Omicron COVID-19 variant prompts return to Stage 5 APH guidelines

As COVID-19 cases rise in Austin-Travis County due to the Omicron variant, Austin Public Health has decided to return to Stage 5 of its COVID-19 Risk-Based Guidelines

Health officials had warned that the return was "imminent" without behavioral changes.

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 the risk of exposure in the community. It is important to note that everyone should continue to follow additional requirements stipulated by local businesses, venues, and schools regardless of vaccination status or stage. 

APH said earlier this week that record numbers show 1 in 3 tests were positive for COVID-19 in Central Texas. APH says it and its regional partners report 30% of last week's tests are positive for COVID-19.

Officials say it's now more important than ever to wear masks when interacting with anyone outside of your household to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They also say COVID-19 testing is encouraged, especially following the holidays. Testing is available throughout the region at doctor’s offices, pharmacies, and APH sites. APH sites offer free PCR tests with or without appointments.


Stage 5 is the highest restricted level for the pandemic guidelines. It means the public must take extra precautions to prevent transmission. For Stage 5, those fully vaccinated are suggested to wear a mask while indoors, outdoors, and around crowds. For the unvaccinated, it's recommended to avoid all gatherings and not to travel unless necessary. If you are out it's advised to take advantage of curbside dining and shopping.

  • For high-risk individuals, indoor and outdoor private gatherings are not recommended at all, with or without precautions, travel is discouraged unless essential, dining should be outdoors with precautions, and shopping should be outdoors or takeaway or curbside.
  • For low-risk individuals, indoor and outdoor private gatherings, travel, shopping, and dining should be with precautions. Note that places that require vaccines and masks may pose a lower risk.


APH says COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters continue to offer the best protection against the virus and its variants. Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses are available at all APH locations. As of Wednesday, APH says 30% of the eligible population (5 years and older) is not fully vaccinated and only 23% have received their booster. Officials say this leaves the community vulnerable to the disease.

Those in the Austin-Travis County can locate providers in the area using ( in Spanish) or they can text their zip code to 438829 (822862 in Spanish) to find a nearby clinic.   

APH clinics offer COVID-19 vaccinations and testing on a walk-up (no appointment needed) basis, although creating an account online in advance saves time. COVID-19 vaccinations are free and require neither identification nor insurance. For more information and to schedule an appointment, call 3-1-1 or visit  

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