With Austin ISD resuming classes as scheduled after the Winter Break, staff and families can help prevent the spread of the Omicron variant by getting boosted this week, getting tested at one of our 11 hubs beginning Monday, Jan. 3, and by double-layering masks that fit well on Wednesday when classrooms re-open.
We know what to do: What we’ve been doing works. Austin has just entered Stage 4, which is not as bad as when we went back to school after Winter Break last year, when we were at Stage 5, and when we went back to school last August, when we were also at Stage 5.
- This is the first time we’ve gone back to school during the pandemic when vaccines were approved for all staff and students ages 5 and older.
- On Monday, Austin ISD Superintendent Stephanie S. Elizalde met with Dr. Desmar Walkes, the city’s health authority/medical director, who agrees with the CDC that schools need to stay open for in-class instruction.
- “Our layered protocols work! We have been here before. We can do this. Our kids need the schools to stay open,” said Dr. Elizalde.
Where you come in: The only reason Austin ISD has among the lowest COVID infection rates in the state is because our community supports students and staff wearing masks at school.
- Teachers and school staff are frontline workers, and the community’s support for their safety means the world to all of us.
First, get boosted: Getting boosted increases your immunity from the Omicron variant to 75.5%, up from 34.2%.
- Here is a link with places to get vaccinated and boosted for free.
- “It’s never been easier to get your vaccine and booster doses in Austin-Travis County. We’ve worked hard to make the vaccine process as quick and simple as possible at our clinics,” said Interim Austin Public Health Director Adrienne Sturrup. “Take this time when your kids are out of school to get your family fully protected from this virus.”
- Most hospitalizations in Travis County due to COVID are unvaccinated people, according to Dr. Walkes.
- Travis County’s vaccination rate (69.87%) is higher than the state’s (60.95%). Keep it up!
Testing hubs are open and free to any Austin ISD student or staff member — whether you were recently exposed or just want to be confident going back to school.
- Testing sites: Akins, Eastside, Navarro, Northeast and Travis early college high schools; McCallum High School; and Cunnigham, Kiker, Norman-Sims and Pillow elementaries.
- Testing begins Jan. 3 and will run 8 a.m.–2 p.m., Monday–Friday.
- Austin ISD will also offer after-hours testing Monday, Jan. 3 from 3–7 p.m. at Central Office (4000 S. I-35 Frontage Road).
- Austin ISD piloted testing hubs starting last November, which is one reason we were able to keep COVID numbers so low last year.
- Learn more at our health guidelines.
Don’t even ask — Wear a mask. Because Omicron is so easily spread, it’s more important than ever to get a mask that fits well.
- If you can’t find an N95 mask, Dr. Walkes says wearing two well-fitting masks also increases your safety.
- Austin ISD will continue our other layered protocols as well, including social distancing, advanced air filtration systems, pool testing, and eating lunches outside.
- And of course, keep kiddos who are sick at home.
- For all other questions, including updated quarantining protocols and FAQs, visit our COVID-19 resources page.