Austin within Stage 3 threshold – why health leaders aren’t moving us there yet

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Key data indicators are moving in the right direction to further move down in COVID-19 stages, but a decision to do that won’t come for a while, health leaders said in a media briefing Friday.

As of Friday, the seven-day moving average for hospitalization admissions dropped to 30 Thursday, which places the area within the threshold to potentially move to Stage 3 of the risk-based guidelines. However, at this time, Austin and Travis County remain in Stage 4, said Dr. Desmar Walkes, the local health authority.

“We’re looking at the modeling and the science, and we’re going to be assessing what and if any changes need to be made before we make our next move in regards to staging,” Walkes said. “More to come on that.”

The numbers are truly encouraging, more people are being discharged from hospitals — particularly intensive care units — positivity rates are going down and caseload is dwindling, but Walkes cautioned that numbers could rise if people get careless.

She said from a staging standpoint, the delta variant accelerated case numbers in a fashion that it took just three weeks for cases to surge and get to Stage 5 than previous surges did in 10 weeks.

The Austin City Limits (ACL) Music Festival begins Friday, which requires attendees to provide either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to get inside Zilker Park. APH helped approve the plan for those safety protocols, including masking requirements for some areas of the festival grounds. However, questions remain how a large event two weekends in a row could affect conditions locally.

Dr. Walkes expressed confidence that the protocols would help prevent ACL from becoming a super spreader event.

“Because the mitigation plan includes allowing people in who have negative tests only, and those who are vaccinated, we feel that that’s going to provide the lowest risk that we can possibly hope for,” Walkes said.

She also mentioned the festival has its own medical team who will handle issues on the grounds, like dehydration, heat exhaustion, people having too much to drink and things of that nature. When asked if hospitals would have the capacity to take care of concertgoers if they needed it, her answer was an emphatic yes.

“We’re able to take on whatever is presented to a hospital,” she said. “If the festival follows its plan, it will have a low impact on our hospitals.”

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