Austin health officials mull over moving to tighter restrictions

As COVID-19 cases surge in Central Texas, public health officials are mulling over moving to Stage 5 restrictions to keep people safe.

“We have seen the devastating effects of COVID-19 on families over and over again across this country. It's time we listen to the message, it's time we take action,” said interim health authority Dr. Mark Escott.

RELATED: Austin Public Health officials express concern over latest COVID-19 data

The key number to look at is a seven-day moving average of hospital admissions, which sits at just under 75. “The threshold for entering stage 5 is somewhere between 70 and 123 depending on the trajectory of that entrance into that red phase,” said Escott.

So what would stage five look like? Escott hopes the city can have some dialogue with the governor on this.


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“We are looking at turning things down a bit more than we can legally do with the governor's executive order,” he said.

Gov. Greg Abbott has not mandated a statewide closure for everything, only certain types of businesses, but he does have an order that mandated face coverings, something he said cities and counties are not enforcing.

RELATED: Hospital admissions rise in Travis County, potentially surpassing Stage 5 threshold

“It provides law enforcement the same tools and strategies when they pull somebody over for not wearing a seatbelt. They have the ability to enforce it, I think they just don't want to,” said Abbott.

Speaking to FOX 7 on Tuesday, the governor said Mayor Steve Adler should stay away from the idea of another shutdown, and focus on compliance.

“Shutting down businesses and locking people back into their homes is the wrong approach at this time for one primary reason, and that's because we've seen absolutely no effort whatsoever by the Austin mayor to enforce all these rules that have been imposed,” said Abbott.

Abbott also wrote a letter Wednesday to Adler concerning the city considering additional enforcement of his recent executive order. Abbott says in the letter that the city's consideration of additional enforcement to ensure compliance is an "important step toward reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)."

"As you know, these Orders were created and adopted based on advice from medical experts, and if these Orders are followed, we will be able to protect both public health and the livelihoods of our citizens," reads the letter. "Taking steps to ensure compliance with these Orders, as the City is contemplating, is necessary to protect public health and safety and will reduce the spread of COVID-19."

Ultimately, health officials in Austin believe it is up to residents to keep one another safe. That means leaving home only when necessary, wearing a mask, and avoiding large gatherings.


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