‘Now is too soon to return to normal’: says Austin’s health authority

There is some good news on the COVID-19 front in the Austin area. "We continue to move in a downward direction," said Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority.

Dr. Escott said when it comes to key indicators like hospital admissions, the numbers are going down. "Our admissions are also on the decrease. Yesterday we reported 15 new admissions, with a moving average of 29 which drops us down into the stage 3 territory."

If things continue this way, Escott said he may recommend we drop down to stage three risk guidelines and possibly flirt with stage two in the late spring. But that doesn't mean letting down your guard.

"Now is too soon to return to normal, now is too soon to take away masking, now is too soon to forget about social distancing," said Escott.



In a city council briefing, Dr. Escott outlined the numbers, but he and the mayor also expressed concerns about lifting masking rules.

"I’m hopeful the governor will maintain that mandate and remove it with ammunition that it is still important thing to do. We need to keep our foot on that gas," said Mayor Steve Adler.

But that is not what happened. Governor Greg Abbott lifted the statewide mask mandate, taking effect next week. Businesses are still allowed to enforce their own protocols.

"The danger we face by reducing those restrictions, particularly masking mandate which has really been the most effective public policy the governor has made, certainly has the potential to initiate a surge," said Escott.

Vaccination efforts remain strong in Travis county. But Escott said just not enough people are inoculated, a reminder the pandemic will still be around for some time.

"We've vaccinated maybe 10 percent of our population, we are nowhere close to herd immunity," said Escott.