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Austin-Travis County returns to Stage 4 of COVID-19 risk-based guidelines

Officials track the 7-day moving average of new hospital admissions, community transmission rate and positivity rate when determining COVID-19 risk-based guidelines.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin-Travis County leaders announced on Wednesday, Dec. 29, that the area has moved from Stage 3 to Stage 4 of its COVID-19 risk-based guidelines.

On the City's dashboard, officials track the 7-day moving average of new hospital admissions, the community transmission rate and the positivity rate when determining COVID-19 risk-based guidelines staging. As of Tuesday, Dec. 28, two of those three indicators were in Stage 5 territory: community transmission rate and positivity rate, with 405 and 15.7% respectively. 

The 7-day moving average of new hospital admissions crossed the Stage 4 threshold on Tuesday.

Just before Christmas, KVUE reported that two of the three key indicators had crossed their respective Stage 5 thresholds, but the 7-day average of hospital admissions remained in Stage 3 at the time with 16. As of Dec. 28, the 7-day moving average of hospital admissions had grown to 36.

“One of the greatest traits of Austin-Travis County is how we have consistently been one of the leaders in the state when it comes to lower community transmission rates. Our people have continually stepped up for the greater good and been the example of how to navigate the COVID-19 surges with masking, social distancing and vaccinations,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County's health authority. “However, as our vigilance begins to wane, our community is falling behind. We can't afford to be lax in our prevention efforts and I'm confident that Austin-Travis County will once again lead the way."

What is the difference between Stage 3 and Stage 4?

Here is a look at the latest differences for the risk-based guidelines between stages for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals: 

Credit: Austin Public Health
Courtesy: Austin Public Health

The main difference is that masking becomes recommended in all circumstances, regardless of vaccination status or if you're considered low risk or high risk. 

"If you cough, sneeze or speak to somebody, you're transmitting those infected particles. So the mask will protect you and they'll protect those around you," said Dr. Walkes. "People who are vaccinated can become infected with this and can spread it to people. We're particularly concerned about those who are unvaccinated because they'll have much more severe disease."

Those who are fully vaccinated and/or boosted individuals should wear masks when gathering with people outside of their household, traveling, dining and shopping. Meanwhile, partially or unvaccinated individuals, and those who need their booster dose, should wear masks, avoid gatherings with people outside of their household, only travel and shop if essential, and choose takeaway/curbside options for dining.

Health leaders continue to urge the community to get fully vaccinated including getting a booster shot. 

“The omicron variant is moving fast through our community and we must do what is necessary to help slow community transmission,” Travis County Judge Andy Brown said. “As we get closer to the New Year celebration, I encourage everyone to follow the Stage 4 guidelines and mask up when recommended. These small preventive measures will go a long way when it comes to keeping our entire community safe.”

"COVID-19 hospitalizations and the community transmission rate are surging once again. This means our ICUs are filling and that emergency care could become compromised for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. We must act now to protect both,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said. “We must move into Stage 4. As we celebrate a new year, it is increasingly important to get the vaccine and booster shots, tested if you have traveled and, hopefully for a limited time, to wear masks whenever and every time you’re around other people you don’t know to be vaccinated, except when eating and drinking.”

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