APH said the area's Community Transmission Rate does not support a shift to Stage 2 at this time, although the seven-day moving average of new hospitalizations has been in Stage 2 territory for more than a week with an average of 12.4 people admitted with coronavirus per day. The CTR considers both the number of cases per 100,000 people confirmed in a seven-day period and the percentage of positive tests in a county in that period.
While hospital admissions have traditionally been the leading metric APH considers to assess risk, Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority, said CTR offers important insight at the current moment, noting that CTR was high in June prior to the delta variant surge.
"We are seeing 50 cases per 100,000 [people] in the last seven days, which puts us in a period of substantial transmission. And it is for that reason that we're going to stay in Stage 3," Walkes said. "That number is slowly coming down, and as it continues to come down, then we'll take another look at things."
APH's risk staging dashboard will be updated soon to include data about CTR, Walkes said. The added metrics will classify a CTR of 100 cases per 100,000 people or greater as a high transmission rate, equivalent with Stage 5. Stage 4 will show 50-99 cases per 100,000 and be classified as "substantial" transmission, and fewer than 50 cases will be classified as Stage 3 or lower, with Stage 3 corresponding with "moderate" transmission.
While the transmission rate currently remains high, APH Director Adrienne Sturrup noted that hospitalizations are continuing to decline because of high vaccination rates and other precautions, including masking. She also encouraged any community members who were discouraged by the lack of movement to Stage 2 to continue to "push a little bit more" in their attention to COVID-19 precautions.
"As the virus continues to change and strive and struggle to survive, we have to continue to get smarter. We have to make sure that we're using every piece of data that is at our disposal to make sure that we're giving you, the community, the best information possible to make good recommendations and to prevent disease, protect your family and promote good health," Sturrup said.