AUSTIN, Texas — Austin Public Health leaders provided an update Friday on COVID-19 in the area and changes to the risk-based guidelines. As of Friday morning, the area is now in Stage 4.
On Tuesday, APH leaders said a move to Stage 4 was "imminent" after the seven-day average for new hospital admissions in Austin-Travis County surpassed Stage 4 levels on Monday. This comes as COVID-19 cases continue to increase amid a spreading delta variant.
APH is recommending everyone, no matter their vaccination status, to wear a mask indoors before moving to another stage of its COVID-19 Risk Based Guidelines.
Under Stage 4, APH recommends everyone wear a mask, even if they’re fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated people are recommended to not attend any private gatherings. The risk-based guidelines also advise unvaccinated individuals not to go out to eat, go shopping or travel unless it's essential.
“We need the community to act as if we are in Stage 4 now to help prevent the continued spread of COVID-19 variants,” APH Medical Director Dr. Desmar Walkes said in a press release. “Getting the vaccine is critical to slowing the spread by not hosting new, possibly vaccine resistant, variants. Vaccinations prevent death and hospitalization, and masks help prevent the spread of disease. Adding another layer of protection is essential to protect our healthcare infrastructure.”
The primary indicator the county tracks to determine whether to move to a new stage is new hospital admissions. They also look at the seven-day moving averages for new cases and the county’s positivity rate.
As of July 20, the seven-day moving average of new admissions is 30. The seven-day moving average for new cases is 125.
APH said the delta variant could cause hospitalizations to continue to increase exponentially, eventually threatening healthcare capacity in the region. There are currently four confirmed cases of the delta variant, which Walkes said is much more transmissible.
“We know the delta variant is here and is running rampant in our community,” Dr. Walkes said. “It will continue to cause a surge in cases and hospitalizations if we don’t come together to stop it. Do your part – wear a mask indoors and get vaccinated if you haven’t already.”
For Stage 4, the seven-day moving average for new hospitalizations must be between 30 and 50-90, depending on “the rate of increase," according to APH's website.
Walkes said there's an increase in kids getting hospitalized due to COVID-19 Tuesday. She also said, "There is a reluctance in our communities of color to get vaccinated." She said this is due to long-standing trust issues with vaccines.
For Stage 3, the seven-day moving average for new hospitalizations must be between 15 and 29.
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