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Austin Public Health returns to Stage 4 of Risk-Based Guidelines

Community Transmission Rate and hospitalizations surge as omicron variant spreads

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COVID-19 cases in Austin-Travis County are surging just weeks after the omicron variant was detected in our area. As a result, the Community Transmission Rate (CTR), test positivity rate and the 7-day moving average of hospital admissions are spiking. These key indicators are above thresholds that necessitate transitioning to Stage 4 of Risk-Based Guidelines.

“One of the greatest traits of Austin-Travis County is how we have consistently been one of the leaders in the state when it comes to lower Community Transmission Rates. Our people have continually stepped up for the greater good and been the example of how to navigate the COVID-19 surges with masking, social distancing, and vaccinations,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “However, as our vigilance begins to wane, our community is falling behind. We can’t afford to be lax in our prevention efforts and I’m confident that Austin-Travis County will once again lead the way.”

Austin-Travis County’s CTR is currently at 404.96. The state’s CTR is 319.7.

Guidance for fully vaccinated individuals, as well as partially and unvaccinated individuals, changes as we return to Stage 4.

Stage 4 recommendations include:

  • Fully vaccinated and/or boosted individuals should wear masks when gathering with people outside of their household, traveling, dining, and shopping.
  • Partially or unvaccinated individuals, and those who need their booster dose should wear masks, avoid gatherings with people outside of their household, only travel and shop if essential, and choose takeaway/curbside options for dining. Get fully vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible.

The Risk-Based Guidelines correlate with five distinct stages of risk for Austin-Travis County and are not changes to local rules or regulations for businesses; they are guidelines and recommendations for individual actions and behaviors based on the risk of exposure in the community. It is important to note that everyone should continue to follow additional requirements stipulated by local businesses, venues, and schools regardless of vaccination status or stage. 

“The omicron variant is moving fast through our community and we must do what is necessary to help slow community transmission,” said Travis County Judge Andy Brown. “As we get closer to the New Year celebration, I encourage everyone to follow the Stage 4 guidelines and mask up when recommended. These small preventive measures will go a long way when it comes to keeping our entire community safe.”

COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters continue to offer the best protection against the virus and its variants. Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses are available at all APH locations. As of Wednesday, 30% of our eligible population (5 years and older) is not fully vaccinated. Additionally, only 23% have received their booster. This leaves our community vulnerable to the disease.

“COVID-19 hospitalizations and the community transmission rate are surging once again. This means our ICUs are filling and that emergency care could become compromised for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. We must act now to protect both,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. “We must move into Stage 4. As we celebrate a new year, it is increasingly important to get the vaccine and booster shots, tested if you have traveled and, hopefully for a limited time, to wear masks whenever and every time you’re around other people you don’t know to be vaccinated, except when eating and drinking.” 

The timing of this surge is concerning as people plan to gather for New Year’s Celebrations, and children look to return to school from winter break in the coming weeks. Early data indicates the omicron variant poses a dangerous risk to a younger population. Children ages five and older should get vaccinated as soon as possible, and wear masks for in-person learning.

“It’s never been easier to get your vaccine and booster doses in Austin-Travis County. We’ve worked hard to make the vaccination process as quick and simple as possible at our clinics,” said Interim APH Director Adrienne Sturrup. “Take this time when your kids are out of school to get your family fully protected from this virus.”

Get tested, get vaccinated, get boosted   

Those in the Austin-Travis County can locate providers in the area using Vaccines.gov (Vacunas.gov in Spanish) or they can text their zip code to 438829 (822862 in Spanish) to find a nearby clinic.   

APH clinics offer COVID-19 vaccinations and testing on a walk-up (no appointment needed) basis, although creating an account online in advance saves time. COVID-19 vaccinations are free and require neither identification nor insurance. For more information and to schedule an appointment, call 3-1-1 or visit www.AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.    

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january 2022

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