‘Just in case they have it’: Austin’s top doctor urges mask wearing for all, regardless of vaccination status


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s top doctor is urging residents to mask up regardless of vaccination status.

Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said during a virtual town hall with Travis County Judge Andy Brown that vaccinated individuals might be spreading COVID-19 without knowing.

“Because those folks that may have mild disease may be walking around without a mask, we’re going to ask folks who are vaccinated to wear a mask just in case they have it, and they have mild symptoms, and they think it’s the allergies, or they might not have symptoms,” Dr. Walkes said.

The recommendation for vaccinated individuals to wear a mask at indoor and outdoor gatherings is included in Austin Public Health’s COVID-19 risk based guidelines released May 18. That recommendation would only be activated if the area moves to Stage 4, and unvaccinated people would be discouraged from having gatherings at all.

This graphic from APH shows when people should wear masks in relation to the current risk stage the area is in. (APH graphic)
This graphic from APH shows when people should wear masks in relation to the current risk stage the area is in. (APH graphic)

Right now, Austin and Travis County are still in Stage 3 of 5 of the risk based guidelines, but APH said earlier this week Stage 4 is imminent as a result of rising cases, hospitalizations and the presence of the delta variant.

Under Stage 3 guidelines, only people who are partially vaccinated or unvaccinated are recommended to wear masks at indoor and outdoor gatherings.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler echoed the same sentiments about mask wearing for everyone on Tuesday as well.

Adler said in a previous interview with KXAN, “we want people to do this voluntarily. We want people to do this, because it’s the right thing to do.”

APH is scheduled to hold a virtual Q&A session Friday at 10:30 a.m., where leaders will update the public on which stage the area falls in. Infectious disease experts as well as Austin Public Health leadership will join the discussion.

We will stream that session on kxan.com and on the KXAN Facebook page.

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