AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a joint Travis County Commissioners, Austin City Council COVID-19 briefing Tuesday, the local health authority talked about a new COVID-19 risk-based guidelines chart, which was published just before Thanksgiving.

The previous chart, published in August 2021, had more loose restrictions for people who are vaccinated but at high risk of catching and getting seriously or fatally ill from COVID-19.

The changes are:

  • Wearing masks at indoor gatherings with people outside your household at Stages 1 and 2. 
  • Wearing masks while dining and not eating or drinking at Stages 1 and 2. 
  • Wearing masks while shopping indoors at Stage 2. 

“These changes were made to provide the best information available to keep those who are high-risk safe from COVID-19,” a spokesperson for APH wrote.

People who are high-risk include people with cancer, women who are pregnant and those who are obese, according to the CDC. You can find a full list of people who are considered high-risk on the CDC’s website.

You can view the most current risk-based guidelines chart here:

Austin-Travis County COVID-19 risk-based guidelines
Austin-Travis County COVID-19 risk-based guidelines chart (courtesy APH)

“Similarly we redesigned the dashboard with the help of our elected officials and their guidance on how to best communicate the complexity of what we’re talking about,” Dr. Desmar Walkes, the Austin-Travis County health authority, said. That dashboard will continue to be updated to be more clear for the public, Walkes said, but they wanted it published before the holiday.

Right now, Austin-Travis County is in Stage 3 COVID-19 risk-based guidelines. Community transmission rate, a metric introduced to the public a few weeks ago, is going down.

As of Monday, there were 36.7 new cases per 100,000 people, according to Walkes. It was in the 50 to 60 range last week.

Walkes said that decrease could be because people are masking up again. She also noted that APH and federal government offices being closed over the holiday could also be a factor.

“We’ve been on the threshold of Stage 3 and Stage 2 for quite some time,” she said. “So we’re still on that cusp of Stage 3 and when those numbers continue to trend downward, then recommendations could be made for moving into a lower stage.”

As she does in all of her briefings, Walkes stressed the way to move away from masks was to get more people in our community fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

You can find a vaccine on APH’s website here.