Travis County at risk of entering Stage 5 under COVID-19 guidelines, which could include curfew

Coronavirus hospitalization graph
Travis County's top health authority said the area could reach Stage 5 risk within a week. (Courtesy Austin Public Health)

Travis County's top health authority said the area could reach Stage 5 risk within a week. (Courtesy Austin Public Health)

Travis County could reach Stage 5 coronavirus risk in a matter of days if upward transmission trends continue, Austin-Travis County interim Health Authority Mark Escott said at a Dec. 10 meeting of the Travis County Commissioners Court.

"If it continues down that more aggressive path, the more pessimistic path that we’re seeing now, we could cross over to Stage 5 territory as soon as next week," Escott said. "We all have a lot of work to do, of vigilance in the masking and the distancing, decreasing unnecessary travel, and ensuring that we’re staying home and doing self checks before you leave every day."

As of Dec. 10, the seven-day moving average for daily coronavirus hospital admissions—a key risk staging indicator—was 40, up from 32 on Dec. 2. Travis County officials could choose to shift to Stage 5 risk once a moving average of 50 daily hospital admissions is reached.

"Forty [daily admissions] is a place we haven't been since July 30. It represents significant concern regarding what the future over the next several weeks is going to bring for us,” Escott said.

If Travis County does cross into Stage 5, Escott said that shift could come with new restrictions for residents and businesses, including a curfew. Additionally, Austin Public Health would issue a strong recommendation that community members limit outings to grocery stores and order takeaway and delivery meals from restaurants. Officials would also encourage schools to put extracurricular activities on hold.


Whether Travis County is in Stage 4 or in Stage 5 during the upcoming holiday travel season, Escott and other health officials have encouraged residents to limit holiday gatherings to members of the same household, noting an upward trend in COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases since Thanksgiving.

Other areas in Texas have seen skyrocketing cases in recent weeks, particularly El Paso, where according to Department of State Health Services numbers, there are 37,968 active cases in the county of about 836,000 people. Travis County, by comparison, has 3,091 active cases in the county of more than 1.2 million.

Even with lower transmission rates than other areas of Texas, Travis County has surpassed 500 reported deaths to COVID-19, in what APH officials called a "grim milestone" in a Dec. 11 news release.

"I can’t stress enough the fact that Travis County, the city of Austin, does not have a force field around it that is protecting us," Escott said at the meeting. "Every single citizen making the decision to mask, to distance, to decrease their travel, to only take their mask off in the presence of family members, people who live in their household, is what provides that force field for us. The more holes in that, the more likely it is that we will see substantial surge.”
By Olivia Aldridge
Olivia is the reporter for Community Impact's Central Austin edition. A graduate of Presbyterian College in upstate South Carolina, Olivia was a reporter and producer at South Carolina Public Radio before joining Community Impact in Austin.


MOST RECENT

Austin government, nonprofit and business leaders recently participated in a weeks-long summit centered on unsheltered homelessness in the city. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Plan to house 3,000 homeless individuals in Austin in the next three years would cost $515 million

The plan Austin City Council members discussed April 20 emerged from a weekslong community-wide summit on homelessness.

Photo of Zilker Park
Travis County establishes Civilian Conservation Corps to tackle climate, environmental projects

The program will create opportunities for residents to work on projects including wildfire prevention, solar energy promotion and park cleanups.

Residents march to the Texas Capitol in protests after the killing of George Floyd in May 2020. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Austin leaders react to Derek Chauvin guilty verdict

The former Minneapolis police officer was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter for the killing of George Floyd in May 2020.

Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard speaks to reporters March 13 at the Delco Actiity Center in Northeast Austin. Residents can walk up to the Delco Center on April 22 and 23 and receive vaccines without an appointment. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Public Health will accept walk-up vaccinations at the Delco Activity Center starting April 22

APH will also leave its registration portal open throughout most of the week.

Early voting for Travis County's May 1 local elections opened April 19. In this file photo, voters line up ahead of the 2020 primary elections at Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex in East Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
More than 8,000 Travis County voters cast ballots on first day of early voting

Early voting for the county's May 1 election began April 19 and will run through April 27.

The Delco Activity Center in Northeast Austin is one of the locations where residents can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. (Jack Flalger/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin vaccine updates: Demand slows as state begins marketing push

Appointments are beginning to go unfilled, and local health officials say demand has caught up to supply. All adults in the U.S. are now eligible to be vaccinated.

Blue Corn Harvest Leander is located at 11840 Hero Way W., Bldg. A, Leander. (Taylor Girtman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Blue Corn Harvest opens in Leander; park, pizzeria launches social club and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Photo of two performers on an outdoor SXSW stage
South by Southwest sells ownership stake in company to Rolling Stone owner Penske Media Corp.

SXSW leadership called the sale a "lifeline" for the conference and festivals.

Photo of people receiving vaccines in a gym
Austin Public Health lengthens windows for vaccine appointment signups

Residents age 18 and up can now sign up for appointments with APH any time from Saturday to Tuesday morning.

Austin Anthem watch party
Crowds of fans converge on North Austin to watch inaugural Austin FC game

Breweries around Q2 Stadium in North Austin brought in large outdoor screens and new employees to host fans of Austin FC for the team's historic first match.

Austin Police Department
UPDATE: Loop 360 closed in both directions in Northwest Austin due to a shooting incident

Residents who live in the Arboretum area in Northwest Austin are advised to shelter in place.

Early voting for the May 1 election opens April 19 at a 7 a.m. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Early voting in Austin opens April 19: See what’s on the ballot, where to vote

City residents will be making decisions on eight propositions ranging from whether to adopt a strong mayor government system to whether to reinstate public camping bans.