AUSTIN (KXAN) — One week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released update outdoor COVID-19 recommendations, Austin Public Health released revised risk-based guidelines for vaccinated, partially vaccinated and unvaccinated residents May 4. Austin-Travis County is currently listed as Stage 3 out of the five-stage coronavirus risk level scale.
“We want people to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority, in the release. “Now and certainly in the future as the vaccination rate improves, there will be improved freedom associated with vaccination. In other words, the need to continue masking and the other necessary precautions will continue to decrease for those who are vaccinated.”
Individuals are still required to adhere to local guidelines established by local schools, businesses and venues, regardless of risk-based stage or someone’s vaccination status. Health Authority Rules remain intact through May 18, per the release.
Indoor gatherings: Fully vaccinated individuals have additional leeway when it comes to attending indoor private gatherings. Under a Stage 1 or Stage 2 designation, those fully vaccinated can attend private indoor events without a mask. For Stages 3-5, vaccinated residents are still able to attend, paired with the additional APH recommendation of wearing a mask.
Partially and unvaccinated residents are still suggested to wear masks while inside at private gatherings in Stages 1-3. APH does not recommend anyone unvaccinated or partially vaccinated to attend private events in Stages 4-5.
Outdoor gatherings: In Stages 1-3, fully vaccinated individuals can engage in outdoor activities without the use of a mask, per APH. Fully vaccinated people are still advised to wear masks in Stages 4-5, in addition to following handwashing and social distancing provisions.
Those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated are recommended to continue wearing masks outdoors in Stages 1-3, and are advised not to attend any outdoor events or gatherings in Stages 4-5.
The guidelines follow new CDC recommendations for vaccinated people released April 27, which outlines safe practices for outdoor exercise, dining and gatherings.
Those fully vaccinated can resume traveling with the addition of masks, handwashing and social distancing practices in all stages, according to APH’s guidelines. Partially vaccinated and unvaccinated residents can travel with all added precautions in Stages 1-3.
However, high-risk individuals are not advised to travel during a Stage 3 designation due to their susceptibility to contracting the virus. Stage 4 travel is only recommended in limited, essential cases, and APH recommends no one who isn’t fully vaccinated travel in Stage 5.
Those who are fully vaccinated can safely dine and shop in Stages 2-5, with mask wearing, handwashing and social distancing guidelines recommended outside of Stage 1.
Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated residents are advised to maintain all mask wearing and safety provisions in Stages 1-2, and are only suggested to do so during Stage 3 if they are low risk. Dining and shopping during Stages 4-5 is only recommended if deemed essential and when paired with safety measures.
When will Austin-Travis County move to Stage 2?
Alongside new indoor and outdoor guidelines, APH amended its Stage 2 threshold to 5-14 hospital admissions as part of the 7-day moving average. The 7-day average is the main tool used to monitor risk-based guidelines. Other tracked features include positivity rates, the doubling time of new cases and the number of patients on ventilators or in the intensive care unit.
To enter Stage 1, APH said the region would have a threshold of less than five new hospital admissions during the 7-day average, or 70-90% herd immunity via vaccination rates.
“As a result of both declining length of hospital stays and declining mortality rates, we feel comfortable reassessing the transition of stages,” Escott said.