Austin-Travis County businesses prepare for Stage 4

At first glance, it was a typical summer day in Austin, but the buzz about town was not all fun and games. 

A spike in COVID-19 cases was growing and even for the average person, it was something hard to ignore.

"Actually my sister who is in Arkansas has COVID right now, her and her husband, so I think that was a huge wake up call, even if you do get more lax on the mask, just seeing the cases rise it makes you a lot more cautious," said Kathleen Shaw.

For local health officials, the increase in cases linked to the highly contagious Delta variant is expected to mean something more: an increase in COVID-19 protocols, from stage 3 recommendations to stage 4.

"I hate that we are talking about the virus. I hate that we are, again, keeping our eyes peeled to the dashboard to see what's happening daily with hospitals. I hate that, but one thing is clear: we can't pretend to be done with a virus that is that done with us," said Mayor Steve Adler.

For fully vaccinated people like Deonta Nathan, the change means his next workout at the gym could be scaled back and done in a mask. "It worked for a year in a half, so yeah, I guess so. I just got to breathe fresh air again, so yeah, a little bit disappointed, but whatever is the safest," said Nathan.

For those fully vaccinated, Stage 4 recommendations call for the use of a mask at outdoor and indoor events, while dinning and shopping and even at private gatherings. Those who are partially vaccinated or haven’t gotten a shot, it’s suggested they stay home, don’t travel, and leave only for something essential like grocery shopping. 

This ramp up will not require a shutdown, but several business owners who spoke to FOX 7 say it may require a familiar pivot.

"I refuse to panic, I don’t panic at all," said Dimple Hegger, who owns a small cafe with her husband in Northwest Austin.

Hegger says their recipe for the last shutdown involved baking pies and shifting from dine in to dine out. "So I think we can survive again, as far as that is, because he goes to all the car dealerships, he delivers food and he delivered the pies, and all the goods, so that’s what kept us going when it first happened," said Hegger.

For retailers, losing a block of customers, people who stay away because they’re not vaccinated, could potentially be a bigger hit. The managers at a jewelry store say they have survived so far by pulling people in online.

"We’re coupling that with private viewing appointments so things are more scheduled and we can between customers," said Sirandyna Wayne.

"We do know that the most important thing is to get vaccinated. The second most important thing is to wear a mask. We also have to protect the community and what that means is that those of us that are vaccinated now need to do our part in stopping the spread of this virus now that the Delta Variant is with us," said Mayor Adler.

"We just thought it was in the best interest of all of our customers and our staff to go ahead and go back to requiring masks of everyone," said John T. Kunz, the owner and president of Waterloo Records on Lamar.

Kunz says his business just started requiring all customers to mask up again due to the uptick in COVID cases.

"I just went from thinking that we were all safe once we were vaccinated to finding out that that wasn't necessarily the case and didn't want to have any of my staff or my vaccinated customers walk away from those events and find out they had covid down the road," said Kunz. 

He says few customers have complained so far.

"There hasn't been nearly as much pushback as I thought there might be. In fact, there were tons of people that were saying, thank you," said Kunz

As part of the jump to stage 4, health officials are also urging that all children over the age of two to wear a mask.

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