Austin, Texas – Today, Dec. 23, for the time since the pandemic's start, Austin Public Health (APH) has officially increased the COVID-19 community risk level to Stage 5, the highest level.
This change was made today based on a rapid increase in hospital admissions, cases, and test positivity rates across the community. Other key indicators for stage changes, include the number of patients in the ICU, ventilator usage, and the 7-day moving average of cases, are all trending upward.
"This is a critical moment for the community," said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority. "We must decrease the spread of the virus in the community now. We cannot allow another increase in cases and hospitalizations following the upcoming holidays. Our hospitals will become overwhelmed and people will needlessly die."
Stage five recommendations include:
No gatherings with anyone outside of your household
Dining and shopping should be limited to essential trips
Avoid non-essential travel
Businesses are recommended to operate through contactless options (I.e. curbside, delivery)
The risk-based guidelines are not changes to local orders, rules or regulations for businesses; they are guidelines for individual actions and behaviors. However, changes to orders or additional restrictions may be necessary in the coming days in order to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.
"The public needs to do all they can to reduce their contact with people outside their homes," said APH Director Stephanie Hayden. "We have done an incredible job of keeping this virus in check in our community and we need everyone to step up and do it again."
Director Hayden added: "We have flattened the curve before. The difference now is that we see a glimpse of the finish line with a vaccine in the community. Any serious illness or death from this moment on would be a tragedy."
Austin-Travis County leaders remind the public to continue to be vigilant and practice good hygiene, physical and social distancing, and wear masks 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.
Based on the elevation to Stage 5, some City services will be altered.
Austin Resource Recovery regular curbside services will not change. However, the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center will be closed to the public, beginning on December 24. Residents can request a contactless home pickup of household hazardous waste at austintexas.gov/dropoff. Items for reuse or recycling cannot be picked up at this time.
Additionally, the Austin Animal Center will close to the public beginning on December 24. Following December 25, adoptions will be done virtually and fosters, adopters and rescues will pickup curbside. The facility will not take any non-emergency owner surrenders and finders of stray animals will need to make an intake request by calling Austin 311.
Changes to services and facility openings for Austin Parks and Recreation will be posted to their website at austintexas.gov/page/pard-facilities-closures.
Information about City of Austin holiday closures can be viewed here.
For additional COVID-19 information and updates, visit AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.