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Austin Public Health reconsidering Stage 5 guidelines in light of delta variant

Austin-Travis County reached Stage 5 levels Friday. It surpassed the threshold Monday with a 7-day average for new hospital admissions of 61.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin Public Health said it is “considering a new guidance that will be released in the coming days” in regard to its Stage 5 risk-based guidelines and the delta variant.

Austin-Travis County reached Stage 5 levels Friday and continues to surpass the threshold.

At a joint meeting with the Travis County Commissioners Court and Austin City Council Tuesday, Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said there are some guidelines she knows will be included in the “Stage 5 Delta Recommendations.” Walkes said vaccinated people will be asked to wear a mask.

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Walkes said recommendations will include asking that vaccinated, high-risk individuals avoid large gatherings where masks aren’t required. APH will also encourage vaccinated people to talk with their unvaccinated loved ones about getting the vaccine. 

Unvaccinated people are recommended to avoid all gatherings and travel and choose curbside and delivery options when possible. They are asked to wear a mask if “you must go out” to conduct essential activities.

The delta variant, which the Centers For Disease Control said is just as contagious as chickenpox, is prompting the re-evaluation. Walkes said APH has confirmed 29 cases of the variant in Austin-Travis County as of Aug. 3. But the true number is likely much higher

“The science has changed,” Walkes said. “We have a new variant, the delta variant, and it’s impacted our hospital systems and medical systems because it spreads much more rapidly. It’s 100-times the viral load that we’re seeing in patients that have this. We’re seeing it in both unvaccinated and vaccinated people at this level.”

In APH’s previously announced Stage 5 guidance, vaccinated individuals were asked to wear a mask at all private gatherings, restaurants, stores and while traveling. Unvaccinated people were recommended to avoid private gatherings and travel.

Credit: KVUE
Austin-Travis County's Stage 5 COVID-19 risk-based guidelines

The 7-day average for new hospital admissions on Monday, Aug. 2 was 61. The threshold for Stage 5 in Austin is a 7-day average of 50-90, depending on the rate of increase.

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