Stay home for Thanksgiving, Austin health officials plead

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By Talk 1370

AUSTIN ( -- Local health officials urged residents to remain vigilant Wednesday morning as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches.

Dr. Jason Pickett, alternate health authority for Travis County, joined the weekly Austin Public Health media briefing Wednesday. Pickett, along with APH Director Stephanie Hayden and chief epidemiologist Janet Pichette, continued to emphasize the concern over gatherings and travel.

"There are ways you can make your holiday safer and happier and healthier," Pickett said. "One of them is to avoid gathering with folks outside of your immediate household. To stay away from crowds, to stay away from groups."

While testing is readily available, officials said, getting a test doesn't mean you're safe from the virus. "A test does not buy you a ticket to a gathering," Pickett added.

Pichette said that an increasing number of positive cases are from patients who thought they had allergies, but ended up being COVID-19. "Nasal congestion or a scratchy throat, even some of these mild symptoms can be indictive of COVID-19," Pichette said. "So, if you experience any type of symptoms, you need to consider that you are infectious in some way until you have a test that proves otherwise."

The area remains in a Stage 4 risk level, based on available medical staffing for the area's intensive care units. As of Tuesday night, 239 people were currently hospitalized with COVID-19 across the five county area with 81 of those in ICU beds. Officials estimate there are 2,716 active cases in Travis County, a number which has almost tripled since the beginning of the month.