After surpassing 30 new hospital admissions on the 7-day moving average, moving into Stage 4 of the Austin Public Health (APH) Risk-Based Guidelines is now imminent for Austin-Travis County. While APH officials confirm the trend before moving stages, they are urging the public to take action now by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask to help stop the rising levels of cases and hospitalizations.
"We need the community to act as if we are in Stage 4 now to help prevent the continued spread of COVID-19 variants," said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. "Getting the vaccine is critical to slowing the spread by not hosting new, possibly vaccine resistant, variants. Vaccinations prevent death and hospitalization, and masks help prevent the spread of disease. Adding another layer of protection is essential to protect our healthcare infrastructure."
Cases and hospitalizations continue to increase in Travis County as new variants, such as the Delta variant, spread throughout the community. As of July 20, four cases of the Delta variant have been confirmed in Travis County through sequencing.
The Delta variant is more transmissible and deadly than the original virus as it has mutated to become more effective at latching onto cells in the body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that there is evidence that the Delta variant spreads faster than the original virus and causes more severe illness than the original virus and cause more severe illness and hospitalization for those who are unvaccinated.
The University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium recently published projections, which noted that if the Delta variant continues to emerge and vaccine uptake continues at the current pace, then COVID-19 hospitalizations will continue to increase exponentially threatening healthcare capacity in the region, unless measures are taken to slow transmission, such as masking and taking other precautionary measures.
"We know the Delta variant is here and is running rampant in our community," Dr. Walkes added. "It will continue to cause a surge in cases and hospitalizations if we don't come together to stop it. Do your part – wear a mask indoors and get vaccinated if you haven't already."
While the chances are low, those who are vaccinated still risk spreading the virus to those who are unvaccinated, including to children under the age of 12 who are not currently eligible to receive the vaccine.
With the new school year quickly approaching, public health officials are particularly concerned about the current rate of transmission of COVID-19 and strongly encourage all children over the age of 2 to wear a mask. Protecting children from the virus and its variants is critically important to break the chain of transmission, prevent the spread of disease and additional mutations.
"Education continues to remain a priority – we need students to be able to safely return to in-person classes in the fall," said APH Interim Director Adrienne Sturrup. "To see this safe return, and not contribute to the rise of cases, it is critical to take additional protective actions now such as masking, and for parents to vaccinate their children when they are eligible."
Vaccine and Guidance Available to Public
As a reminder, COVID-19 vaccinations are free, and do not require insurance or identification. Text your zip code to 438829 (822862 for Spanish) to see where the closest vaccination sites are located to your neighborhood. You can also visit Vaccines.gov to help locate COVID-19 vaccine providers in your area.
In efforts to continue expanded access to the vaccine, the APH Mobile Vaccination Program (MVP) has launched an online form that businesses and organizations can complete to request a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic at their facility. Additionally, residents who are homebound or unable to get to a vaccination site can request the MVP team visit them at their home by calling 3-1-1 (512-974-2000) to schedule an appointment.
Businesses looking for guidance on maintaining a safe environment can visit www.ATXrecovers.com for recommendations to help prioritize the well-being of employees and customers.
For additional COVID-19 information and updates, including vaccination events happening around the community, visit www.AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.