Austin, Texas – Today, Mar. 13, Austin-Travis County is moving to Stage 3 of the Austin Public Health (APH) COVID-19 Risk-Based Guidelines for the first time since Nov. 18, 2020.
Stage 3 recommendations include the following:
- Continue wearing a mask, social distancing, and practicing good hygiene.
- Higher-risk individuals (those over the age of 65 and those who have chronic medical conditions) should avoid non-essential dining, shopping, and travel.
- Everyone should continue to avoid gatherings with social groups greater than 10.
- Businesses and restaurants voluntarily operate at a reduced capacity of 50-75%.
"We are seeing more people getting vaccinated as supply to our area continues to increase," said APH Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard. "Our most vulnerable are becoming protected and we are hopeful that because of this our numbers will continue to decline, but it remains important to continue all prevention measures."
Director Hayden-Howard added: "We didn't get here by accident. We know that our personal behavior to protect our loved ones and community played a large role. We hope with spring break and upcoming holidays near, we remember what got us to this stage and what it takes to continue to keep us safe."
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 levels of risk of exposure in the community. The risk level recommendations are different for those who are at higher risk for severe complications and death from COVID-19.
While APH monitors the 7-day moving average of COVID-19 new hospital admissions as the primary key indicator for the Risk-Based Guidelines, additional key indicators, including positivity rate, the doubling time of new cases and current ICU and ventilator patients, are monitored to determine the current staging. All of these indicators are moving in the right direction. Additionally, modeling provided by the University of Texas also indicates an improving COVID-19 situation in the community.
"We have been successful in decreasing the risk of transmission in our community, but the virus that causes COVID-19 is still out there, and there are variants continuing to appear," said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority. "Today's action represents a deliberate and measured step to relax guidance based upon the data and science. However, we must continue to mask, physically distance ourselves from others, and wash our hands frequently. If we continue with these simple measures, we will continue to experience a decline in cases and will avoid a deadly third surge."