What are the Austin-Travis County COVID-19 risk-based guidelines?

Austin-Travis County is currently in Stage 3 of their COVID-19 risk-based guidelines. The move from Stage 2 to Stage 3 was caused by an uptick in cases involving the Delta variant of COVID-19 as well as a rise in hospitalizations.

But what makes Stage 3 different from Stage 2 or even Stage 4, which Austin-Travis County could be moving back into if trends continue?

The guidelines are recommendations from the city's health authorities on behaviors they consider safe for each level of COVID-19 risk from the lowest threat, Stage 1, through the most serious, Stage 5. The recommended behaviors are not meant to replace rules businesses or schools have already put in place and are meant to be guidelines for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. 

In Stage 3, our current stage, a vaccinated person can participate in private indoor gatherings, and shop and dine indoors while maskless. Vaccinated people are still recommended to travel with precautions such as social distance and masking. Currently, due to the spike, it has been recommended even vaccinated individuals wear masks even though the city is still in Stage 3.

The full guidelines for VACCINATED individuals are as follows:

  • Stage 1: Participate in indoor or outdoor private gatherings and dine or shop without precautions. Travel with precautions.
  • Stage 2: Same recommendations as Stage 1.
  • Stage 3: Same recommendations as Stage 1.
  • Stage 4: Participate in indoor or outdoor private gatherings, dine or shop, and travel with precautions.
  • Stage 5: Same recommendations as Stage 4.

For unvaccinated people, the guidelines suggest masking and taking precautions for all gatherings, dining, or travel. 

The guidelines offer no change in recommended behavior between Stage 2 and Stage 3, however, moving back into Stage 4 would bring new recommendations for both vaccinated and un-vaccinated residents.

In Stage 4, a vaccinated person should mask for all gatherings, shopping, dining, and travel, which they have already been advised to do even though the city is in Stage 3. An unvaccinated person in Stage 4 is recommended to avoid all non-essential activities. 

Austin Public Health still urges residents to get vaccinated as the best way to avoid contracting COVID-19, with a vast majority of hospitalizations they say being cases of unvaccinated people. There have been, however, a small amount of "breakthrough" cases of fully vaccinated individuals contracting the virus. 

The CDC says the chances of a vaccinated person contracting COVID-19 is low but is possible if direct contact is made with someone who has the virus.

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