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Austin could move to Stage 4 if COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to slow down

The aftereffects of the Labor Day holiday and school reopening could delay a move to Stage 4, however.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin has been in Stage 5 of the city's risk-based coronavirus guidelines for more than a month now. When could the city and Travis County move back down to Stage 4?

It was a question posed by a City leader at a COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday, Sept. 14. Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin's health authority, said while COVID-19 metrics are "slowly moving down," those statistics could quickly change on the heels of the Labor Day holiday and the reopening of schools in the area.

However, if cases and hospitalizations continue to improve, Austin-Travis County could move to Stage 4 by late September or early October, Walkes said.

"What's going to stop this progression downward is increases in our school cases and increasing cases that require hospitalization, particularly the unvaccinated individuals," she said. "And so far, fingers crossed, they're still going down with our case numbers. However, we still haven't seen the full impact of the Labor Day weekend where there were gatherings and families and friends gathering. So, that's what we're waiting to see."

She said typically, these types of events have an impact on COVID-19 cases two to three weeks after.

During the briefing, Walkes said the latest data shows the 7-day moving average for hospitalizations has decreased to 55 and has been slowly decreasing recently. 

Austin moved to Stage 5 on Aug. 5.

Everyone is recommended to wear masks indoors and at private gatherings.

Vaccinated, high-risk individuals are asked to avoid large gatherings where masks aren’t required. Austin Public Health also encourages 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.

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