Austin-Travis County enters Stage 5 guidelines: What does that mean for you?

Austin Public Health (APH) officials have declared that we are officially in Stage 5 guidelines due to the threat posed by the highly contagious Delta variant. 

Stage 5 is the highest restricted level for the pandemic guidelines. It means the public must take extra precautions to prevent the transmission of the Delta variant. 

Data shows it spreads easier and can infect even those who are vaccinated. Unvaccinated individuals are at significant risk and should get fully vaccinated or avoid gatherings and only travel/shop as essential. If going out, unvaccinated individuals should wear a mask.


First and foremost, people should get vaccinated. However, due to the current high rate of COVID community spread and transmission of the Delta variant, even after you are fully vaccinated APH recommends taking extra precautions and wear a mask indoors and outdoors at private gatherings. If you are a high-risk individual--over 65 and with certain health conditions--officials do not recommend gathering at all, and you should only travel if it's essential. 

See the graphic with all the recommendations.

If you are unvaccinated, please get fully vaccinated or avoid gatherings and only travel/shop as essential. If going out, unvaccinated individuals should wear a mask.


Yes, for everyone regardless of vaccination status. Masking helps prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.


No, APH officials are not asking people to stay home/shelter in place. They are asking those who are unvaccinated to display similar behaviors that was previously requested -- avoid gatherings, only travel and shop as essential, and get vaccinated.


Businesses looking for guidance on maintaining a safe environment can visit for recommendations to help prioritize the well-being of employees and customers.

The delta variant of COVID-19 accounts for 93% of cases in the United States, according to an estimate by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC calculated the numbers through its national genomic surveillance program, which is tasked with identifying new and emerging COVID-19 variants. Using data from genomic sequencing, the CDC groups sequences with similar genetic changes associated with important epidemiological and biological events into lineages.

To maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.

In a briefing with Austin City Council and Travis County Commissioners Tuesday, health officials admitted the science has changed because the virus itself has. Overall, cases continue to rise—with the city reporting 601 new cases Tuesday. There are 29 confirmed cases of the Delta variant, but Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes says the actual number of Delta cases is certainly much higher.

Meanwhile, hospitals are seriously concerned about ICU bed capacity as admissions continue to soar. "Our hospitals have the staff they need now. I want everyone to know that but at the same time the horizon is troubling, said Austin Mayor Steve Adler.

Those hospital patients now include more young people getting seriously ill. Walkes says she is now seeing patients as young as 19 on ventilators. Couple that with how quickly the Delta variant is spreading in our community, Walkes suggested recommendations could go as far as what was advised in 2020.

"For unvaccinated we want people to stay home when possible and avoid gatherings and travel. use curbside delivery options. if you must go out wearing a mask," said Walkes. "Wear a mask if you’re high risk with underlying conditions, avoid large gatherings where masks are not required."

As we wait for the call on Stage 5, officials are pleading with everyone to wear a mask and get vaccinated. Originally, the benchmark for herd immunity was 70% vaccination, but APH now says a larger number will need to get the shot to overcome the Delta variant. 

At this point, 54% of the total population in Austin and Travis County is fully vaccinated.

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