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Emergency notification system used to warn people of 'dire' Covid-19 situation in Austin, Texas

Emergency notification system used to warn people of 'dire' Covid-19 situation in Austin, Texas

Posted: Aug 9, 2021 9:31 AM
Updated: Aug 9, 2021 9:31 AM

Austin, Texas, activated its emergency alert system on Saturday to warn the public about a surge of Covid-19 cases and encourage people to get vaccinated, the Austin-Travis County Emergency Operations Center said on Twitter.

"The COVID-19 situation in Austin is dire. Healthcare facilities are open but resources are limited due to a surge in cases," the message said, according to a screenshot of the mobile alert.

"Everyone needs to wear a mask & stay home as much as possible. If you have not been vaccinated, do not wait to get one. Go to vaccines.gov to find a shot."

The screenshot showed the message had been sent from 88911, which is the account used to send alerts from Travis County's emergency notification system.

The alert comes after the area moved to Stage 5 of its Covid-19 risk-based guidelines Thursday, which is its highest level, due to Covid-19 "infections and hospitalizations continuing to surge to pre-vaccine levels," the county said in a news release.

"The situation is critical," Dr. Desmar Walkes of the Austin-Travis County Health Authority said in a news release. "Our hospitals are severely stressed and there is little we can do to alleviate their burden with the surging cases. The public has to act now and help our we will face a catastrophe in our community that could have been avoided."

Stage 5 indicates that unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people should avoid most activities unless essential. Vaccinated people who are high-risk are advised to avoid private gatherings, while low-risk vaccinated people should act with precautions, the guidelines say.

Austin-Travis County has averaged 230 cases per 100,000 people over the last week, a 27% increase from the week prior, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to county data, 510 people are hospitalized with Covid-19 in Austin, including 184 in the ICU and 102 on ventilators.

In Texas, about 54% of residents over age 12 are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the CDC, about five percentage points below the US average. Texas does not provide the CDC with county by county vaccination data.

The Warn Central Texas system is used to send emergency notifications related to "natural disasters, weather warnings, evacuation notices, bio-terrorism alerts, boil water notices, and missing child reports" from local emergency response teams.

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