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Austin is in Stage 5. What does that mean?

The city surpassed the threshold for Stage 5 days before the announcement.

AUSTIN, Texas — For multiple days, Austin and Travis County have surpassed the threshold for Stage 5 of the City's COVID-19 risk-based guidelines. Now, leaders have officially placed the city under Stage 5.

As of Wednesday, Aug. 4, the seven-day average for new hospital admissions is at 67 and an average of 389 people are hospitalized, according to Austin Public Health. The threshold for Stage 5 in Austin-Travis County is 50 to 90 new hospital admissions, depending on the rate of increase.

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

"This surge is by far the fastest and the most aggressive that we've seen," said Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes on Aug. 5, weeks after another surge of coronavirus cases hit the Austin area. 

Walkes said ICUs are seeing younger people and longer stays from patients – most who are unvaccinated – which adds strain to hospitals. KVUE asked APH about how many staffed ICU beds are in our area, given the projections for spiking hospitalizations. APH did not give a number in response, but said, "There are staffed beds available right now," and there are efforts to recruit more staff in hospitals and ICUs. 

Earlier this week, APH said it was considering rethinking the Stage 5 guidance in light of the delta variant.

At a joint meeting with the Travis County Commissioners Court and Austin City Council Tuesday, 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.

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 they “must go out” to conduct essential activities.

Austin-Travis County moved to Stage 4 on July 23.

Only 19 ICU beds were available in Central Texas on Wednesday. On Saturday, the Austin area only had nine staffed beds available, reaching its lowest point since the start of the pandemic. This trauma service region serves over 2.3 million people across 11 counties. 

On July 30, APH urged "the community to act” as they eyed those COVID-19 statistics. 

In the Aug. 5 press conference, APH continued to push the community to step up its vaccination efforts. Local health officials said vaccines are in abundant supply and "community compliance" is needed to protect ourselves from the COVID-19 surge.

Vaccinations have been ramping up in the Austin area for several months. At least 70% of eligible Austin residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Currently, about 53% of Texans are fully vaccinated.

“The virus is adapting to survive and so must we,” said Dr. Walkes. “We are seeing an incredibly low number of staffed intensive care unit beds and increased strain on hospital staff due to the Delta virus and its infection of unvaccinated individuals. We have vaccines that are safe and effective in protecting people who are fully vaccinated from severe illness and death. Each of us has the responsibility to keep our community safe. Please get vaccinated and wear a mask.”

If you're looking for a vaccine provider in your area, visit vaccines.gov or text your ZIP code to 438829 (822862 in Spanish). Residents can also dial 311 for more information.

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