A key metric used by health officials to determine the COVID-19 risk stage Austin and Travis County is on the verge of dipping to a lower range.

The seven-day moving average for COVID-19 hospital admissions is at 15.7 as of May 7. If it drops below 14—which Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County interim health authority, said could happen soon—health officials could transition the community from Stage 3 to Stage 2 under the guidelines.

The guidelines are only recommendations, not mandates. The drop would have the largest impact on individuals who are at high risk for COVID-19 and unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. Under Stage 3 guidelines, those individuals are recommended to avoid indoor and outdoor gatherings, travel, dining and shopping unless essential. Under Stage 2 guidelines, recommendations show those individuals could partake in those activities while wearing a mask.

The community does not transition to a new stage automatically when numbers rise above or drop below a certain threshold. Health officials monitor the data and make those decisions regarding stages. Escott said if the trend continues, health officials could make the transition to Stage 2 as early as May 10.

While the number of new COVID-19 cases reported per day and hospitalizations continue to trend downward as more individuals get vaccinated in Austin and Travis County, the effect is not equal among all age groups. Escott said during the week of May 1-7, 85% of new COVID-19 cases have been individuals under 50 years old.

In addition to continuing mass vaccination clinics at both the Delco Activity Center and Toney Burger Center, Austin Public Health is focusing on partnerships with businesses and nonprofits to reach more individuals and increase the local vaccination rates.

"We’re doing great work in our vaccination effort. We have more work to do," Escott said.