Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Prior to Holidays, Austin Public Health updates Risk-Based Guidelines and Key Indicators Dashboard

Key Indicators Dashboard emphasizes importance of tracking Community Transmission Rate to prevent post-holiday surges 

Austin Public Health continues to raise awareness about the Community Transmission Rate (CTR). CTR helps predict and can help us prevent surge. As promised during a Nov. 5 announcement, APH updated the Key Indicators for Staging Dashboard to illustrate the factors that go into changing stages. Each family must measure their own personal risk for their household. The Risk-Based Guidance Chart was updated to reflect mitigation efforts for high-risk individuals. Those who are unvaccinated are considered high-risk.  

“Please think of the highest-risk person in your family and do all that you can to protect them this Thanksgiving,” said Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes.   

Risk-Based Chart Updates 

APH expanded the scenarios where high-risk individuals should wear masks to protect themselves from the Delta variant of COVID-19. 

Those scenarios include:  

  • Wearing masks at indoor gatherings with people outside your household at Stages 1 and 2. 
  • Wearing masks while dining and not eating or drinking at Stages 1 and 2. 
  • Wearing masks while shopping indoors at Stage 2. 

The public is urged to follow these guidelines ahead of a busy Thanksgiving weekend when people will be gathering. 

“This time last year we were urging people to stay home for Thanksgiving as we dealt with a surge,” said Janet Pichette, Chief Epidemiologist for Austin Public Health. “We’re now equipped with vaccines and helpful data so we can work together to stay safe and prevent another surge.” 

APH has also updated the Risk-Based Guidelines chart to pair CTR thresholds with the existing hospitalization thresholds, and revised mask guidance for high-risk individuals partaking in activities at different stages. These updates equip the public with the information they need to keep themselves and others safe from COVID-19. 

The CTR thresholds go as follows: 

  • <5 is Stage 1 
  • <10 is Stage 2 
  • 10-49 is Stage 3 
  • 50-99 is Stage 4 
  • 100+ is Stage 5

Key Indicators Dashboard Updates 

Updates to the Key Indicators Dashboard are designed to elevate measures APH is closely monitoring to determine staging. Austin-Travis County’s current stage level is prominently featured in the upper left corner. The corresponding factors are displayed directly atop the stage tracker graph. You’ll notice the local Community Transmission Rate (CTR), which is currently substantial. The statewide CTR is also substantial. That figure is shown in the bottom left corner of the dashboard adjacent to the national rate, which is high. That same tile is where you’ll find influenza test results by selecting the corresponding tab below. 

Streamlined icons on the upper right side of the dashboard highlight other important measures APH continues to track. The dashboard is updated each afternoon. The figures reflect the previous day’s totals. 

Link: Key Indicators for Staging Dashboard 

Remind me, why the updates? 

CTR helps forecast how COVID-19 is spreading and gives the public a warning to take action to prevent a surge. 

The graph below illustrates how it relates to hospitalizations. You’ll notice the transmission rate precedes an increase in hospitalization numbers. 


Vaccinations and Testing Ahead of the Holidays 

The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 during the holidays is to make sure everyone in the household is fully vaccinated, especially when multiple generations plan to be together. 

Protecting those at high risk of infection with boosters and third doses is critical to minimizing the spread, especially during the holidays. Studies increasingly show vaccines’ protection wanes over time; boosters are recommended six months after the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and two months after the one-shot Johnson & Johnson. 

In order to be fully vaccinated, keep in mind it takes two weeks for the vaccine (including boosters, third doses) to provide maximum efficacy. 

Children 5-11 years of age are now eligible for vaccination. Children proved to be especially vulnerable to hospitalization and even death from the Delta variant. Pediatric vaccinations are widely available through APH and its vaccine partners, including pharmacies and medical offices. Only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for pediatric vaccinations. 

COVID-19 vaccinations are free and require neither identification nor insurance. Residents can locate providers in their 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. 

It’s easy to confuse COVID-19 symptoms with those of the flu and allergies. Stay safe and get tested, especially prior to traveling and gathering with high-risk individuals. Testing is available through home testing kits and providers throughout the community. 

For additional COVID-19 information and updates, visit www.AustinTexas.gov/COVID19

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