Jan 4, 2023 - COVID

COVID cases rise after holiday gatherings

Illustration of a pattern of covid cells.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Travis County wastewater monitoring shows a jump in new COVID cases, following predictions from health officials that holiday gatherings could spread the virus.

By the numbers: Although the CDC lists Travis County's community level as low, the county's seven-day positivity rate was just above 20% and COVID hospitalizations had increased by 65% week over week, as of the end of the year, the latest data available.

Yes, but: Many residents now rely on at-home tests and isolate at home without seeing a doctor, keeping data on confirmed cases low.

  • Wastewater monitoring gives a more accurate glimpse into rising infections.
  • Travis County wastewater sampling for Dec. 28, the latest data available, shows a 69% increase in new infections since Nov. 23, which reflects national trends.

What they're saying: Austin Public Health officials have tracked a rising number of cases and hospitalizations since Thanksgiving.

  • "This trend is concerning and will likely continue as our community is returning from indoor gatherings and traveling following holidays and New Year's celebrations," a spokesperson for Austin Public Health told Axios.

Reality check: The figures remain significantly lower than one year ago, when the omicron variant swept the state.

  • The spread of the variant led to a daily record high of more than 61,000 new confirmed cases on Jan. 12, according to state health data.
  • Health officials reported 2,500 confirmed new cases on Dec. 28.

Of note: Respiratory viruses, like COVID, circulate when people gather indoors, which is more common during the winter months, said Lara Anton, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

  • "We do expect to see some increase in cases of COVID as a result of the holiday season," Anton added.

Meanwhile: Flu cases remain high in Travis County, with just above 10% of patients testing positive for influenza as of Dec. 24, the latest data available, representing a slight drop from the week prior.

If you get sick: Regardless of vaccination status, the CDC recommends isolating from others for at least five days when you have COVID.

  • If you have no symptoms, you can end isolation after day five, while those with symptoms can end isolation after they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.

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