AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Public Health has moved its COVID-19 risk-based guidelines back to Stage Four, as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise, but this time, it looks different due to the introduction of booster shots.
The move means APH recommends people wear a mask in all situations, regardless of vaccination status. APH recommends eligible, vaccinated people who haven’t gotten their booster dose — along with unvaccinated or partially-vaccinated people — eliminate travel and only dine or shop through takeout or curbside service.
“After six months there’s a decrease, a drop in the level of protection,” said Austin Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes. “We wanted to get that message out there, so people know what their risk is.”
This guidance is consistent with a shift in quarantine recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this week, for people who were in close contact with an infected person but not infected themselves. Previously, people who were fully vaccinated could be exempt from quarantine if they did not test positive. Now, the agency is saying only people who got booster shots should skip the quarantine period, with the stipulation they wear a masks for at least 10 days.
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Dr. Walkes said they have seen more booster shots given in Travis County in the last few weeks, but she hopes the change helps encourage even more people who are eligible to schedule their booster dose.
“The holidays have been a blessing and a curse for us,” said Todd Hamilton, cofounder of Central Texas Allied Health Institute (CTAHI). “It’s definitely a good time to be with your family, but precautions still must be taken.”
CTAHI trains, educates and empowers people from under-served communities to become health care workers. However, throughout the pandemic, they have turned their attention to hosting vaccine clinics, working with the county and other health partners.
In recent weeks, their focus has turned to booster shots.
“While we still continue to strive to educate and employ our community, now we have gone to help serve our community,” he said.
To find more information on CTAHI’s clinics and their broader work, click here. In the new year, the institute will be moving to a new location with the African American Youth Harvest Foundation, found at 6633 U.S. Highway 290.