TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas — At a press conference Friday afternoon, Austin city and public health leaders gathered to announce that although no confirmed cases of coronavirus have been discovered in Travis County, they have decided to cancel the annual South by Southwest Festival.
Leaders said that although there is a lack of evidence that shows canceling mass gatherings can change the overall impact of the spread of disease over time, there is evidence that it may accelerate the spread and could make it happen sooner.
Leaders said that now is not a time to panic, but it is a time to prepare and provide a measured response to the threat that coronavirus poses.
Again, no cases of coronavrius have been confirmed in the Austin area. This comes after Austin Public Health (APH) announced on Tuesday that they were testing at least one person in the county.
“This is a normal and expected process that has happened more than 75 times across the state over the past six weeks,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Austin Interim Health Authority, earlier this week.
Dr. Escott said that Austin-Travis County is prepared for the possibility of confirmed COVID-19 cases, and proactive preparedness measures have been undertaken by APH, along with local, state and federal partners.
“We are ready to work with hospitals, physicians, clinicians, schools, places of worship and all members of the community to effectively combat and prevent the spread of this virus,” said Dr. Escott.
During a press conference Wednesday morning, Mayor Steve Adler, along with Austin health officials, addressed the public about what they are doing to keep the community safe and said that the risk to the public is still low.
Escott explained that the individuals being tested are being monitored and will continue to be monitored until the results are back.
"We are not going to provide numbers or details during this investigation because it could be many different things than COVID-19," the doctor said.
The March 4 press conference came one day after health officials said at a Travis County Commissioner's Court meeting that Travis County is currently in "Phase 2," which means there is an individual or individuals who are being tested for the coronavirus.
"Phase 2 means we have an individual or individuals that we are testing and that testing is pending," said Dr. Mark Escott.
Austin Public Health added Wednesday there have been more than 75 coronavirus tests done in Texas, and all have come back negative.
"We've had persons investigated across the state for the past six weeks, and none of those individuals have tested positive for COVID-19," Escott explained.
"Just because we’re testing for it, doesn’t mean we think that it is what it is," an APH spokesperson told KVUE, referring to the coronavirus. "The criteria has just expanded so you’ll start seeing us test more often now.”
Here are the City of Austin-Travis County Planning and Response Phases:
- Phase 1: Persons under monitoring
- Phase 2: Persons under investigation
- Phase 3: Confirmed cases – No person-to-person spread
- Phase 4: Limited person-to-person spread
- Phase 5: Sustained person-to-person spread
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