Friday, November 5, 2021

Stage 3 Remains: Information from Recent Delta Surge Data Prompts Additional Indicator to Determine Risk Stage and Prevent Surge



Community transmission rate brings additional awareness to help predict future surges

Using findings drawn from the rapid spread of the highly contagious Delta variant and its devasting impact on local hospitals, Austin Public Health is raising awareness about the Community Transmission Rate (CTR), which reflects how fast the COVID-19 virus is spreading and serves as a predictor of future surges.   

Community Transmission Rate shows the number of new cases per 100,000 residents in the past seven days. This data has been critical in tracking surges and will now be emphasized when making decisions on moving between stages of community risk guidance.   

"This pandemic is not over. We have stabilized our hospital system for now, but we can't allow surges caused by COVID-19 variants to be our new norm," said Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes. "Until more people are vaccinated, we must prepare for the very real possibility of future, more deadly variants. The rapid spread of the Delta surge taught us to proactively protect our hospital system. It is not an infinite resource and many people don't realize how important it is until someone they love needs it."    

APH is evaluating how to reflect the community transmission rate in future public guidance materials to promote further transparency with decision making. The goal would be to use the information to help sound an alarm when transmission is high, prompting the need to take precautionary measures, including wearing masks more frequently and getting tested to help prevent spread and avoid a surge.   

"We know now from the Delta variant that hospitalizations are more severe," said Janet Pichette, Chief Epidemiologist for Austin Public Health. "We, as a community, didn't emphasize the importance of taking community transmission into account when deciding the precautions to follow to protect ourselves against the new variant. We're bringing this metric to the public's awareness so they can take proactive steps to stop the spread of COVID-19, protect our hospital system, and prevent another surge."  

As we enter the holiday and flu season, APH will carefully monitor the Community Transmission Rate, hospitalization rate and other important indicators to determine stage changes and release updated guidance in the coming weeks. For now, Austin-Travis County remains in Stage 3. At this stage, APH recommends individuals at high risk for serious illness even when vaccinated – those 65 years of age and older or with underlying health conditions (asthma, heart disease, diabetes, obesity) – wear masks at indoor gatherings, especially in situations where the vaccination status of others is unknown, and when shopping, dining, and traveling. Low-risk individuals who have been vaccinated are also advised to mask when traveling.  

Get Vaccinated!  

COVID-19 vaccinations continue to prove extremely effective in protecting those who have completed the required series of doses of Moderna and Pfizer, as well as the single dose of Johnson & Johnson. People 18 years of age and older in high-risk occupations or with underlying health conditions, as well as people over 65, are eligible for a booster shot six months after receiving the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and two months after the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Individuals who are considered immunocompromised are eligible for a third dose of Moderna and Pfizer vaccine 28 days after their second dose.   

COVID-19 vaccinations are free and require neither identification nor insurance. Residents can locate providers in their area using Vaccines.gov, or they can text their zip code to 438829 (822862 in Spanish) to find a nearby clinic.   
 
For additional business guidance, visit www.ATXrecovers.com for recommendations to help prioritize the well-being of employees and customers.    

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

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