AUSTIN, Texas — Austin Public Health is now warning that the Austin-Travis County regions is inevitably headed back to Stage 4 COVID-19 risk-based guidelines.
The downgrade will come after the region surpassed 30 new hospital admissions on the rolling 7-day average.
Under Stage 4 guidelines, in addition to practicing social distancing, maintaining good hygiene, and wearing a facial mask, it is recommended people avoid social gatherings of more than two people, avoid non-essential travel and avoid dining and shopping other than what is essential.
It’s also recommended that business openings are limited to “expanded essential businesses.”
However, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has said he will not issue an order requiring masks and business operation limitations being reinstated in the state is unlikely.
The health agency is urging those who haven’t done so to get vaccinated and for everyone to again wear masks indoors in order to stem the tide of rapidly accelerating infections.
“We need the community to act as if we are in Stage 4 now to help prevent the continued spread of COVID-19 variants,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “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 uptick in cases is being fueled by the powerful and highly contagious delta variant. According to Austin Public Health, as of July 20, four cases of the delta variant have been confirmed in the area via sequencing.
Austin is not the only part of Texas dealing with increased cases and hospitalizations. The state as a whole earlier this week surpassed 10% testing positivity rate for the first time since February.
Vaccination continues to be an issue. Less than half of the state’s nearly 30 million residents are vaccinated, and a data analysis by Georgetown researchers identified a large cluster of undervaccinated counties in Texas that has the potential to keep the country from reaching herd immunity.
“Education continues to remain a priority – we need students to be able to safely return to in-person classes in the fall,” said APH Interim Director Adrienne Sturrup. “To see this safe return, and not contribute to the rise of cases, it is critical to take additional protective actions now such as masking, and for parents to vaccinate their children when they are eligible.”
The Texas Department of State Health Services on Tuesday reported 3,304 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, 997 new probable cases and 24 new fatalities attributed to the virus. As of Monday, 3,319 Texans are being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals.