AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin-Travis County announced the area has moved to Stage 2 COVID-19 risk-based guidelines Friday morning. For people who are up to date on vaccinations, it means they can ditch their masks, even indoors.

“Let’s hope this spring marks the beginning of a brighter, healthier future,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “While we enjoy this moment, don’t forget about those who are still at risk.”

The area has not been in Stage 2 guidelines since the summer of 2021 before the delta and omicron surge hit.

Here’s what those guidelines mean for you:

  • Up to date individuals may participate in indoor or outdoor private gatherings, dine and shop without precautions. Travel with precautions.
  • Partially or unvaccinated individuals should take preventive measures: wear a mask, wash your hands and social distance.

Up to date individuals are ones who have their initial COVID-19 shots and their booster shot.

The move to Stage 2 comes a week before the start of South by Southwest in Austin which draws large crowds.

“Thousands of people will travel to and through Austin-Travis County in the coming weeks for the Spring Festival Season and spring break. With these unique circumstances in mind, APH recommends that our communities wear masks indoors, especially when social distancing is not possible, until March 20, 2022,” said Adrienne Sturrup, Austin Public Health director. 

That sentiment was echoed by Austin Mayor Steve Adler who asked people to mask until the end of SXSW.

While health leaders are recommending some continued masking, Dr. Ogechika Alozie, a member of the Texas Medical Association COVID-19 Task Force, told KXAN we have a wall of immunity right now, and that wall of immunity should provide some protection over the next six months.

“I really, truly do believe that those that are protected either by a virus or by vaccine don’t have a lot to be worried about going forward,” Alozie said. “The whole conversation about will a concert, or will a show trigger spread, we’ve been having that for up to six months, no evidence that that’s what’s driving the spread.”

The 7-day moving average of hospital admissions was 14, as of Thursday. The threshold for Stage 2 is 5-14.

Projections on the University of Texas at Austin COVID-19 Modeling Consortium’s dashboard show a dramatic drop in projected daily hospital admissions in the Austin area and a dramatic drop in ICU patients. You can find their projections here.