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[COVID-19: Press Q & A]

[00:00:07]

GOOD MORNING, EVERYONE.

I'M SYDNEY BENDER WITH AUSTIN PUBLIC HEALTH.

WE APPRECIATE YOU JOINING US FOR THIS MORNINGS, MEDIA Q AND A SPANISH INTERPRETATION IS AVAILABLE ON ADX.

AND THREE FIRST, TODAY, WE'RE GOING TO HEAR REMARKS FROM DR.

WALKS AUSTIN, TRAVIS COUNTY HEALTH AUTHORITY FOLLOWED BY JANET PICHETTE, AUSTIN, PUBLIC HEALTH, CHIEF EPIDEMIOLOGIST, AND CASSANDRA DE LEON AUSTIN, PUBLIC HEALTH ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER FOR DISEASE PREVENTION AND HEALTH PROMOTION.

AND FINALLY, ADRIAN STIRRUP DIRECTOR OF AUSTIN PUBLIC HEALTH.

LET'S BEGIN TODAY WITH DR.

WACHS MORNING, EVERYONE, AUSTIN.

UH, WE WANT TO THANK YOU FOR ALL THAT YOU'VE BEEN DOING TO THIS POINT TO BRING US, UM, TO THE OTHER SIDE OF WHAT WE KNOW KNOWS THE OMNICON SURGE.

IT HAS DEVASTATED OUR COMMUNITY, UM, SETTING A BLAZE THROUGH THE COMMUNITY WITH MORE INFECTIONS IN OUR VULNERABLE POPULATIONS OR CHILDREN, OUR ELDERS.

UM, WE'VE SEEN THAT VACCINE AND THEY EFFICACY AND THE GLAND, THE LENGTH OF DURATION OF PROTECTION REALLY MATTERS.

UM, WE SEE THAT BEING BOOSTED REALLY MAKES A DIFFERENCE.

WE SEE THAT BEING UP-TO-DATE IS IMPORTANT AND WE ARE HOPEFUL THAT WE CAN PREPARE AS WE MOVE INTO THIS TIME OF TRANSITION TO MAKE THE CHANGES THAT WE NEED TO MAKE BY GETTING VACCINATED, GETTING PREPARED, UM, AND BEING READY FOR WHAT COMES AHEAD AND STILL MOVE FORWARD WITH KEEPING SCHOOLS OPEN AND BUSINESSES OPEN AND ENJOYING THE THINGS THAT WE LIKE TO IN OUR, ON OUR LIVES.

UM, WE ARE LOOKING AT DATA, UM, AND FOLLOWING SCIENCE, WE SEE THAT, UM, THERE ARE NEW REPORTS OUT THAT IF YOU ARE PREGNANT AND YOU'RE VACCINATED, THAT YOU CAN PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN, UM, AND, AND DECREASE THE LIKELIHOOD OF THEM DEVELOPING COVID, UM, DURING, WHEN THEY'RE, AFTER THEY'RE BORN.

UM, WE'RE SAYING THAT IF WE VACCINATE THOSE WHO ARE IMMUNE COMPROMISED WITH THAT FOURTH SHOT, THAT WE CAN GIVE THEM MORE PROTECTION.

WE NOW KNOW THAT, UM, OUR IMMUNITY DOESN'T LAST AS LONG AS WE THOUGHT.

SO WE'VE STARTED ASKING FOLKS TO GET THAT THIRD SHOT.

THE BOOSTER SHOT FIVE MONTHS AFTER THEY'VE GOTTEN THAT PRIMARY SERIES OF MRIS.

AND TWO MONTHS AFTER THE J AND J WE LOOK AT WHAT'S HAPPENING AND SEE THAT, UM, A CRON MAY HAVE CAUSED MILD OR ILLNESS AND A LOT OF PEOPLE, BUT IT RAN THROUGH OUR COMMUNITY LIKE WILDFIRE.

AND IT GOT TO THOSE VULNERABLE PEOPLE, THOSE PEOPLE WITH HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE, DIABETES, OR LUNG DISEASE OR CANCER QUICKLY, AND IT GOT TO THOSE WHO WERE UNVACCINATED QUICKLY.

AND, AND WE SAW THAT IT IS IMPORTANT FOR US TO TAKE THOSE STEPS, TO MAKE SURE THAT WE CAN'T GET THIS VIRUS GOING FORWARD.

IT'S NOT OVER THE PANDEMIC, STILL A PANDEMIC, UH, AND CLASSIFIED AS A PANDEMIC.

BUT WE DO LOOK AS THOUGH WE'RE APPROACHING A TIME WHEN WE CAN SAY WE HAVE HERD IMMUNITY.

UM, WE'RE LOOKING AT THE CALCULATIONS, WE'RE FACTORING IN THE FACT THAT THERE'S, UH, SEVERAL 69% OF OUR POPULATION HASN'T BEEN BOOSTED YET.

SO WE'RE LOOKING AT WHAT WE CAN DO TO MOVE FORWARD AND MAKE IT SO THAT WE CAN GET THOSE PEOPLE BOOSTED AND CONTINUE ON WITH OUR LIVES, WITH LESS OF THE INCONVENIENCE.

AS SOME PEOPLE FIND OF WEARING MASK, WE KNOW LAST WORK, WE KNOW THAT SOCIAL DISTANCING WORKS.

WE KNOW THAT STAYING HOME WHEN YOU'RE SICK SO THAT YOU DON'T SPREAD IT TO SOMEBODY ELSE WORKS.

