AUSTIN, Texas - Officials with Austin Public Health are warning that Austin and Travis County are on the verge of moving back into Stage Four COVID restrictions, amid an alarming spike in cases in Central Texas. With that, APH officials are now urging everyone to start wearing masks again—even for those who are vaccinated.
It has been less than a week since Austin and Travis County moved from Stage Two into Stage Three, with officials now describing the shift to Stage Four as "imminent." The warning comes as new cases and hospital admissions continue to soar once again in Travis County and beyond. Especially concerning, experts say, is the fact that Austin and Travis County just surpassed 30 new hospital admissions on the seven-day moving average.
Although we are not technically in Stage Four yet, APH officials are urging people in the community to behave as if we are. They are urging everyone to do two things: get vaccinated if you haven’t already, and wear a mask indoors even if you have gotten the shot. In addition, officials are advising against unvaccinated people gathering with each other.
Officials say almost all ICU patients in Travis County are unvaccinated. According to research from the University of Texas, unless more people take precautions, COVID-related hospitalizations will continue to increase exponentially.
"We are starting to experience a really serious COVID 19 spike, and it threatens to overwhelm our ICUs and our hospitals if we don’t slow the spread," said Austin City Council member Greg Casar. "If everyone just got the vaccine, we would stop the virus in its tracks. The overwhelming number of people in our hospital beds are folks that are unvaccinated.
Austin Public Health officials say vaccination locations are ready to administer the shot to anyone who wants it, and they will even come to you.
"In Del Valle, we’re at the Expo Center, we’re at supermarkets, we’ll come to your house, we’ll go to your local business. Whatever you need us to do to help you make the choice to be vaccinated, we are prepared," said Interim Austin Public Health Director Adrienne Sturrup.
Experts say if more people get the shot, it will help prevent new variants from taking hold in our area. As of Tuesday, four cases of the Delta variant have been confirmed in Travis County alone. That variant is more easily transmissible, causes more serious illness, and is more deadly than the original virus. In fact, the CDC says about 87% of COVID cases are from the Delta variant.
With school starting in a matter of weeks, local health officials say they are concerned about how the rate of transmission could translate to a school environment. Experts say there is still a chance vaccinated people can transmit the virus to others—particularly children under 12 who are not yet eligible to get vaccinated.
Because of that, APH officials are "strongly encouraging" all children over the age of two to wear a mask. They are also urging parents to vaccinated their children when they are eligible. Officials say it’s critical that students return to in-person learning for the upcoming school year.
For more on where and how you can get vaccinated, visit austintexas.gov/covid19, or call 311.
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