The number of individuals requiring hospitalization due to COVID-19 has been slowly but steadily increasing since early June, according to Dr. Desmar Walkes, the city's medical director and health authority.
As of June 27, there are 97 COVID-19 patients in Austin-area hospitals. That is a 20% increase in hospitalizations from last week compared to 8% the week before and 6% from the week prior. The increases are likely due to omicron sublineages BA.4 and BA.5, which are easily spread, have a greater potential for breakthrough infections and affect lung health more than previous variants, said Walkes.
“[The variants] can produce long-lasting problems with lungs, heart, kidneys and other organ systems, '' Walkes said. “This is not benign.”
Among patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in the Austin area, 30% are vaccinated. Half the patients are hospitalized primarily due to COVID-19, and the other half are patients with a separate diagnosis that was complicated due to COVID-19, according to Walkes.
Though reports show a rise in COVID-19 infections, the exact number of cases is skewed due to the prevalence of at-home tests, according to Walkes.
Despite a growing number of COVID-19 breakthrough cases and reinfections, Walkes said Austin Public Health is continuing to recommend vaccines as they provide protection from serious illness, hospitalization and death.
Austin Public Health recommended in a press release to keep Fourth of July celebrations outdoors and to stay home when sick, even if you think it is “just allergies.”
APH has been monitoring monkeypox cases since the beginning of June and has one presumptive case that it is waiting to be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are seven confirmed cases in Texas as of June 28.
Monkeypox is spread by close skin contact and secretions passed from touching, kissing or talking closely. It can also be spread by sharing items such as towels or toys. Treatment is available through state health services and CDC, according to APH Director Adrienne Sturrup.
“Stay aware and seek care,” said Sturrup. “Continue the best hygiene practices that we know work.”