WE KNOW THAT IF WE'RE GOING TO GO AND VISIT PEOPLE THAT WE DON'T LIVE WITH, NORMALLY THAT IF WE TEST OURSELVES TO MAKE SURE THAT WE'RE NOT TAKING SOMETHING HOME TO GRANDMA OR TO YOUR COUSIN, WHO'S BEING TREATED FOR BREAST CANCER.

WE KNOW THAT IF WE DO THAT, WE PROTECT THOSE THAT WE LOVE.

AND WE KNOW THAT IF WE GET VACCINATED, WE PROTECT THOSE THAT WE LOVE.

SO WE HOPE THAT YOU WILL WALK THIS WALK WITH US TO THE NEW NORMAL, THROUGH THIS TRANSITION, TO WHAT HOPEFULLY WILL BE A TIME WHEN WE ARE LIVING WITH SUCCESSFULLY CONQUERING A VIRUS THAT IS DEADLY, AND THAT HAS RAVISHED PEOPLE IN THE SURGE AND IN PREVIOUS SURGES.

AND WITH THAT, I'LL PASS IT ON TO DIRECTOR STIRRUP

[00:05:08]

THANK YOU, DR.

WACHS.

UM, I'M GOING TO PASS THE MIC TO JANET.

SHE'S GOING TO FOLLOW UP WITH SOME IMPORTANT, UM, EPI DATA, UH, GOOD MORNING, EVERYBODY.

UM, SO AS DR.

ROX MENTIONED, VR SEEN A SUBSTANTIAL DECREASE, UH, AS WE COME OFF THIS, UH, OMICRON SURGE AND PEAK, AND WE'RE ON THE DOWNWARD SLIDE, UH, WITH, AS WE MENTIONED, HOPING TO GET BACK TO SOME LEVEL OF NORMALCY IN OUR COMMUNITY.

UM, YOU KNOW, ONE OF THE INDICATORS THAT WE DO KIND OF TRACK IT AND IS JUST LOOKING AT THE DEMAND ON SOME OF OUR OPERATIONS THAT WE'RE CONDUCTING THROUGH AUSTIN PUBLIC HEALTH.

AND SO WHAT WE'RE SEEING CURRENTLY IS THAT OUR TESTING OPERATIONS, UH, HAVE DECREASED SIGNIFICANTLY.

UH, WE DO STILL HAVE THE FEDERAL TEAM THAT IS IN PLACE AT METSO ELEMENTARY.

UH, THEY WILL BE MOVING OUT ON MONDAY AND AUSTIN PUBLIC HEALTH WILL BE CONSOLIDATING OPERATIONS FROM DOVE SPRINGS AND THE TRAVIS COUNTY EXPOSITION CENTER INTO METZ ELEMENTARY TO TAKE OVER THAT SPOT AND CONTINUE SERVING THE COMMUNITY, UM, THAT THOSE TESTING OPERATIONS WILL BEGIN TUESDAY FROM 11:00 AM TO 7:00 PM AT MEX ELEMENTARY.

AND IT'S LOCATED AT 84, ROBERT MARTINEZ JR STREET.

AND HE STARTED AUSTIN, YOU KNOW, UM, AGAIN, SOME OTHER CHANGES THAT WE'RE MAKING AND WHAT THINGS WE'VE LEARNED AND LESSONS LEARNED FROM THAT.

THIS , UH, SERVED WHERE WE HAD HUGE NUMBER OF CASES BEING REPORTED INTO US ON A DAILY BASIS THAT WE NEED TO MAKE SOME MAJOR REVISIONS TO OUR, OUR DASHBOARDS, SO THAT WE'RE, UH, YOU KNOW, PROVIDING INFORMATION THAT IS ONE ALIGNED WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE HEALTH SERVICES, BECAUSE THEY'VE RECENTLY MADE SOME CHANGES TO THEIR DASHBOARDS AND WE WANT TO BE CONSISTENT WITH THEM, UH, BUT ALSO TO PROVIDE THE COMMUNITY, UH, OPPORTUNITY TO, UM, SEE CASES, UM, AND SEE WHAT THE TRUE DISEASE BURDEN IS IN OUR COMMUNITY.

SO WE WILL BE MAKING SOME MAJOR REVISIONS AND CHANGES TO THOSE DASHBOARDS AND SOME OF THE KEY INDICATORS NEXT WEEK.

UH, AND THOSE SHOULD GO LIVE SOMETIME NEXT WEEK.

UM, AND YOU KNOW, REALLY, UH, ONE OF THE REASONS AND ONE OF THE GOALS, IT'S SOMETHING THAT EPIDEMIOLOGISTS HAVE BEEN WANTING TO DO FOR A PERIOD OF TIME.

AND WE JUST HAVEN'T HAD THE TIME TO DO IT, BUT, UH, WE HAVE, UH, HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO BEGIN TO CLEAN OUR DATA AND, UM, AND HOPEFULLY INCLUDE INFORMATION WE'D LIKE TO INCLUDE, UH, UH, LABORATORY CONFIRMED POSITIVES, UH, WHICH ARE CONSIDERED PROBABLE CASES.

WE HAVEN'T DONE THAT HISTORICALLY, AND WE ARE GOING TO BE DOING THAT IN THE NEW DASHBOARD REVISION.

SO, UH, WE HOPE, WE HOPE THAT INFORMATION WILL PROVIDE, UH, THE COMMUNITY A BETTER IDEA OF WHAT THE DISEASE BURDEN IS, IS IN OUR COMMUNITY.

