September 2, 2020
Residents urged to avoid gatherings Labor Day Weekend and continue healthy habits this fall to keep schools, businesses open; prevent another coronavirus spike
(Austin, Texas) – Austin Public Health (APH), Travis County, Central Health and its affiliate CommUnityCare Health Centers kicked-off a six-week personal protective equipment (PPE) distribution initiative Wednesday. The program, part of a campaign called Protect Yourself, Protect Your Family/Protéjase y Proteja a Su Familia, begins as schools are reopening for in-person learning, people are returning to work, and the holiday and flu seasons are approaching.
“We have recently moved to Stage Three of our Risk-Based Guidelines, which means our key indicators are trending in the right direction,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority. “However, now is not the time to let down our guard. We must continue to come together as a community and practice proper hygiene, wear face coverings, and social distance to avoid another surge in our community, especially with flu season fast approaching.”
Free PPE kits containing face masks and hand sanitizer will be provided to residents in areas with high COVID-19 positivity rates. CommUnityCare will give away the kits to patients at its clinic locations and will work with community partners such as Hispanic Star and U.S. Census Bureau outreach staff to distribute PPE kits as well. PPE distribution locations will be listed at www.AustinTexas.gov/PPE.
Representatives from the local health agencies are reminding everyone to practice the 3 Ws and remain vigilant to protect each other and keep people out of the hospital: Always wear a mask when you leave home, wash or sanitize your hands often, and watch your distance – stay six feet apart from others.
“We hope that by distributing PPE, we can help those at higher risk of exposure stay as safe and healthy as possible,” Central Health President & CEO Mike Geeslin said. “Our community has done so well in helping slow the spread of this terrible disease, but we can’t let up now. There’s too much at stake.”
“COVID-19 is hitting hardest among communities of color – people more likely to have underlying conditions like diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure, which make exposure more serious,” Dr. Alan Schalscha, chief medical officer of CommUnityCare said. “We understand the importance of spending time with friends and family especially over a holiday weekend – but it’s also important to protect them. If you’re going to gather in person, limit it to less than 10 people and go outdoors if you can. If you can’t go outside, make sure the room or space you’re in is well-ventilated, and ensure everyone wears masks.”
“Austin Public Health data has shown that COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on our vulnerable communities,” said Stephanie Hayden, APH Director. “Our communities of color have faced decades of disparities, both socially and in health outcomes. While we cannot correct these disparities overnight, COVID-19 has allowed the wider community to understand these disproportionate impacts. Together, we can make a difference and we must come together to ensure that everyone is protected.”
Testing data indicates the pandemic is having a greater impact on minority communities and communities with low income. While trends have improved, Latinos continue to test positive for COVID-19 at a disproportionately higher rate, according to Austin Public Health (13.2% Latino positivity rate for week of Aug. 9-15 vs. 6.2% overall positivity rate for the same week).
10,000 units of hand sanitizer and $5,000 to pay for PPE have been donated by valued community partners such as H-E-B.