AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin moved to Stage 5 of Austin Public Health’s risk-based guidelines, updating its recommendations to keep the community safe against COVID-19.

Although Austin-Travis County has been at the threshold for Stage 5 guidelines for days, APH officially announced the move Thursday.

“This is our Olympic moment. We have to do this. We have to get vaccinated so our businesses can thrive and our children can go back to school safely,” Dr. Desmar Walkes, the local health authority, said.

For people who are vaccinated and are high-risk, the new recommendations include wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings where masks are not required, Walkes said.

“For those that are fully vaccinated, we need you to wear a mask for others,” Walkes said. “We are asking you to step up again and decrease the number of cases in our community.”

Walkes is asking the vaccinated community to wear masks unless eating or drinking at a restaurant indoors or to consider curbside dining, when possible.

For people who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, the recommendations include masking and making only essential trips outside of the home for dining, shopping and travel.

APH says it has surge plans prepared for alternative care sites, if necessary.

The area hit the threshold for Stage 5 on July 30 after reaching a seven-day average of 50 new hospital admissions. The average has since gone up to 67 with 91 hospitalizations reported Wednesday. The area’s positivity rate is at 14.5%, data from the Austin-Travis County COVID-19 dashboard says.

What are the changes to Austin’s risk-based chart for COVID-19?

New COVID-19 risk-based guidelines for those who are vaccinated, updated in light of the delta variant. Under stage 5 people those who are low risk should wear a mask if gathering, but those who are high risk should avoid gathering. Those who are low risk can travel, dine and shop with a mask, but those who are high risk should only travel if it's essential, should only dine if outdoors with a mask and do takeaway or curbside shoppingNew COVID-19 risk-based guidelines for those who are partially vaccinated or unvaccinated, updated in light of the delta variant. The graphic shows at all stages these people should wear masks when gathering indoors and outdoors, traveling, dining and shopping. At Stage 4 and 5 they should not participate in any of these activities except to get food and shopping done takeaway/curbside-- traveling only when essential under stage 4 and not at all at stage 5.
Slide to the right to see the recommendations for vaccinated people, slide left to see them for partially or unvaccinated people

Recommendations in Stage 5 for fully-vaccinated

  • Wear a mask in low-risk indoor and outdoor settings
  • Avoid high-risk indoor and outdoor settings
  • Wear a mask for low-risk travel while high-risk travel should only be taken if essential
  • Wear a mask for low-risk dining indoors. Outdoor dining is recommended for high-risk situations
  • Fully-vaccinated customers should wear masks in low-risk shopping scenarios. Utilize takeaway or curbside shopping for high-risk settings

Recommendations in Stage 5 for people partially vaccinated or unvaccinated

  • Should get fully vaccinated
  • Should avoid indoor and outdoor gatherings in all settings
  • Any type of travel should be avoided
  • Utilize takeaway or curbside dining
  • Utilize takeaway or curbside shopping

How should businesses operate in Stage 5?

APH is asking business leaders to request masks for employees and customers, and offer curbside and takeaway dining.

“Businesses can make a decision to require vaccinations and we support the ones that do so,” Walkes said.

How should schools operate in Stage 5?

APH says if a parent requests their child wear a mask at an Austin Independent School District school “that [request] will be honored, that child will wear a mask and have a great school year.”

The health authority continues to recommend masks in schools. AISD announced Wednesday it will require masks to be worn on its buses this upcoming school year.

Locally, APH says kids in the 12-17 age range are “right around 50% [in] getting that first dose.”

What about large events during Stage 5?

APH says unvaccinated people should avoid large events like Austin City Limits. Fully-vaccinated people should wear a mask.

“APH works closely with event organizers and the process will continue as always when it comes to issues of public health,” Walkes said about October’s ACL Fest.