Jan 5, 2022 - COVID

Austin Public Health authority says latest COVID surge could last months

A photo of cars in line.
Photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images

Austin Public Health Authority Desmar Walkes urged residents Tuesday to take action as the Omicron variant threatens to push local hospitals to the brink and predicted the latest surge could last months.

Why it matters: Hospitalizations increased 135% over the past week, pushing Austin to its highest indicators of COVID threat. Austin Public Health also reported 1 in 3 COVID tests taken last week came back positive.

In a joint meeting between city council members and county commissioners on Tuesday, Walkes said Central Texans should move quickly to ensure that businesses and schools remain open.

The highly transmissible Omicron variant now accounts for 85% of the area's COVID cases.

  • "What we know now is that we're looking at least until the end of February, early March where we see a resolution of this," Walkes added.
  • The community transmission rate also continues to exceed the statewide average, and the positivity rate at Austin Public Health-run sites alone is more than 28%.

Residents are facing long lines to obtain tests after the holidays.

  • As of Tuesday, online test appointments at CVS and Walgreens were booked through the week.
  • Visitors at drive-thru and walk-up sites have reported long wait times and results taking between three and five days.

What's next: The latest hospitalization numbers mean that Austin could soon move into its Stage 5 COVID guidelines, which come with a new set of recommendations for high-risk individuals and low-risk, vaccinated people.

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