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Early April is for respecting public health, county decrees

Tuesday, April 26, 2022 by Seth Smalley

In a retroactive move that was unanimously approved last Tuesday, the Travis County Commissioners Court proclaimed the week of April 4 Public Health Week.

According to the American Public Health Association, the first week of April each year is National Public Health Week, a time to focus on community health and the contributions of those who work in the public health field. This year the theme of public health week is “Where you are.”

“Where we live, learn, work, worship and play impacts each of us and can determine our health and life expectancy,” Commissioner Brigid Shea said, reading from the resolution. “The Austin Public Health Department strives to prevent disease, protect our environment, prepare for emergencies, and reduce the incidence of communicable and chronic diseases to enhance the health and well-being of all the residents of our community.”

Shea additionally noted that the pandemic has increased awareness of the importance of good public health infrastructure.

“I think it was horrifying to many of us to realize that, while the disease was rapidly racing through communities, we were waiting for faxes to give us information about the new infections. And then that had to be reentered manually into computers, so we clearly have to invest more in our public health system,” she said.

Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin’s medical director, highlighted the achievements of those working in health care during the thick of the pandemic and called for public health to be prioritized in the budget.

“Our medical community has worked diligently to protect and treat the citizens of this community. And we hope that going forward we will not remain in the shadows or out of your minds as you deliberate on budgets and whatnot,” Walkes said. “There are many who have lost their jobs, their homes – some have lost their lives. Families are still trying to recuperate and we will need your continued support as we go forward.”

“I’m excited to have such incredible support from our elected officials in the community,” Cassandra DeLeon, APH’s chief administrative officer for disease prevention and health promotion, said. “This county has responded very well and it took a collective effort to get us to where we’re at.”

DeLeon noted that the Austin area has better Covid immunization rates than most of Texas, and many areas in the nation. “That’s a testament to everyone’s collaborative, collective effort to make a difference,” she said.

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