Photo by Michael Minasi/KUT
Wednesday, September 15, 2021 by Jerry Quijano, KUT

Austin health officials say boosting Central Texas vaccine rates will ease the stress on local hospitals

The rolling average for new daily Covid-19-related hospital admissions has been on the decline for more than three weeks. Still, with an average of 57 admissions as of Tuesday, Austin-Travis County remains at the highest level of Austin Public Health’s community risk guidelines.

Resources for the area’s hospital system also remain strained. More than 200 patients are being treated in intensive care units, which have been above or near capacity for more than a month.

Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin Public Health’s medical director, told a joint session of Travis County commissioners and Austin City Council members Tuesday that one way of helping hospitals is by working with surrounding counties to bring up vaccination rates.

“It’s going to be important for us to look to our neighbors, to collaborate with them and get their populations vaccinated as well,” she said. “Because as we’ve said many times, we’re all in this together. And our hospital systems here in the Travis County metroplex do all serve our neighbors.”

More than 68 percent of Travis County residents 12 and older have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. In Hays County the number is 60 percent; in Williamson County, it’s 67 percent.

Bastrop, Burnet and Caldwell counties are all above 50 percent. But deaths are higher per population in these smaller surrounding counties than in Travis County.

Caldwell County, for example, has a full vaccination rate among those 12 and older of 50.8 percent, but is reporting 245 deaths per 100,000 residents.

Travis County, with its fully vaccinated rate approaching 70 percent, has a death rate of 84 per 100,000 residents.

“We all have to work together to protect ourselves, and particularly protect our children,” Walkes said. “So continue mask-wearing and vaccination and social distancing and staying home when ill.”

Adrienne Sturrup, APH’s interim director, told the officials that the number of people in Travis County who are eligible to be vaccinated but haven’t been shrank by about 25,000 people in recent weeks.

Health officials continue to stress the importance of getting vaccinated against Covid, especially with the Delta variant causing people to stay sicker longer, saying the vaccine is the best protection against severe disease, hospitalization and death.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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