Austin Enters Stage 5 of COVID Risk Guidelines

More important than ever to mask up, urge health officials

Local health officials announced today that Austin and Travis County have re-entered Stage 5 of the local COVID-19 Risk-Based Guidelines. Austin’s return to the strictest level of pandemic precautions comes amidst the current surge of COVID fueled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Under Stage 5, Austin Public Health strongly recommends fully vaccinated and boosted individuals wear face masks whenever leaving their households and choose curbside or takeout options for dining. High-risk people who are fully vaccinated and boosted should choose curbside or outdoor dining options and travel only when essential. Individuals who are partially vaccinated or unvaccinated, in addition to vaccinated people who still need their booster dose, are urged to refrain from gathering outside of their households and traveling. They should also choose curbside, takeout, and outdoor options for shopping and dining. These individuals should get fully vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible.

“The omicron variant is overwhelming our community, and it’s starting to take its toll on our hospitals,” said Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes. “We cannot continue to be lax when it comes to protecting ourselves and preventing the spread of COVID-19. That attitude has led us to return to Stage 5 and have one of the highest community transmission rates in the state. We all must do what we can to protect each other and our hospital systems, or else the situation will reach dire levels that no one wants to consider.”

Today (Thu., Jan. 6) Austin’s seven-day moving average for COVID hospitalizations stood at 82, which is only 10 admissions shy of Austin’s all-time high reported during the winter 2020 surge before widespread vaccination. This statistic includes both patients who are being admitted with COVID as their primary diagnosis and those who are admitted for other reasons but happen to test positive for the novel coronavirus. Earlier this week Walkes told local elected officials that there are now more people in the latter category than the first. Still, Austin’s community transmission rate is now among the highest in the state of Texas at 1,066.8 as of Wed., Jan. 5. Texas’ rate is 922.7 while the national rate stands at 1,166.8.

Given the virus’ rapid spread through the community, health officials urge it is more important than ever for residents – regardless of vaccination status – to wear masks anytime they leave their households and interact with others in all situations.

“All around us, we are seeing more and more people getting the omicron variant, and we know the risk of infection has increased,” said Mayor Steve Adler. “It is now more important than ever to mask everywhere as our best chance to keep our hospitals staffed and our businesses open with healthy employees. We’re in a new stage that presents new challenges, and it requires a little more diligence for just a little longer.”

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