With Improving COVID-19 Numbers, Austin-Travis County Drops Back Down to Stage 4 Restrictions

Escott: “It’s not time to burn the masks yet”

A second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is administered at a drive-thru clinic on Feb. 6 (photo by Jana Birchum)

Austin Public Health officials announced today that the city and county have moved to Stage 4 of Austin-Travis County’s COVID-19 Risk-Based Guidelines.

This is the first time that local health officials have lowered the local pandemic precautions since Austin entered Stage 5 – the highest risk level – the day before Christmas Eve. Under Stage 4, local health officials are recommending that high-risk residents should stay at home, except for essential trips such as buying groceries, as well as avoid gathering socially and in groups of two or more. Additionally, businesses are recommended to limit capacity to 25-50%, and schools are encouraged to limit attendance at sporting events to only players, coaches, and parents. “If we can maintain these protections, we can continue to push down the positivity rate, our admissions to the hospital, and certainly put us in a better position for spring break and Easter,” said Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott.

Escott announced the transition during a COVID-19 briefing to City Council this morning. The decision to shift to Stage 4 comes amid improving numbers in local disease metrics, including Austin’s positivity rate, hospitalizations, and ICU bed usage. “The projections continue to look promising,” said Escott. As of Feb. 8, the seven-day moving average for new hospital admissions stood at 55, with 133 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in local intensive care units.

Still, Escott cautioned, “It’s not time to burn the masks yet.” He said APH is concerned about the possible impact of Super Bowl celebrations last weekend, Valentine’s Day gatherings, and the B.1.1.7 variant of the novel coronavirus which APH confirmed the first case in Austin last Wednesday.

Read more in this week’s issue, on stands and online Thursday.

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