As of Nov. 19, Austin-Travis County is moving out of Stage 3 and into Stage 4 based on Austin Public Health’s (APH) Risk-Based Guidelines. The key indicators for stage changes, including the 7-day moving average of hospitalizations, number of patients in the ICU, ventilator usage, positivity rate, and the 7-day moving average of cases, are all trending upward. These indicators combined with concerns of gatherings outside of the household for the Thanksgiving holiday prompted APH to raise the risk level.
“We know this virus is especially dangerous to older adults and those with underlying medical conditions,” said APH Director Stephanie Hayden. “As you are making holiday plans, remember your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other loved ones who could face serious complications. Consider starting new traditions and celebrate only with your household.”
The risk-based guidelines are not changes to local Orders and Rules or regulations for businesses; they are guidelines for individual actions and behaviors based on various risk levels. The risk level recommendations are different for those who are at higher risk for severe complications and death from COVID-19.
In Stage 4:
- Higher-risk individuals (those over the age of 65 and those who have chronic medical conditions) should stay home, except for essential trips such as buying groceries or seeking medical care.
- Lower-risk individuals should avoid social gatherings, any gatherings greater than 10 people, and non-essential travel.
- Recommend businesses and restaurants voluntarily reduce capacity to 25-50%.
- Recommend schools limit attendance at sporting events to players, coaches, and parents.
“With COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths increasing across Texas and the United States, it is time to sound the alarm and consider our personal behaviors and their impact on the community,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “Austin-Travis County did not keep our COVID-19 numbers comparatively low by accident or luck, but through community engagement and action. Once again, the actions we take in the coming days and weeks can either move us in the right or the wrong direction.”
Austin-Travis County leaders remind the public to continue to be vigilant and practice good hygiene, physical and social distancing, and wear face coverings to prevent the disease from spreading and help keep each other safe. Avoiding gatherings outside of your household is especially important this holiday season. COVID-19 holiday safety recommendations can be found at AustinTexas.gov/HolidaySafety.
Dr. Escott added: “We are not immune from a tragedy like El Paso’s and like El Paso, we could be facing a rapidly growing surge between Thanksgiving and Christmas with Stage 5 a few weeks away. We also have the ability, through our protective actions now, to keep our community safe and prevent needless tragedy and loss over the holiday season by flattening the curve again.”
Austin-Travis County first moved into Stage 4 on June 15, 2020 but has been in Stage 3 since Aug. 25, 2020.
For more information and updates, visit AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.