Austin health officials say businesses can decide to keep masks or not
AUSTIN, Texas - For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, Austin's chief medical officer, Dr. Mark Escott said we are moving down to stage two COVID-19 risk-based guidelines.
"We feel confident that we are in a place where the stage two restrictions are appropriate and that's thanks to the great work our community has done," said Escott.
Fully vaccinated people can participate in indoor and outdoor private gatherings without a mask. Doctor Escott said masking is now left up to private businesses. "We need them to be respectful of policies that are in place at the places they are visiting. If an individual doesn’t wear a mask and a mask is required, they can be asked to leave," said Escott.
Masks will still be required on public transportation, as well as long-term care facilities, or at any places with vulnerable populations. "I have kids. If they go to a playground and other kids are there, should everyone, all the kids be wearing a mask?" asked Travis County Judge Andy Brown.
"The most protective thing is to wear a mask particularly among individuals who are unvaccinated. That's going to be everybody under the age of 12," said Escott.
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Just as news of this announcement, Governor Greg Abbott also issued an executive order, stopping cities and counties and other government entities, from requiring masking. Schools can continue requiring it until June 4. How did we get here? Numbers have been low, particularly looking at the positivity rate.
"For the first time since we have been tracking this data, we are under 3 percent," said Escott.
As more and more become vaccinated, Escott is hopeful this pandemic can be put behind us sooner rather than later.