Austin-Travis County officially moves to Stage 5 coronavirus risk

Photo of downtown Austin over Lady Bird Lake
Austin-Travis County has been upgraded to the highest level of coronavirus risk. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin-Travis County has been upgraded to the highest level of coronavirus risk. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin-Travis County's coronavirus risk has been upgraded to Stage 5, a status not seen in the community since February.

Austin Public Health announced an official shift to the highest level of community risk-based guidance Aug. 5, saying a rapid surge in coronavirus cases in the past month has put hospital intensive care units under strain.

"We have been through these surges before, but this surge is by far the fastest and most aggressive that we've seen. Almost all of our hospitalizations are due to unvaccinated patients developing severe illness," said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County health authority, at a news conference.

Travis County reached the threshold for Stage 5 at the end of July with a seven-day moving average of 50 daily hospital admissions. That number had increased to 67 as of Aug. 4, with an overall weekly positivity rate of 14.5%.

In the Austin metropolitan area, 483 individuals are currently hospitalized, with 167 in the ICU. Staffing shortages are making ICU space extremely limited, APH representatives said. As of July 30, the number of staffed ICU beds in the 11-county service area including Travis County was fluctuating around 16. Walkes said the "long road of response" had taken a toll on some health care workers, causing many to take leave or retire.


"We are putting a call out to our medical society members who are retirees and asking them to step up to help," she said. "I'm confident we as a community will get through this, but it's really important that our community does its part to be vaccinated, to wear a mask and to take measures that will decrease the number of cases that are happening each day."

APH released updated guidelines for both vaccinated and unvaccinated community members, all of whom are asked to wear masks both indoors and outdoors when gathering outside the household, shopping or dining. Unvaccinated individuals were further recommended to stay home except for essential activities and to refrain from travel. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can spread the contagious delta variant, currently the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the United States. However, breakthrough cases among vaccinated people remain relatively rare, and very few of those cases are severe.

Business owners are also now urged—but not mandated—to require masks on their premises, and to consider switching to contactless carryout services.

"[We] know that many businesses are just getting back on their feet, and we want to keep our business community open and thriving," Walkes said. "We are asking that our business leaders require masks of their employees and customers and take action to ensure safe distancing and spacing."
By Olivia Aldridge

Reporter, Central Austin

Olivia joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in March 2019. She covers public health, business, development and Travis County government. A graduate of Presbyterian College in South Carolina, Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas. Her work has appeared on NPR and in the New York Times.



MOST RECENT

graphic
DATA: How population changed in Texas counties between census counts in 2010, 2020

Texas added nearly four million people between 2010 and 2020, according to the latest Census data.

The 28-story tower is expected to open on West 17th Street in 2023. (Rendering courtesy Rhode Partners)
Luxury mixed-use tower The Linden breaks ground north of Capitol in Central Austin

The 28-story high-rise will feature dozens of luxury residences, including a selection of two-story penthouses.

The Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission considered a finalized draft of an updated map for Austin's 10 City Council districts Sept. 15. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
UPDATED: Draft map of Austin's redrawn City Council boundaries ready for community review

Volunteer city redistricting commissioners have unanimously passed an initial outline to update all 10 City Council districts set to go into effect next year.

Photo of a sign in a field
3 weeks before first weekend, ACL Music Festival awaits permit, final health and safety procedures

Austin City Limits Music Festival has not yet received a permit for its multiweekend music festival, but the city of Austin said this is a normal timeline.

The Austin Transit Partnership approved a $312.8 million budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. (Benton Graham/Community Impact)
Project Connect’s $312.8M budget receives approval for FY 2021-22

The budget will largely be spent on advancing the 30% designs for the Orange and Blue MetroRail lines.

The Davis/White Park trail will be improved through the Neighborhood Partnering Program. (Courtesy Austin Public Works Department)
City of Austin selects 4 neighborhood improvement projects to assist

The Austin Public Works department has helped complete more than 70 local neighborhood improvement projects in the last 10 years.

200 Academy Drive could be redeveloped to bring live music and housing to a South River City neighborhood. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
South River City's historic Austin Opera House property targeted for housing development, music venue revival

If approved, the project could bring a 17,500-square-foot concert hall and dozens of homes to a 4.6-acre site off of South Congress Avenue.

The city Music Commission met Sept. 13 to consider final outlines for the Live Music Fund Event Program and Austin Music Disaster Relief Fund 3.0.
Austin moving closer to sending out millions for live music events, musician recovery

Two upcoming city funding opportunities are being designed to support music industry events and provide emergency stabilization for those in the music sector.

Photo of county commissioners and community nonprofit leaders at a press conference
Travis County commits $110 million in federal funding to combat homelessness

The allocation will fund 2,000 supportive housing units.

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization said the 10 projects will complement existing priority projects in Central Texas. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Central Texas transportation organization advances $7 million in funding for 10 priority projects

The group also provided updates on efforts to restructure the loan it extended for the MoPac express lanes.