UM, AND YOU KNOW, I THINK THE BEST INFORMATION WE HAVE THE BEST WE CAN FINE TUNE AND, UH, PREPARE THIS DATA FOR YOU.

UM, WE'LL HELP YOU WITH YOUR DECISION-MAKING AS YOU MOVE FORWARD.

AS DR.

WATSON MENTIONED, YOU KNOW, WE ARE SEEING SUBSTANTIAL DECREASES IN A LOT OF OUR KEY INDICATORS.

HOWEVER, I JUST WANT TO REMIND PEOPLE, THERE WERE 66 PEOPLE WHO DIED FROM COVID IN THE LAST TWO WEEKS, AND THOSE INDIVIDUALS HAVE FAMILIES THAT, UM, ARE GRIEVING AS A RESULT OF COVID.

AND SO, YOU KNOW, THE RISK IS NOT GONE AND PEOPLE NEED TO CONTINUE TO BE VIGILANT.

I HAVE ELDERLY MOTHER WHO LIVES AT HOME WITH ME, AND I DO ALL THAT.

I CAN'T PROTECT HER WHEN I'M OUT AND ABOUT.

I TRY TO WORK, CONTINUE TO WEAR A MASK SO THAT I DON'T, UH, BRING SOMETHING HOME TO HER AND I TRY TO KEEP HER SAFE.

AND, AND I THINK AS WE MOVE FORWARD, AUSTIN, WE NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT WE'RE DOING THE RIGHT THING FOR OUR FAMILY.

UM, AS WE GO OUT AND ABOUT AND BEGIN INTERACTING IN THE COMMUNITY.

AND WITH THAT, I'LL TURN IT OVER TO YOU.

UH, PASSY DELI ON.

THANK YOU, JANET.

AND GOOD MORNING, WE COME TO YOU TODAY AND TO NOTE THAT THIS COMMUNITY, THE TRAVIS COUNTY AND AUSTIN COMMUNITY HAS DONE A GREAT JOB IN TAKING UP THE CALL TO GET VACCINATED.

WE HAVE 72% OF OUR COMMUNITY THAT IS FULLY VACCINATED, AND THAT'S INCREDIBLE.

THAT'S HIGHER THAN THE STATE OF TEXAS.

THAT'S HIGHER THAN OTHER MAJOR METROPOLITANS IN TEXAS Y'ALL HAVE DONE FANTASTIC.

AND AS A COMMUNITY, WE'VE, WE'VE CHAMPIONED VACCINES.

WE ARE, UM, DOING SUCH A GOOD JOB OF, OF PROTECTING OURSELVES AND PROTECTING EACH OTHER BY

[00:10:01]

ACHIEVING THAT GOAL OF GETTING OVER 70% FULLY VACCINATED, BUT WE HAVE A NEW TASK, UH, LOCALLY.

UM, NOW WE REALLY NEED TO THINK ABOUT THE POPULATION AS A WHOLE, GETTING UP TO DATE ON VACCINE AND BEING UP TO DATE MEANS THAT, UM, YOU ARE GETTING YOUR BOOSTER DOSE.

WE KNOW THAT ONLY A LITTLE OVER 30% HAVE ACTUALLY RECEIVED THEIR BOOSTER.

AND WE KNOW THAT MAJORITY OF OUR VACCINE POPULATION ARE DUE FOR THEIR BOOSTERS.

SO WE WANT TO REALLY ENCOURAGE FOLKS TO GO OUT, GET BOOSTED.

UM, AND THEN IF YOU ARE A PARENT OF THOSE THAT ARE FROM FIVE TO 11, WE KNOW THAT THEY'RE STILL, UM, UNDER VACCINATED, THEY ARE STILL AT ABOUT 32%, UH, NOT FULLY THAT FULLY VACCINATED.

SO WE NEED TO GET THOSE CHILDREN VACCINATED SO THAT THEY HAVE THAT PROTECTION UP TO DATE IS A REALLY IMPORTANT SPACE TO THINK ABOUT BECAUSE, UM, IT'S ONE OF THOSE THINGS.

WHEN WE LOOK AT VACCINE SCHEDULES FOR ALL DIFFERENT TYPES OF VACCINES THAT WE PROVIDE MEASLES, MUMPS, RUBELLA, UM, FLU, FOR EXAMPLE, YOU WANT TO MAKE SURE YOU'RE STAYING UP TO DATE WITH WHAT THE RECOMMENDED VACCINES ARE BECAUSE, UM, AND PARTICULARLY IN PANDEMIC, IT HELPS TO PREVENT OUTBREAKS.

IT HELPS TO PREVENT FUTURE SURGES.

IT HELPS PREVENT THE HOSPITAL FROM, UM, BEING OVERWHELMED BY, UM, COVID CASES.

AND AT THE END OF THE DAY, IT HELPS PROTECT THOSE VULNERABLE HIGH-RISK POPULATIONS.

AND THOSE POPULATIONS WHO CANNOT GET VACCINATED BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT RECOMMENDED YET, LIKE ARE VERY YOUNG.

UM, AND THEN THOSE POPULATIONS THAT, YOU KNOW, MAY NOT BE ABLE TO GET VACCINATED FOR A MYRIAD OF DIFFERENT REASONS.

AND SO IT'S VERY, VERY IMPORTANT THAT WE THINK ABOUT PROTECTING OURSELVES, BUT ALSO THINKING ABOUT THE VACCINE IS A WAY FOR US TO PAY IT FORWARD AND PROTECT OTHERS IN THE COMMUNITY.

SO COURAGE Y'ALL, AS WE LOOK INTO THE WEEKEND TO MAKE A PLAN, TO GET VACCINATED, THERE ARE A LOT OF SPACES IN PLACES TO GET YOUR VACCINE, UM, LOOK TOWARDS AND, AND, AND, AND WORK TOWARDS GETTING YOUR FAMILY PROTECTED AND OUR COMMUNITY PROTECTED SO THAT WE CAN, UH, TAMP DOWN, UH, CONTINUE TO TAMP DOWN THIS VIRUS AND, UM, LOOKING AHEAD TO SPRING ACTIVITIES.

AND SO KNOWING THAT WE ARE ALL ABLE TO, UM, PARTICIPATE FULLY, AND WE DON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THE RISK OF, OF SPREADING THIS TO TWO OTHER PEOPLE.

AND WITH THAT, I'LL PASS IT OVER TO DIRECTOR STIRRUP.

THANK YOU, KENZIE.

UM, TWO THINGS STOOD OUT FROM THE, THE COMMENTS, UH, PUT FORTH THUS FAR FROM MY COLLEAGUES.

ONE THAT 66 PEOPLE HAVE DIED OVER THE LAST WEEK FROM COVID.

UM, I HAVE A COLLEAGUE WHO HAD TO GO TO A FUNERAL FOR HER AUNT WHO WAS ONLY 64 YEARS OLD.

AND THEN SHE TOLD ME THE STORY OF, UM, GOING TO THAT FUNERAL.

AND, YOU KNOW, SHE SAID, AGAIN, I LOST ANOTHER FAMILY MEMBER TO COVID.

SHE HAS BEEN WITH ME THROUGH ALL THE MAJOR STAGES OF MY LIFE.

AND I CAN'T IMAGINE WHAT IT'S GOING TO BE LIKE GOING FORWARD.

AND THEN WHEN KATHY SAID IT'S IMPORTANT TO PAY IT FORWARD.

YES, WE ARE MAKING GREAT STRIDES.

YES.

SOME OF THE, SOME OF THE KEY INDICATORS ARE MOVING DOWN AND WE'RE ALL TIRED OF WEARING MASKS, BUT WE CAN'T SIMPLY MAKE THIS VIRUS GO AWAY BECAUSE WE'RE TIRED OR BECAUSE WE'RE FATIGUED OR BECAUSE WE WANT TO GET BACK TO WHAT WE FEEL IS NORMAL.

WE DO HAVE TO CONTINUE TO PAY IT FORWARD.

EVERYTHING THAT WE TEACH OUR CHILDREN IS ABOUT A COLLECTIVE SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY.

AND THIS IS WHERE WE NEED TO LEAN IN AND CONTINUE TO MODEL THAT BEHAVIOR THAT WE WANT FOR OUR YOUNG PEOPLE DOES BECAUSE I BUY A PORTION DOESN'T MEAN THAT I CAN DO 95 DOWN 180 3, RIGHT.

I STILL HAVE TO OBEY THE TRAFFIC LAWS SO THAT I KEEP MYSELF AND OTHER TRAVELERS SAFE.

AND THIS IS WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT, ABOUT WITH RESPECT TO COVID.

AND IF THE EASIEST THING THAT YOU CAN DO IS TO WEAR A MASK, TO KEEP YOURSELF SAFE, TO KEEP A COLLEAGUE FROM HAVING TO GO TO A FUNERAL FOR A CLOSE RELATIVE, OR A LOVED ONE TO KEEP YOUR ELDERLY GRANDMA PAPA SAFE.

THEN THIS IS A SEEMINGLY EASY THING TO DO.

AND I'M SURE THE 66 FAMILIES THAT HAVE BEEN IMPACTED BY COVID JUST IN THIS LAST WEEK WOULD APPRECIATE THAT.

AND WITH THAT, I WILL OPEN US UP FOR QUESTIONS.

OUR POOR REPORTER TODAY IS ON GITA MINUTE FROM KUT.

SHE'S GOING TO ASK QUESTIONS ON BEHALF OF NEWS OUTLETS AND GITA.

THANK YOU.

THE FIRST QUESTION IS FROM KUT, THERE WERE 1,632 NEW CASES REPORTED ON THURSDAY.

THAT'S A SIGNIFICANT JUMP FROM THE 699 CASES REPORTED ON WEDNESDAY.

IS THIS A RESULT OF THE BATCHING PROCESS BEING USED TO ENTER THE BACKLOG OF CASES? IF SO, WHERE CAN WE FIND THE REAL NUMBER OF NEW CASES SUPPORTED EACH DAY? UH, SO YES, I'LL TAKE THAT.

UM, IT IS A REFLECTION OF BATCHING THAT IS OCCURRING.

UH, SO WE HAVE CASES THAT ARE ENTERED BOTH MANUALLY

[00:15:01]

BY DATA ENTRY.

UH, I WOULD SAY IN THE LAST WEEK, OR TWO, MUCH OF, MANY OF OUR NUMBERS HAVE BEEN FAIRLY CONSISTENT AS FAR AS THE NUMBER OF LABS WE'RE RECEIVING EACH DAY.

AND THEN WE WE'VE GOTTEN TO THE POINT WHERE OUR DATA ENTRY STAFF ARE ABLE TO ACTUALLY ENTER ALL THAT WE RECEIVE IN A DAY.

