AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s top doctor says it’s time to loosen up wearing masks.
Dr. Mark Escott, Austin’s Public Health Authority, said COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths in Austin-Travis County area are declining — on Monday, Austin and Travis County dropped to Stage 2 restrictions.
New guidance for Stage 2 is:
- Fully vaccinated people can participate in indoor and outdoor private gatherings and dine and shop without precautions if allowed by business
- Partially vaccinated or unvaccinated people can participate in indoor and outdoor private gatherings and dine and shop with precautions, again, if allowed by business
- Everyone — regardless of vaccination status — can travel with precautions
Escott explained that masks still serve a purpose, despite relaxed policies, saying:
“The real risk right now for folks who are unmasked are to those folks who are unvaccinated, yes there is still a risk of breakthrough infection but it’s much lower than the risk for folks who are unvaccinated.”Dr. Mark Escott
He explained “breakthrough cases” refers to people infected with COVID-19 even after they were fully vaccinated: there are 103 breakthrough cases in the area. That’s roughly .02 %.
Escott says the rate is much higher for reinfections, or people who had the virus but got it again. Health officials are looking into 387 cases.
“In other words, if you’ve had COVID-19 and you recovered, you need to get a vaccine because you still have a significant risk of reinfection — even though you’ve had it,” he said. “The vaccine is much more protection than the disease itself.”
Meanwhile, some Austin City Council members expressed the need to incentivize more people to get the vaccine.
The City of Austin says it is working on possible incentives. But for now, Torchy’s Tacos is giving free tacos to the first 500 who get vaccinated at the Delco Center this Saturday.