TRAVIS COUNTY, TEXAS — After reaching the threshold last week, it was just a matter of time until Austin-Travis County was moved to Stage 5 of Austin Public Health’s color-coded, risk-based coronavirus guidelines, signaling uncontrolled spread of the virus in the community.
The announcement about the transition was made during a press briefing at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
Under Stage 5 guidelines, it is strongly recommended that people only make essential trips outside of their homes, completely avoid gatherings, and avoid non-essential travel. It is also recommended that businesses be restricted to delivery and curbside pickup.
Austin Public Health interim health authority Dr. Mark Escott has previously discussed a targeted curfew that would limit hours in high-risk areas. Travis County Judge Andy Brown said it is recommended dine-in and retail services be ended between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. Restaurants and other businesses are being asked to limit occupancy and encourage pickup and delivery services.
"The concern that we have at this stage is because there is not an indication that we are flattening," Escott said. "The positivity rate is going up, predicting that we will have more cases and hospitalizations this week than we did last week. We’re expecting to see a rapid increase in cases. Similar to what we saw near the peak of the summer surge. I’m expecting to see 70, maybe closer to 80 hospitalizations later today."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has repeatedly stated there will be no further shutdowns in the state, even as it experiences a worsening surge.
The transition to Stage 5 was triggered by a rolling 7-day average of hospitalizations that exceeded 50.
Our community has reached Stage 5 of the #COVID19 risk-based guidelines. Everyone should avoid holiday gatherings with anyone you do not live with + only go shopping for essentials. High-risk individuals should stay home.— Austin Public Health (@AusPublicHealth) December 23, 2020
👉 Read more: https://t.co/YmpxMnhIGM
Texas is now in possession of both the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines, and Gov. Abbott projected a million people in the state will be vaccinated by the end of 2020. However, the first phase of vaccine distribution is limited to frontline health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.
The next phase will include Texans over the age of 65 but that phase is likely several weeks off.
Travis County is currently reporting 46,701 total cases of the virus, of which 4,602 are active. The country reports 349 residents are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 and 90 people are in intensive care units. A total of 525 county residents have died due to the virus.
The Texas Department of State Health Services on Tuesday reported 16,607 new confirmed cases of the virus in the state as well as 3,318 probable cases.
Texas on Tuesday reported 191 new fatalities attributed to the virus.
There are currently 10,299 patients being treated for the virus in Texas hospitals, 12,182 available hospital beds, and 823 available ICU beds.
Stay with Spectrum News 1 for updates on this developing story.