HOWEVER, UH, OUR DAILY CASE COUNTS WILL BE AFFECTED, UH, BY THESE, UH, BATCHES THAT ARE, UH, WE'RE, UH, TRYING TO SEND OUT TO ELIMINATE THE BACKLOG.

ULTIMATELY, OUR GOAL IS THAT THE PROCESS WILL BE AUTOMATED SO THAT, UM, YOU KNOW, THE CASE, THE NUMBER OF CASES RECEIVED WILL AUTOMATICALLY BE UPLOADED INTO THE SYSTEM.

HOWEVER, WE DO STILL REQUIRE, REQUIRE AN, UH, DATA ENTRY TO CONTINUE TO OCCUR.

UM, YOU KNOW, WE HAVE THAT INFORMATION IN HOUSE.

UM, WE COULD GET IT, BUT IT'S NOT NECESSARILY AVAILABLE ON THE DASHBOARD AT THE CURRENT TIME.

THE NEXT QUESTION IS FROM THE AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN, WILL THE COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION RATE AVERAGE NEED TO STAY BELOW 100 BEFORE APH WOULD CONSIDER SHIFTING TO STAGE FOUR, OR IS THE WEEKLY AVERAGE OF DAILY HOSPITALIZATION STAYING UNDER 50 ENOUGH TO SHIFT STAGES.

AS WE MAKE DECISIONS ON ADJUSTING FROM ONE STAGE TO ANOTHER, WE TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION MANY, UH, PARAMETERS, UH, THE TWO THAT YOU JUST MENTIONED THE SEVEN DAY MOVING AVERAGE OF THE HOSPITALIZATIONS AND ALSO THE COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION RATE.

BUT THE OVERALL GOAL IS FOR US TO LOOK AT THE SITUATION IN ITS ENTIRETY AND MAKE SURE THAT WE ARE MAKING A DECISION THAT WILL ALLOW US TO CONTINUE THE MOVEMENT DOWNWARD.

AND SO WE WILL CONTINUE TO ASSESS THE SITUATION AND MAKE A CHANGE IN STAGES THAT, UM, IS CONSISTENT WITH MOVING IN THAT DIRECTION, WHICH IS TO GET DOWN TO STAGE FOUR AND ULTIMATELY DOWN TO STAGE THREE, TWO, ET CETERA.

SO, UM, THOSE ARE THE THINGS THAT WE'RE DOING RIGHT NOW.

AND I'D LIKE TO JUST ADD ONTO THAT, YOU KNOW, AGAIN, UH, I THINK SOME OF THE BASIS FOR, UH, CHANGING STAGES, UH, WE NEED TO LOOK AT ALL THE DATA IN TOTALITY.

UM, SO IT'S NOT NECESSARILY JUST ALWAYS LOOKING AT COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION RATE OR HOSPITALIZATIONS, BUT IT MAY BE, UH, LOOKING AT, UH, OUR NUMBER OF DEATHS, WHICH OUR DEATHS ARE EXTREMELY HIGH OVER THE LAST TWO WEEKS, AS ADRIAN MENTIONED, 60 DEATHS AND TWO WEEKS.

BUT, YOU KNOW, WE WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT WELL, WHEN WE DO, UH, UH, MAKE OUR DECISIONS, WE'RE MAKING DECISIONS BASED ON SCIENCE AND THAT THAT SCIENCE IS SOUND.

AND, UM, SO WE TRY TO LOOK AT A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT FACTORS IN THAT DECISION-MAKING PROCESS.

THE NEXT QUESTION IS FROM KX A N WHAT MITIGATION EFFORTS ARE IN PLACE FOR THIS WEEKEND'S MARATHON.

WHAT ROLE DID APH PLAY? THE MARATHON, UM, HAS WORKED CLOSELY WITH APH AND OUR EVENT, UM, STAFF TO, UH, TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION THE SITUATIONS THAT WOULD OCCUR DURING A MARATHON WHERE THERE WOULD BE INCREASED TRANSMISSION, UM, AND THEN TOOK THOSE STEPS TO DECREASE THE RISK IN THOSE SITUATIONS.

SO FOR INSTANCE, THERE ARE DELAYED START TIMES.

UM, THERE ARE SEVERAL DIFFERENT FINISH LINES, SO THAT CONGREGATION OF PEOPLE THAT ARE BREATHING HEAVILY, UM, IN A SITUATION WHERE THERE MAY BE A TRANSMISSION, UM, IS, IS DECREASED AND THEN MASK WILL BE HANDED OUT AT THE END OF THE RACE.

AND SO, UH, ALL OF THAT, AND IN ADDITION TO, UM, PARTICIPANTS BEING VACCINATED OR HAVING A NEGATIVE TEST, UM, ALL OF THOSE THINGS FACTOR INTO US, UM, ENSURING THAT THE RISK OF SPREAD OF THE VIRUS IN THAT MARATHON IS DECREASED AND THAT THE MARATHON CAN GO FORWARD AS SAFELY AS POSSIBLE.

THE NEXT QUESTION IS FROM K O P RADIO, HOW MEANINGFUL ARE HIGH COMMUNITY-WIDE VACCINATION RATES WHEN CERTAIN NEIGHBORHOODS AND DEMOGRAPHICS WITHIN OUR COMMUNITIES STILL REMAIN VERY LOW.

