Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County health authority, gave a briefing to press Oct. 7. (Courtesy ATXN)
However, officials said they are tracking at least one cluster of cases traced to a party held by high school students.
Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Mark Escott said at a an Oct. 7 press event that he would not name the specific school associated with the cluster, as it is part of an ongoing epidemiology investigation.
Escott said unrestricted gatherings like this one—which, so far, has resulted in six positive COVID-19 tests, with 58 other individuals quarantined—are a source of concern as schools remain open. Hospitalizations from COVID-19 have not risen significantly following AISD’s return to on-campus learning so far due to the county and school system’s gradual and supervised assumption of risk, Escott said, but if students and community members relax individual precautions, case numbers and hospitalizations could rise.
“This virus is not a supernatural force. It responds to what we do as a community. If we reduce those protective actions—if we decide to stop masking and social distancing and we start to gather together again in large groups—that’s when the second wave is going to come,” Escott said. “My hope is that through education, through listening to expert advice, we can continue to keep this virus at bay in our community and protect one another.”
Escott also confirmed that criminal charges are possible in relation to this cluster and other similar ones if local gathering restrictions are found to have been broken by event hosts.
“If an individual suffers a serious illness or death, then I do think that more serious charges should be referred. We all have to take responsibility for our actions, and we all have to take responsibility for our children,” he said.
When considering the safety of events, Escott said the public should remember that holiday gatherings come with the same risk as any other event as families make plans to observe Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and other occasions.
“I think to show love for our family this year, we have to have distance,” he said. “Our celebrations right now should involve members of our household, and that’s it.”