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Bioscience-Medicine

'It Appears We Will Enter 2021 In A State Of Emergency,' Austin's Top Doctor Says

Dell Medical School Doctor Oliver Fannin receives the COVID-19 vaccine Pfizer BioNTech during injections to healthcare workers at Dell Medical School on Dec. 15, 2020. (Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT News)
Dell Medical School Doctor Oliver Fannin receives the COVID-19 vaccine Pfizer BioNTech during injections to healthcare workers at Dell Medical School on Dec. 15, 2020. (Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT News)

There may be the need to call in refrigerated trailers to store bodies if nothing is done to halt the spread of the coronavirus in Travis County, interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said at a news conference Monday.

“It appears we will enter 2021 in a state of emergency,” he said.

Hospital admissions are up 106%, he said, and projections look worse "day after day." He said the area could run out of ICU beds in a matter of weeks.

"This is a real crisis," he said.

Escott said he is hopeful there will be enough vaccines for the general population by March or April and that people just have to "rally one more time to get over this hump."

He urged people to take the disease seriously and cautioned that it does strike younger healthier people, not just those who are older or who have underlying conditions.

This is a "disease that causes people to suffocate, progressively over time," he said.

Austin Public Health said its number one concern heading into New Year's Eve is bars operating as restaurants.

"They are putting public health at risk by being open," Escott said.

APH Director Stephanie Hayden said if people do go out and see something inappropriate, they should call 311 and an enforcement team would respond.

She urged residents to find new ways to celebrate the holiday and not to host gatherings in their homes.

"We have to keep Austin safe," Hayden said. "It is everyone's responsibility."

This story has been updated.

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