WHAT CAN WE DO TO INCREASE COMMUNITY SAFETY? GIVEN THESE DISPARATE VACCINATION RATES

[00:20:04]

PROUD OF THAT CONCEPT OF HERD IMMUNITY IS TO HAVE ENOUGH PEOPLE IN A GROUP, UM, PROTECTIVE SO THAT IF ONE PERSON BECOMES INFECTED, UM, THAT CANNOT SPREAD, UM, AS EASILY IN THE GROUP.

AND SO WHAT WE'RE LOOKING AT NOW IS, UM, WHERE WE ARE IN THAT CONTINUUM, WE KNOW THAT WE HAVE X NUMBER OF PEOPLE, VACCINATED, X NUMBER OF PEOPLE BOOSTED.

UM, A CERTAIN NUMBER OF PEOPLE HAVE HAD INFECTION.

UM, WE HAVE SCIENCE TO SHOW US THAT THERE'S A LEVEL OF PROTECTION, THAT'S GREATER AND A DURATION, A LENGTH OF PROTECTION.

THAT'S GREATER FOR THOSE WHO ARE BOOSTED.

UM, AND, UH, AND SO WE'RE TAKING ALL OF THOSE FACTORS, UM, AND LOOKING AT WHETHER WE CAN DO, UM, THINGS TO CHANGE THE WAY WE'RE MITIGATING, BUT TO THIS POINT MASKING SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THIS PANDEMIC, UM, SOCIAL DISTANCING, STAYING HOME WHEN SICK, ALL OF THOSE THINGS THAT KEEP US FROM SPREADING AN INFECTED VIRAL PARTICLE FROM SOMEBODY WHO HAS THE INFECTION TO SOMEBODY WHO DOESN'T, THOSE MEASURES HAVE BEEN EFFECTIVE.

AND SO WE ARE CONTINUING WITH THOSE UNTIL WE LOOK AT THE NUMBERS THAT WE HAVE, AND THEN WE CAN MAKE DECISIONS ON HOW WE NAVIGATE THROUGH THIS TRANSITION PERIOD.

THE NEXT QUESTION IS FROM CVS, AUSTIN, DO YOU THINK THE AUSTIN AREA HAS REACHED QUOTE HERD IMMUNITY STATUS FOR COVID AND THE OMNICON VARIANT? UM, AS I WAS JUST DISCUSSING, WE ARE LOOKING AT WHERE WE ARE FROM AN IMMUNE STATUS FROM THE PROTECTION STATUS, WITH REGARDS TO THIS VARIANT, AND WITH REGARDS TO COVID IN GENERAL, THIS IS A DEADLY DISEASE.

WE PROTECT OURSELVES BY BEING VACCINATED BY MASKING AND SOCIAL DISTANCING, AND WE WILL MAKE THOSE DETERMINATIONS GOING FORWARD, SHARE THOSE, UM, THE ADVICE WITH THE PUBLIC AND MOVE FORWARD THROUGH THIS PERIOD OF TRANSITION.

UM, AND OUR GOAL IS TO PROTECT OURSELVES SO THAT IF A NEW VARIANT PRESENTS ITSELF, THAT WE WILL BE READY AND ABLE TO KEEP IT FROM SPREADING IN OUR POPULATION AND AFFECTING OUR LOVED ONES AND OURSELVES.

THE NEXT QUESTION IS FROM KUT.

WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE THE RECENT HIGH NUMBER OF DEATHS IN TRAVIS COUNTY TO CONSIDERING OMNICHRON WAS THOUGHT TO BE A QUOTE, MILDER, VARIANT 19 AS A DEADLY VIRUS TO, UM, SOME AND, AND MORE SO TO THOSE WHO ARE VULNERABLE.

UM, I'M A CRIME MAY HAVE BEEN A MILD ILLNESS IN PEOPLE THAT ARE VACCINATED, OR THOSE WHO DO NOT HAVE ANY UNDERLYING MEDICAL CONDITIONS, BUT TO THOSE WHO ARE ELDERLY TO THOSE WHO ARE UNVACCINATED TO THOSE WHO HAVE CO-MORBIDITIES LIKE HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE, DIABETES CANCER, UM, THIS VIRUS CAN BE AND WAS, AND IS DEADLY.

AND WHAT WE'RE SEEING RIGHT NOW IS DEATH AT THE END DEATHS THAT ARE OCCURRING AT THE END OF A SURGE, BECAUSE THAT IS THE COURSE OF THE DISEASE.

UM, IT STARTS UP WITH THE INITIAL SYMPTOMS OF A SORE THROAT COUGH, UM, SLOWLY PROGRESSED AS TO CHEST DISCOMFORT, TROUBLE BREATHING.

AND THEN THOSE WHO ARE UNABLE TO FIGHT THIS DISEASE WITH THEIR IMMUNE SYSTEM, THEY CAN END UP NEEDING, UH, SUPPORT LIFE SUPPORT.

UM, AND THAT'S BEEN THE CASE FOR EACH OF THE SURGES THAT WE'VE EXPERIENCED.

SO THIS VIRUS IS DEADLY.

IT IS IMPORTANT FOR US TO PROTECT OURSELVES.

IT'S IMPORTANT TO GET VACCINATED, AND IT'S IMPORTANT TO WEAR A MASK WHEN YOU'RE INDOORS AROUND PEOPLE THAT YOU DO NOT KNOW, ESPECIALLY IF YOU'RE AT HIGH RISK FOR A POOR OUTCOME.

