AUSTIN, Texas - Austin health officials have decided to move up to stage four of their COVID-19 risk-based guidelines chart.
“If we do not take the steps to change now, to mitigate risk, flatten the curve, we could be in stage five territory in just a few weeks,” said Dr. Mark Escott, interim public health authority.
In his weekly briefing, Escott said he had to lower the threshold for transitioning from stage three to four, due to hospital staffing issues. That threshold has always been based on the seven-day moving average of hospital admissions. “Stage four transition is now set at 30 on a seven-day moving average of hospital admissions. Stage five is at 50,” he said.
This means to avoid non-essential travel, avoid gatherings of more than ten, two if you’re at higher risk. It also means businesses are urged to operate at 25 to 50 percent capacity. The city can issue citations on this.
“What we need people to do, number one if you are high risk or over 65 or underlying significant health conditions, you need to stay home. We also need to encourage everybody, even if they are lower risk, if they are going to be interacting with other people outside of their household, to do so with a mask on and social distance,” said Escott.
The news comes as cases continue to rise in the state. Health officials say they took this step to avoid a situation like El Paso's. “A surge like this in Austin will require us to have more than 600 ICU beds and more than 2,400 hospital beds just to care for the people in our jurisdiction. We don't have that many beds, said Escott.
Mayor Steve Adler said Austin has flattened the curve before. It's time to do it again. “Our community's effort over summer helped us fall back to yellow, to stage three and we remained there multiple months. We can get there again, but we need to do it together,: said Adler.
“I want us to remember your older parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others that are part of your family and people you hold near and dear to your heart," said Stephanie Hayden, director of Austin Public Health.