After preliminary test results found the omicron variant in Austin and Travis County, Austin Public Health officials advised the community to continue to take COVID-19 precautions during a Dec. 14 briefing.

Those recommendations include getting vaccinated, boosted and tested after travel, as well as wearing masks.

“No matter how overwhelming that graph with all those red lines might have looked about how rapidly omicron is spreading, we know that vaccines still are our best chance at being protected,” APH Interim Director Adrienne Sturrup said.

Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County health authority, said cases and hospitalizations increased slightly over the past seven days, but that the community remains in Stage 3.

She said prior to Thanksgiving the community was at 44 cases per 100,000, but that number has risen to around 70 per 100,000, stemming from indoor gatherings during the holiday.

In addition, the number of hospitalizations reached 103 for the week ending Dec. 12, which represented a continued trend upward since the week ending Nov. 21. Those were almost all among people who had not received the COVID-19 vaccine, Walkes said.

However, APH officials also noted that COVID-19 vaccinations have continued to increase, driven by an uptick in demand for booster shots.

Throughout the month of December, booster shots have accounted for 6,465 of 7,390 shots, with the majority of those being Moderna.

“I'm pleased to say that we've seen a 40% increase in booster uptake since the beginning of this month, so our community is rising to the occasion to get those booster shots that we know are needed to increase our protection from COVID-19,” Walkes said.

She also said a possible application offering COVID-19 vaccinations to children below age 5 could be submitted in the beginning of 2022.