Austin Public Health: Shift to Stage 3 COVID-19 guidelines likely in next week

Screen shot of Dr. Desmar Walkes speaking
Austin-Travis County health authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said the Austin community could shift to Stage 3 pandemic risk deadlines within the week. (Courtesy ATXN)

Austin-Travis County health authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said the Austin community could shift to Stage 3 pandemic risk deadlines within the week. (Courtesy ATXN)

Austin and Travis County are likely to see a shift to Stage 3 pandemic risk-based guidance by early next week, Austin Public Health representatives said Oct. 8.

While the Austin community remains in Stage 4, the seven-day moving average of daily coronavirus-related hospital admissions—a key indicator APH uses for community risk—is below 30, the threshold for Stage 3. As of Oct. 8, an average of 21.3 people were being admitted to Austin-area hospitals each day.

"If the trend continues, it's very likely that [we will move to Stage 3 by next week], and it all depends on us. It all depends on community action and community-driven response to this pandemic. It always has," said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County health authority.

Walkes said APH had so far traced very few confirmed COVID-19 cases to weekend one of the Austin City Limits music festival—only four as of Oct. 8. However, in the past, APH has said it can take up to two weeks to see the full impact of viral transmission at large events like ACL. She reported that APH approved of heath and safety measures ACL organizers had taken during weekend one, but had asked them to ramp up masking requirements in certain areas of Zilker Park for weekend two, which runs Oct. 8-10.

"Overall, we're continuing to monitor, and if they continue to do what it takes to ensure mitigation is held to the way it has been agreed upon, we anticipate that we will see lower case numbers," Walkes said.

Despite the encouraging trend in hospitalizations, Walkes cautioned the public to be vigilant moving into the fall and winter months as both COVID-19 and influenza circulate during so-called "fluvid" season. While hospital space and ICU space have cleared up somewhat in the past month, she said contract staff that had been deployed to area hospitals were scheduled to depart in the coming weeks, making it critical that health care facilities do not become overburdened in the months to come.
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.


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