  • New COVID-19 cases per 100K people past 7 days – 56.67 

  • New COVID-19 admissions per 100K (7-day total) - 4.9 

  • Percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients (7-day average) - 2.8% 

This is a marked improvement from Travis County’s move to Community Level medium in January as new cases and hospital admissions rose. In this same period, the percentage of positive flu tests almost dropped by half from 9.72% to 5.1%. 

“Close gatherings during the winter holidays indoors often pose a threat with respiratory viruses, and this time around we had a tripledemic of COVID-19, flu and RSV in our community. These viruses all pose a serious threat to those who are at-risk, including young children and seniors,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “We need to continue to keep ourselves and each other safe as many of us gather for the holiday. Get tested and stay home if you feel sick, social distance when possible, and wear a mask when it’s not.” 

While trends are moving in the right direction, it’s as important as ever to get up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines. Monoclonal antibody treatments do not work to treat the COVID-19 subvariant XBB.1.5, which now accounts for a majority of new COVID-19 cases across the country. 

“I know we’re all excited to enjoy the long weekend – Let's use this extra time that we have to go outside, enjoy the warm weather and get vaccinated,” said APH Director Adrienne Sturrup. “Getting a shot doesn’t just protect you from serious symptoms of COVID-19 we’ve all come to know – It also helps prevent Long COVID, which could affect you for years.” 

If you’re hosting guests this weekend, consider ways to improve ventilation. Ensure it’s easy for visitors to wash their hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizers. You may also choose to wear a well-fitting mask to protect yourself and loved ones who may be at high risk of serious illness. 

Vaccine Providers   

Visit ( in Spanish) to find flu and COVID-19 vaccine providers near you.        

Free COVID-19 tests    

Free mail-order rapid antigen test kits are available once again through Households are eligible for another round of four tests for a limited time.    

At-home COVID-19 test kits are available at APH Neighborhood Centers while supplies last. The U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services also lists community-based testing sites online.     

Free masks (N-95 respirators)     

Use the CDC’s mask-locator tool to find pharmacies near you that provide free masks (N-95 respirators). It does not show current inventories, so check with the location for availability.