On Nov. 23, Austin Public Health leaders warned that Austin is seeing a high level of COVID-19 community transmission as it heads into the holidays.

“We are here to make our plea for our community to stay safe this week as you are with others,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County health authority.

She said community transmission is substantial and that 33% more COVID-19 tests are coming back as positive than the previous week.

While the number of individuals with COVID-19 in the hospital is low enough to move into Stage 2 safety recommendations, she said Austin will remain at Stage 3. She said the high rate of community transmission can preface spikes in hospital admissions.

She said the spread is partly because individuals are relaxing their mask-wearing and social distancing practices. Walkes pointed out places such as parts of Colorado and El Paso are experiencing surges of transmission despite high levels of vaccination as individuals relax their safety practices and as the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines starts to wane for those vaccinated earlier this year.

“The best form of giving is to get your booster,” Walkes said.

She said about 25% of Texans do not have antibody coverage, meaning they have not had the shot. Walkes said vaccinated individuals should take extra precautions around anyone who may not be vaccinated. She encourages unvaccinated individuals to seek out the shot or at least get tested before gathering with others.

“I like to say we in Austin are going to avoid another surge; we are going to prove them wrong,” Walkes said.

To do so, she said individuals need to maintain proven safety measures, such as social distancing, staying outside or opening windows when with others, getting boosters and using masks.