The city of Austin and Travis County shifted down to Stage 4 pandemic risk-based guidelines Sept. 28, following a steady decrease in daily hospital admissions throughout September.

“Our efforts to mask and vaccinate are working to fight the virus,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in a statement. “We should be proud of what we’ve done even with the opening of schools, the Labor Day holiday, and the emergence of the variant."

As of Sept. 28, Austin-area hospitals saw a seven-day moving average of 34 coronavirus-related hospital admissions per day. The area shifted below a moving average of 50 daily admissions Sept. 20, a key threshold that triggers Austin Public Health to consider a shift to Stage 4. The community entered Stage 5 risk for the third time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic Aug. 5 as the delta variant drove a surge in cases.

Capacity in Austin-area intensive care units has also begun to improve with 162 coronavirus patients currently in ICUs. There are 200 beds at Austin-area hospitals allotted for patients with COVID-19. However, Dr. Desmar Walkes, the Austin-Travis County health authority, emphasized ICUs are still overburdened.

"Even as we continue to see the data trending in a positive direction, we cannot act as if the pandemic is over. Our hospitals and ICUs still remain at critical levels, and we need the public to continue to work together to ensure we do not contribute to a new surge," Walkes said.

Under Stage 4 guidelines, APH urges unvaccinated people to continue to avoid gathering or traveling outside their homes except to conduct essential activities and asks them to wear masks in indoor and outdoor settings. Fully vaccinated individuals are also asked to mask up when gathering indoors and outdoors if social distancing is not possible.

Local health officials also continue to stress the importance of vaccination against COVID-19 as well as against seasonal influenza. As of Sept. 27, 70.67% of eligible Travis County residents had been fully vaccinated.