AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin and Travis County health officials moved the area to Stage 4 COVID-19 risk-based guidelines Friday as health experts say the delta variant continues to fuel a spike in case numbers and hospitalizations.
“This is a call to action,” Dr. Desmar Walkes, the local health authority, said.
Health experts begged residents who are unvaccinated to get a shot. Dr. Brian Metzger, an infectious disease expert with St. David’s Healthcare, reports that less than 10% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 right now are vaccinated.
Another COVID-19 area expert, Dr. Ghassan Salman, said misinformation is largely to blame for vaccine hesitancy which he says has “led to hundreds of deaths.”
Dr. Salman recommended people who are on the fence about getting a COVID-19 vaccine talk to their physicians and family doctors they trust.
Stage 4 recommendations ask residents to put masks back on regardless of vaccination status, and those who aren’t fully vaccinated to avoid travel and dining/shopping unless it’s essential. The chart below shows which activities are recommended, and not, for people based on vaccination status.
As of Friday morning, the Travis County’s COVID-19 dashboard shows a seven-day rolling average of 35 new hospitalizations per day. The Stage 4 threshold is 30.
It was just last week that Dr. Walkes moved the area to Stage 3 COVID-19 risk-based guidelines.
This chart, put together by KXAN, shows the number of days Austin-Travis County has spent at the different stages of risk-based guidelines:
“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Dr. Walkes responded when asked when we might no longer see a slide back into more restrictive guidelines. She said as long as people are unvaccinated, we’re not at the finish line.