AUSTIN (KXAN) — The omicron surge in Austin-Travis County has reached its peak number of hospitalizations and case numbers are declining, the local health authority said in a joint Travis County Commissioners, Austin City Council meeting Tuesday.

The 7-day moving average of hospitalizations, a metric largely used to inform which COVID-19 risk-based guidelines we’re in, was at 61 Monday. It’s been falling since the later part of January when the rolling average was twice that at 128. The threshold to hit Stage 4 is 50.

“We are still in Stage 5, we are however moving towards Stage 4,” Dr. Desmar Walkes, the Austin-Travis County health authority, said. “That will likely happen in the next 10 days or so.”

Walkes said they will take their time in making the decision to shuffle to less restrictive guidelines and reminded city and county leaders that other factors outside of hospitalizations such as community transmission rate (CTR) and positivity rate — both of which are still high — also guide that move.

The area moved to Stage 5 COVID-19 risk-based guidelines at the beginning of January after seeing a rapid spike in cases and hospitalizations as the omicron variant spread rapidly through Central Texas.

There have been no cases of the BA.2 omicron subvariant detected in Austin-Travis County so far and Walkes says even if that subvariant does get detected she suspects it won’t have a large impact on the move to Stage 4 risk-based guidelines.

“I think that we will find that we will still have this decline in case numbers because our community is doing what it needs to do to protect itself,” she explained. Still, while our community has people in it that are unprotected against the virus the possibility for new variants is still prominent.

Stage 4 risk-based guidelines would still recommend masking regardless of vaccination status in public settings.

COVID-19 risk-based guidelines for Austin-Travis County, published Dec. 20, 2021 (Courtesy Austin Public Health)
COVID-19 risk-based guidelines for Austin-Travis County, published Dec. 20, 2021 (Courtesy Austin Public Health)

Health leaders maintain that getting vaccinated is the best protection against getting a serious case or dying of COVID-19. Roughly 71% of people in Travis County are fully vaccinated, of those people only around 30% have gotten their booster shot, leaders reported Tuesday.

“The situation with getting our vaccination rates up will continue to be an ongoing struggle that really really does require a community effort,” Walkes said.