THE NEXT QUESTION IS FROM THE AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN, HOW SOON DOES AUSTIN PUBLIC HEALTH EXPECT? IT WILL SHIFT DOWN TO STAGE FOUR AS EARLY AS NEXT WEEK, TWO WEEKS FROM NOW, THE TREND THAT WE'RE SEEING RIGHT NOW IS THAT WE COULD BE IN STAGE FOUR, POSSIBLY IN THE NEXT 10 DAYS OR SO, BUT AGAIN, IT IS ALL UP TO WHAT HAPPENS IN OUR COMMUNITY.

UM, UH, AS PUBLIC HEALTH PROFESSIONALS, WE, WE DEAL WITH POPULATION HEALTH

[00:25:01]

AND THAT'S A FANCY TERM FOR WHAT'S THE COMMUNITY GOING TO DO.

UM, IF THE COMMUNITY CONTINUES TO WORK TOGETHER, UM, TO GET VACCINATED, TO PROTECT ITSELF, UM, WITH MASKING IN INDOOR PUBLIC SPACES, WE CAN LOOK FORWARD TO, UM, MAKING THE CHANGES THAT WE ALL WANT TO MAKE.

WE'RE ALL TIRED OF WEARING THIS, BUT WE ALL KNOW THAT WE NEED TO PROTECT OUR LOVED ONES.

UM, AS MANY HAVE SAID, MANY OF MY COLLEAGUES HAVE SAID, WE ALL HAVE A RELATIVE OR LOVED ONE IS VULNERABLE, AND WE ARE DOING WHAT WE CAN TO PROTECT OURSELVES SO THAT WE CAN PROTECT THEM.

AND THAT NEEDS TO CONTINUE TO HAPPEN SO THAT WE CAN CONTINUE TO TREND DOWNWARD.

THE NEXT QUESTION IS FROM KX, A N THE CDC DIRECTOR SAID THIS WEEK THAT THEY WANTED TO QUOTE, GIVE PEOPLE A BREAK FROM WEARING MASKS.

WHAT ADJUSTMENTS, WHAT ADJUSTMENTS BE MADE IN THE RISK-BASED GUIDELINES, SHOULD THE CDC PASS DOWN NEW MASK RECOMMENDATIONS? WE WERE LIVING IN A COMMUNITY WHERE, UM, WE ARE MAKING ADJUSTMENTS IN OUR RISK BASED GUIDELINES BASED UPON DATA THAT WE COLLECT.

UM, AND THEN WE ASSESS WITH MODELING, UM, THROUGH OUR PROFESSIONALS THAT ARE, UH, STATISTICIANS.

UM, THIS IS A PROCESS THAT HAS BEEN UNDERTAKEN THROUGHOUT THIS PANDEMIC AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE, WE HAVE A UNIQUE SET OF CIRCUMSTANCES IN OUR COMMUNITY.

UM, WE HAVE DECIDED THAT WE ARE NOT, UM, GOING TO, UM, MANDATE VACCINATIONS.

UM, AND WE'VE DECIDED THAT PERSONAL CHOICE IS IMPORTANT AND WORKING WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK OF WHERE WE ARE AS A COMMUNITY REQUIRES THAT WE HAVE COMMUNITY ACCEPTANCE AND BUY-IN TO THOSE THINGS THAT WE'VE ALL COLLECTIVELY AGREED TO DO.

SO WITH THAT IN MIND, UM, WE WILL TAKE, UH, THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE CDC ALIGN OURSELVES WITH THOSE RECOMMENDATIONS AND THEN DEVELOP RISK-BASED GUIDANCE THAT INCORPORATES ALL OF THOSE THINGS.

THE NEXT QUESTION IS FROM K O P RADIO IN CONSIDERATION OF PUBLIC PERCEPTION THAT COMMUNITIES ARE IMMUNE TO COVID ON ACCOUNT OF WIDESPREAD ALMA, CHRONIC INFECTION RATES.

HOW IS APH WORKING TO GET SKEPTICAL, RELUCTANT OR RESISTANT COMMUNITY MEMBERS VACCINATED? I'LL START WITH THAT ONE.

UM, APH CONTINUES TO WORK, TO GIVE INFORMATION AND TO HELP FOLKS NAVIGATE ALL THE INFORMATION THAT'S OUT THERE.

UM, THERE'S A LOT OF MISINFORMATION.

UM, AND SO WE WANT TO ENSURE THAT EVERYONE KNOWS WHAT THEIR RISKS ARE WITHOUT GETTING VACCINATED AND WHAT THE BENEFITS ARE FOR GETTING VACCINATED.

UM, WE ALSO, UH, WORK WITH PHYSICIANS, UM, TO ENCOURAGE THEM, TO ENCOURAGE THEIR PATIENTS, TO GET VACCINATED AND OTHER GROUPS, TO MAKE SURE THAT WE'RE ALL ON THE SAME PAGE, AS FAR AS WHAT THE MESSAGE IS AND THAT THEIR SCIENCE DRIVEN DECISIONS.

UM, WE REALLY WANT TO ENSURE THAT THOSE WHO ARE, UM, ON THE FENCE, UH, CONSIDERING VACCINE, UM, AS A, UH, HEALTHY CHOICE FOR THEM, UH, THAT THEY HAVE ALL THE INFORMATION THEY NEED, UH, SO THAT THEY CAN MAKE THAT DECISION IN PARTICULAR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WHO HAVEN'T BEEN VACCINATED YET.

UM, WE WANT THEM TO HAVE THOSE CONVERSATIONS WITH THEIR PHYSICIANS, WITH THEIR PEDIATRICIANS, UM, LOOK TO CREDIBLE SOURCES TO MAKE THOSE DECISIONS BECAUSE THE VACCINE IS THE BEST CHOICE, UM, FOR PROTECTING INDIVIDUALS FROM COVID-19.

