“I want to get our life back together,” Camila, who will soon start eighth grade, told CNN. She wants to go out in public without a mask, she says. She wants to go on family vacations and wants to go to school safely in person, saying she has struggled with remote learning. “And I also want to be safe.”
Camila was vaccinated at a site set up by Austin Public Health in Del Valle, Texas, on the edge of the capital city, in partnership with the nonprofit Emanicpet, which offers routine health care for dogs. Officials were there looking for people like Camila, who are unvaccinated but willing to change that.
With the pace of inoculations slowing, Austin is scrambling to get more shots in arms, dedicating personnel at sites across the city — vet clinics, churches, rec centers, construction sites, homeless shelters — just to vaccinate 10, 15 or 20 people at a time.
But it’s not enough to stem the rising tide of infections and hospitalizations driven by the Delta variant, officials say.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler told CNN the county and the city had done well, and he touted the high rate of vaccinations. “Which just goes to show this Covid variant, Delta, is just that much more infectious and having that much greater impact,” he said.
Early on, thousands of people a day were getting vaccinated in Austin, Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County health authority, told CNN. Vaccines were in such high demand that some people initially had to be turned away.
Nowadays? “We’re looking maybe at 50 to 100 people depending on how many strike teams we have out on any given day,” Walkes said.
“Our ICU capacity is reaching a critical point where the level of risk to the entire community has significantly increased, and not just to those who are needing treatment for COVID,” Walkes said Friday in a statement. “If we fail to come together as a community now, we jeopardize the lives of loved ones who might need critical care.”
Added Adler: “It is beyond frustrating that it’s so hard to get vaccines in people’s arms today when we were giving thousands of them out just a couple months ago. And we’re doing everything we can.”
Now, the “labor intensive effort” involves “virtually going door-to-door,” he said.
“We’re trying to find people where they are,” Adler said. “We’re working through trusted voices and communities, working with churches and faith institutions, faith leaders.”
Camila admits she was nervous about getting a shot. She says she initially didn’t want to get vaccinated. But she was the last member of her family to need it — everyone else had been vaccinated.
So, she decided to listen to someone she trusts — her mom, who told her the vaccine was the best path to a return to normalcy.
“My mom was talking to me in the car, and she was like, ‘You know, if you want the world to get better, we need to help,'” Camila said. “Everyone needs to get vaccinated.”
‘An epidemic among the unvaccinated’
After weeks of progress, Covid-19 cases are rising rapidly in states across the country. In Texas, the seven-day moving average was 9,789 new daily cases on Monday, according to a CNN analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. That’s way up from July 1, when the seven-day moving average of new daily cases was about 1,500.
“This Delta variant has really caused an alarming increase in the number of cases,” Walkes told CNN. “We’ve gone from 30 cases a day to almost 400 cases a day in a matter of almost two-and-a-half, three weeks.”
“That’s because we have still a lot of people who are unvaccinated,” she said.
Nearly everyone in the city’s hospitals aren’t vaccinated, Adler told CNN.
“Almost everyone in our ICUs are people who are not vaccinated. We have no one on ventilators in our city that are vaccinated,” he said. “This is an epidemic among the unvaccinated.”