Community transmission rate in Travis County skyrockets to Stage 5 threshold


FILE — Charles Hoppmann is swabbed for a COVID-19 test as his family of four departs for a vacation in Milan, Italy, at a testing center operated by Nomi Health inside Miami International Airport, Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, in Miami. Nomi nurses said that both demand for tests and positivity rates at their testing center have risen significantly since Thanksgiving. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The same week national health leaders announced the omicron variant likely accounts for more than 70% of the cases of COVID-19 in the United States, Austin-Travis County’s community transmission rate (CTR) has shot upwards.

Local health leaders have previously said CTR was being added as a metric on the COVID-19 risk-based guidelines because it was a way to adjust behavior before hospitals were overwhelmed, instead of as a product of it.

Health leaders switched up their risk-based guidelines dashboard and website to show the new metric in November. CTR is a rolling average of the 7-day case rate per 100,000 people. It’s also used by the CDC to determine hot spots in the United States.

Since the beginning of December, that rate has gone from the designated Stage 3 range to well above the Stage 5 range. We crossed the threshold from Stage 4 into Stage 5 on Dec. 17 with a threshold of 100.4. The CTR Wednesday was 173.5, higher than the average for Texas.

Austin-Travis County health leaders still factor the 7-day moving average of hospitalizations into which risk-based guidelines we’re in. That metric, which has also been going up, is still within the Stage 3 range, even after health leaders adjusted that metric earlier this week.

Health leaders have not moved the area away from Stage 3 COVID-19 risk-based guidelines but said that could happen moving forward depending on the community’s behavior over the holidays. Here’s what that means, with the updated thresholds:

COVID-19 risk-based guidelines chart
Courtesy Austin Public Health

Health leaders are urging community members to start masking in public spaces regardless of vaccination status, test over the holidays and during travel, and get fully vaccinated including a booster shot.

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