COVID-19 cases in high school, college students concerns Austin health officials

Talk 1370 Newsroom
September 18, 2020 - 4:59 pm
Dr. Mark Escott

Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman via USA TODAY NETWORK

AUSTIN ( -- Despite recent progress against COVID-19, Austin Public Health officials say they're concerned about a recent rise in cases - especially in younger people.

APH officials held their weekly media briefing Friday morning. Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said the moving 7-day average of new cases has gone up 83% since Labor Day, and that officials are seeing the biggest increases in the 10-19 and 20-29 age groups.

"When we look at that data further," Escott said, "college students have positivity rate of around 10%, more than double what the community rate is. High school aged kids is at 14%, triple what the community rate is."

Escott said about 40% of the new cases in Travis County from the first two weeks of September are from the University of Texas, and when you combine that with the cases in secondary schools, raises some concerns.

He also noted that the cases are coming from social gatherings and extra-curricular activities, not classrooms. "The data we have in hand right now, four dozen cases are in secondary school settings in Travis County and hundreds are in college settings with no evidence those have happened in a classroom," Escott said.

"We know these activities are likely to present situations where masking and social distancing are not practical. It’s important that parents understand that," Escott said.

Officials also shared concerns about Gov. Abbott's announcement Thursday allowing businesses to re-open at 75% capacity, saying the same precautions still need to be taken. Escott said that in the end, whether it's safe enough to go out to restaurants or businesses is a personal choice.

"I think ultimately, people are going to need to make that decision for themselves," Escott said. "We’re not entirely upset with the governor. I think he's trying to balance the risk to our health and safety and the risk to the economy. I think we're probably a couple weeks away from a position where we would have supported this."

Escott said testing is still an important piece of the puzzle, especially anyone in a social gathering or situation where wearing a face mask or social distancing didn't happen.

"It's important for us to ID folks who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic that still have the risk of spreading to others," Escott said. "If we can engage and practice that in the community, we can keep this under control."

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