AND SO WE WANT FOLKS TO KNOW HOW TO NAVIGATE THAT AND MAKE THOSE PERSONAL HEALTH DECISIONS, UM, IN CONSULTATION WITH THEIR PHYSICIAN AND IN CONSULTATION WITH CREDIBLE SOURCES, UH, REGARDING THE VACCINE.

YOU ALSO WANT FOLKS TO KNOW THAT THEIR PERSONAL CHOICE TO GET THE VACCINE DOES NOT JUST AFFECT THEMSELVES AND, AND THEIR LOVED ONES.

IT AFFECTS EVERYONE.

THEY MAY COME INTO CONTACT WITH, UM, AGAIN, THIS THEME OF PAYING IT FORWARD.

IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT TO THINK ABOUT THAT AS A COMMUNITY, COLLECTIVELY GETTING THE VACCINE, IT'S MORE THAN JUST ABOUT THE INDIVIDUAL CHOICE, OUR INDIVIDUAL CHOICES NOW AFFECT OUR ENTIRE POPULATION.

THANK YOU, CATHY.

AND JUST TO ADD ON REALLY QUICKLY, UM, AS A DEPARTMENT, WE DO UNDERSTAND THAT PERSONAL CHOICE IS IMPORTANT, BUT WE ALSO RECOGNIZE THAT PERSONAL CHOICE IS IMPACTED BY

[00:30:01]

HISTORIC, UH, MISUSE AND ABUSE IN CERTAIN COMMUNITIES.

AND WE ARE SENSITIVE TO THAT FACT, AND WE WILL CONTINUE TO WORK TO BE CONSISTENT IN OUR INFORMATION AND IN OUR APPROACH TO CONTINUE TO BUILD THAT TRUST IN THAT TWO WAY DIALOGUE TO SUPPORT INDIVIDUAL CHOICE, AND ALSO TO GIVE RECOMMENDATIONS TO, UM, OUR, OUR POLICYMAKERS, BECAUSE WE'RE NOT GOING TO PROGRAM OUR WAY OUT OF CODE.

AND SO IT'LL BE A COMBINATION OF GOOD PROGRAMMATIC EFFORTS THAT ARE CULTURALLY RELEVANT AND RESPECTFUL, AS WELL AS MAKING SURE THAT WE HAVE POLICIES AND RESOURCE DECISIONS IN PLACE TO SUPPORT EACH AND EVERY AUSTIN, TRAVIS COUNTY RESIDENT, AND MAKING THE BEST DECISION FOR THEMSELVES.

THE LAST QUESTION IS FROM CBS AUSTIN.

DO YOU THINK A FOURTH SHOT IS LIKELY FOR THE GENERAL POPULATION? HOW SOON DO YOU THINK THAT IS LIKELY TO BE RECOMMENDED? WE'RE FOLLOWING THE SCIENCE, UM, AND THAT'S HAPPENING LOCALLY AND NATIONALLY AND THE, UH, ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON IMMUNIZATION PRACTICES EISA IS, UH, ON, HAS AN ONGOING DIALOGUE ABOUT, UM, THINGS SUCH AS THE FOURTH SHOT FOR THE GENERAL POPULATION.

UM, WE, WE'RE GOING TO FOLLOW THE SCIENCE.

IF THE SCIENCE SHOWS THAT THAT FOURTH SHOT IS REQUIRED, THEN IT WILL BE RECOMMENDED.

WHAT WE KNOW NOW IS THAT WE HAVE A LARGE PORTION OF OUR POPULATION ELIGIBLE FOR BOOSTERS.

BOOSTERS WILL HELP PROTECT YOU FROM, UH, DEVELOPING SEVERE DISEASE.

UM, AND FOR THOSE WHO ARE AT RISK FOR POOR OUTCOMES FROM COVID-19, IT WILL HELP PREVENT HOSPITALIZATION AND, AND THE SUCCUMBING TO THE DISEASE AND DYING.

SO AT THIS POINT, WE ARE NOT, UM, GUIDED TO HAVE A FOURTH SHOT, BUT WE ARE DEFINITELY GUIDED TO GET BOOSTERS.

AND IN THIS TIME WHEN WE HAVE, UM, MANY, MANY EVENTS ON THE OFFING, UM, MARCH BREAK IS COMING UP.

IT'S IMPORTANT THAT THOSE WHO ARE ELIGIBLE FOR BOOSTERS GO OUT AND GET THAT BOOSTER SHOT, UH, AND PROTECT YOURSELVES SO THAT YOU CAN PROTECT NOT ONLY YOURSELF, BUT YOUR LOVED ONES.

AND THAT WAS OUR LAST QUESTION.

WE APPRECIATE EVERYONE JOINING US.

THANK YOU TO OUR HEALTH AUTHORITY, DR.

DESMO, OUR WALKS APH DIRECTOR, ADRIAN STIRRUP, CHIEF EPIDEMIOLOGIST, JANET PICHET, CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER FOR DISEASE PREVENTION AND HEALTH PROMOTION, CASANDRA DE LEON, AND TO OUR POOL REPORTERS TODAY'S AND GAETAN.

AND FROM KATIE, WE APPRECIATE EVERYONE JOINING US, HAVE A SAFE AND HEALTHY WEEKEND.



* This transcript was compiled from uncorrected Speech-to-Text.