Austin-Travis County moves to stage three COVID-19 risk guidelines

Health officials say the level of risk of contracting COVID-19 in Austin-Travis County has increased and the city and county will move to Stage 3 COVID-19 risk guidelines

There are multiple factors that went into this decision.

"This Delta variant that we have now in our midst as you've heard, is much more infectious. Our ICU bed capacity is strained and largely this is due to the fact that we have a shortage of staff and we also have more respiratory illness as we've relaxed our masking policy," said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority.

Confirmed cases doubled over the past week and hospitalizations have increased to well above the threshold to move to stage three. "The increases in our admissions has gone from seven in the seven-day moving average to 20 to 21," said Walkes.

Data shows the majority of cases, hospital admissions, and deaths are among those who have not been vaccinated.

"We know that the vaccine is highly effective at preventing severe death and illness, even with the Delta variant," said Adrienne Stirrup, interim director at Austin Public Health.

"We have control over this in our community, we get to decide individually and collectively if we are going to stress our hospitals," said Mayor Steve Adler.

What does stage three mean for you? Guidelines like hand washing, social distancing and staying home when sick haven't changed, but those with higher risk factors will need to make changes.

"All of the same guidance is in place for stage three, except that we ask that those who are high risk who have chronic disease or immune compromised status, that they wear a mask if they are in a situation that is going to put them at risk. They should avoid being indoors in poorly ventilated spaces, they should only engage in essential travel, and if they have to travel wear a mask," said Walkes.

The stage three guidelines are not changes to local rules, however they are strong recommendations for individuals. Health officials say just like the community flattened the curve before, it's time to do it again.

Rising attrition rates are also a concern, says the mayor’s office. Dr. Walkes said APH is in the process of requesting staffing help from the state.


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