Thursday, January 6, 2022

Austin-Travis County returns to Stage 5 amidst omicron outbreak


Widespread infections result in rising hospitalizations and staffing shortages across the community

Austin Public Health (APH) is raising the area’s Risk-Based Guidance to Stage 5, its highest level, in response to the threat facing our community. 

“The omicron variant is overwhelming our community, and it’s starting to take its toll on our hospitals,” said Dr. Desmar Wakes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “We cannot continue to be lax when it comes to protecting ourselves and preventing the spread of COVID-19. That attitude has led us to return to Stage 5 and have one of the highest community transmission rates in the state. We all must do what we can to protect each other and our hospital systems, or else the situation will reach dire levels that no one wants to consider.” 

On Wednesday, Austin-Travis County saw 95 new hospital admissions, raising our 7-day moving average of hospitalizations to 74. The Community Transmission Rate is at 1,067, and our positivity rate has reached 29%. These key indicators call for the move to Stage 5 of Risk-Based guidance. 

“Let’s make it a team effort to fight the surge and get our numbers moving in the right direction,” said Interim Public Health Director Adrienne Sturrup. “Austin Public Health, Travis County, and all of our community partners are working hard to make testing and vaccine resources widely available. Now’s the time to get fully vaccinated and get your booster.” 

“The omicron variant continues to be a rising threat and we all need to do our part to lower our Community Transmission Rate,” said Travis County Judge Andy Brown. “We need everyone to mask up, vax up, and boost up. These small but effective actions provide the best protection for you, your loved ones and our community as a whole.” 

In Stage 5: 

  • Fully vaccinated and/or boosted individuals should continue to wear well-fitting masks whenever leaving their household, and choose curbside/takeout options for dining. High-risk individuals should choose curbside or outdoor options for dining and travel only when essential. 
  • Partially or unvaccinated individuals, and those who need their booster dose are discouraged from gathering outside of the home and traveling. Choose curbside, takeout and outdoor options for shopping and dining. Get fully vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible.

The omicron variant multiplies at a substantially faster rate than previous COVID-19 variants in airways, which has led to the virus’ rapid spread throughout our community. It is more important than ever to wear masks anytime you leave your household and interact with others in all situations. 

“All around us, we are seeing more and more people getting the omicron variant, and we know the risk of infection has increased,” said Mayor Steve Adler. “It is now more important than ever to mask everywhere as our best chance to keep our hospitals staffed and our businesses open with healthy employees. We’re in a new stage that presents new challenges, and it requires a little more diligence for just a little longer.” 

“We see firsthand that the places where we gather, shop and work want to stay open to serve this community and keep our economy progressing forward,” said Laura Huffman, President & CEO of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. “The local business community is counting on all of us to do our part and help keep the community safe and our workforce healthy. Let’s be a city of us by getting vaccinated and boosted and for right now, wearing a mask to protect ourselves and others to help beat the omicron variant.” 

For businesses seeking guidance, information and resources about how to keep their workplaces healthy while we are in Stage 5, visit 

To help reserve our emergency rooms for medical emergencies, people who are asymptomatic or experiencing minor symptoms may inquire about testing options by calling 2-1-1 or 877-541-7905, or by visiting Please don’t call 9-1-1 for testing information.  

People can find vaccine providers using ( in Spanish) or by texting their zip code to 438829 (822862 in Spanish) to find a nearby clinic.

APH clinics offer COVID-19 vaccinations and testing without appointment, although creating an account online in advance saves time. COVID-19 vaccinations are free and require neither identification nor insurance. For more information and to schedule an appointment, call 3-1-1 or 512-974-2000 or visit