APH has engaged in planning and preparation with our first responders and health care community to ensure that we are prepared.
Austin, TX – Austin Public Health has been actively involved in planning, preparation and response to the COVID-19 pandemic since the detection and identification of the virus in January 2020. This has involved daily collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and public health officials across the state.
Additionally, we have engaged in planning and preparation with our first responders and health care community to ensure that we are prepared to manage this virus when it arrives in our community. The strength and unity of our healthcare system and Austin/Travis County community have faced many threats over the years and we stand prepared to face this new threat.
As of February 27, there are more than 82,000 confirmed cases worldwide, including over 2,800 deaths from COVID-19, with 60 confirmed cases and no deaths in the United States. As a result of the continued spread of the virus to other countries, including the identification of a person-to-person spread case in California, we have increased our operation planning tempo. While we expect to experience an increased number of cases in the United States, the current risk of person-to-person spread in our community remains low.
“The health of the Austin community is our highest priority,” said Dr. Mark Escott, interim Austin Health Authority. “Preventing the spread of disease isn’t a singular effort; it requires commitment and behavior change from the entire community, which is why we need your help. We ask everyone to practice frequent hand washing, avoid touching your face with unwashed hands, cover coughs and sneezes and stay home if you’re sick. These changes in personal hygiene practices represent our best defense against the person-to-person spread of COVID-19, influenza, and other respiratory pathogens.”
We have reviewed and adapted current pandemic flu plans for COVID-19. Our plan includes five phases to coordinate COVID-19 response activities. We are currently in Phase 1:
- Phase 1: Persons Under Monitoring
- Phase 2: Persons Under Investigation (Testing in Progress)
- Phase 3: Confirmed Case(s) (No Person-to-Person spread)
- Phase 4: Limited Person-to-Person Spread (Close/Household Contacts)
- Phase 5: Sustained Person-to-Person Spread in the Community
During Phase 1, the APH Epidemiology and Public Health Preparedness Division, in coordination with surrounding health departments, DSHS and CDC, has been monitoring travelers returning from China. This includes:
- Receiving flight manifests up to three times a day of travelers who may have been to China in the previous 14 days
- Contacting each person to explain the COVID-19 situation and that APH will monitor them for 14 days after they left China
- Providing each Person Under Monitoring (PUM) with a control order, which minimizes their movements and interactions with others for 14 days
- Making daily contact with each PUM to obtain morning and evening temperatures
- Compiling all PUM data and submitting it to the DSHS regional office daily
- At the end of the monitoring period, offering an end-of-monitoring letter to the PUM to provide to their employer or school
APH has also:
- Activated the Department Operations Center (DOC) to allow for enhanced response coordination. The DOC is active Monday-Friday, 8 am- 5 pm, and is prepared to expand operations as needed
- Staffed a 24/7 on-call pager to which health care professionals can report suspected public health emergencies
- Fielded numerous inquiries from businesses, schools and the general public
- Maintained communication and outreach with federal, state and local partners
- Coordinated response with the City's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Travis County Office of Emergency Management, Austin-Travis County EMS, among others
- Provided information to health care professionals
- Published educational materials on COVID-19 and general hygiene
As this situation evolves, we will provide any necessary updates. For more information, visit AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.