Coronavirus Testing Urged In Austin Amid Rising Illness Rates

AUSTIN, TX — With rising rates of the coronavirus across Austin and Travis County, health officials are urging residents to get tested for the respiratory illness virus before the holidays.

Hospitalizations have tripled from the level in October, according to Austin Public Health data. The health district also recently reported the cumulative fatality count in the region has surpassed 500. Health officials ticked off other data — rising hospital admissions, an increasing number of patients being treated at intensive care units and bolstered use of ventilators — that has shown an increase in the last several weeks.

The spread of illness has prompted health officials to consider moving the region to the highest alert level — the red-colored Stage 5 — that carries with it broader restrictions related to people’s behavior toward blunting the spread of further illness.

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Given such concerning statistics, Central Health and its affiliate CommUnityCare Health Centers, are urging pre-holiday testing for the virus.

“There is no reason to not get tested, especially if there is even the slightest chance you could expose someone else to COVID-19,” CommUnityCare Chief Medical Officer Alan Schalscha said in a prepared statement. “We believe we’re seeing the effects of Thanksgiving get-togethers. If more people had gotten tested before gathering with others, it could have prevented further spread and possibly saved lives.”

Officials noted that Travis County residents — particularly those who are uninsured — can visit any testing site during regular operating hours without having an appointment or referral. Because holiday hours may differ by testing site, visitors should check online or call CommUnityCare’s COVID hotline at (512) 978–8775 to confirm hours.

All CommUnityCare Health Center locations also have tests available for any patient with an appointment, officials noted, with testing available for both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. Health officials urge those with severe or worsening symptoms to call their doctor, go to the emergency room or call 9–1–1.