AUSTIN, Texas - Austin Public Health has announced that it is moving to Stage 4 of its COVID risk-based guidelines. The announcement came at a joint session of Austin City Council and the Travis County Commissioners Court.
The risk-based guidelines correlate with five distinct stages of risk for Austin-Travis County and are not changes to local rules or regulations for businesses; they are guidelines and recommendations for individual actions and behaviors based on levels of risk of exposure in the community.
Officials say that while the number of those who require care in intensive care units (ICUs) in the 11-county Trauma Service Area Region-O remains high, the seven-day moving averages of new COVID-19 cases, hospital admissions, and positivity rates continue to drop in the Austin-Travis County metropolitan area.
"The Delta variant showed us how unpredictable and deadly this virus can be, especially for the unvaccinated," said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. "However, even as we continue to see the data trending in a positive direction, we cannot act as if the pandemic is over."
"Our hospital and ICUs still remain at critical levels, and we need the public to continue to work together to ensure we do not contribute to a new surge," Dr. Walkes says.
Officials say everyone should continue to follow any additional requirements put in place by local businesses, venues, and schools regardless of their vaccination status or stage.
People are still being urged to get vaccinated, for both COVID and the flu, and to get your booster shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine if you're eligible. Officials say vaccinations and wearing masks continue to be the key in preventing the spread of COVID.
COVID-19 vaccinations are free and require neither identification nor insurance. Residents can locate providers in their area using Vaccines.gov or they can text their zip code to 438829 (822862 in Spanish) to find a nearby clinic.
WHAT ARE STAGE 4 RECOMMENDATIONS?
Fully vaccinated individuals are advised that they should wear a mask when participating in indoor gatherings, traveling, and dining or shopping, and should wear a mask for outdoor gatherings, if they are unable to socially distance themselves from others.
People who are partially or unvaccinated should avoid gatherings, travel, dining, and shopping unless essential. They should also wear a mask when conducting essential activities.
HOW WAS THE DECISION TO MOVE TO STAGE 4 MADE?
In making the decision to move to Stage 4 of the Risk-Based Guidelines, APH, Travis County and local hospital partners monitor several key indicators including the seven-day moving average of new hospital admissions, positivity rate, the doubling time of new cases, and current ICU and ventilator patients.
While the number of new cases has decreased, patients suffering from the Delta variant experience longer stays in the hospital and intensive care units contributing to hospitals still experiencing systems being overtaxed. Key data points to highlight are:
- The positivity rate, weekly number of people who test positive out of the total number of people tested, has dropped 44 percent, from 14.8 to 8.3 percent from peak in early August.
- The 7-day moving average for hospitalizations has decreased almost 33 percent, peaking at 641.9 on Aug. 27 down to 440 on Sept. 27.
- COVID patients in local ICUs has decreased nearly 21 percent from 230.6 patients on Aug. 27 to 181.1 on Sept. 27.
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