AUSTIN (KXAN) — As of Friday, Austin-Travis County hit the threshold for Stage 3 COVID-19 risk-based guidelines. Local health officials said they’re waiting to officially call it to make sure our rolling 7-day average of hospital admissions stays within the Stage 3 range.
The University of Texas’ COVID-19 Modeling Consortium projections show our hospital and case numbers will continue to decline and that we could be rapidly approaching the thresholds for even lower stages of risk.
According to UT’s most recent projections, which were updated last month, the median projection of 7-day average hospital admissions would bring us to the threshold for Stage 2 guidelines by late October.
For people who are vaccinated, that could mean your Halloween costume doesn’t require a mask this year.
We talked to Dr. Spencer Fox, associate director of UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, ahead of Austin City Limits to ask about case numbers and what their projections were for the next few weeks:
Were you surprised at all at how quickly these numbers, hospitalizations and case numbers, came down?
Fox: “Predicting the peaks of pandemics is the hardest part of making these projects and I think it’s just the most uncertain time. At that point in time, before we started seeing a decline we were worried things would start going up, we were worried things would stay the same at super high levels, and we were also hopeful that they would come down.”
“I don’t know if we would say we were surprised that things came down so quickly but there were a lot of possible trajectories our community could take.”
We have finally dropped down into Stage 4 guidelines and look to be rapidly moving towards Stage 3, where do you all see in your models that we’re going to keep dropping or does ACL put a pin in that potentially?
Fox: “I think there’s a lot of questions looking into the future about what will happen, right now we’re still projecting declines in our region but there’s a lot of factors over the next few months that could change that.”
“I don’t think any one single event is likely to kind of impact the whole dynamics in the city but we’re looking at winter, which we know we had a very large winter surge last year. I don’t think we still understand the full impact that school reopening and in-person education will have on local pandemic dynamics and then also there’s the evolution of the virus we just don’t know if new variants will pop up that will kind of change what comes ahead.”
KXAN also asked Dr. Desmar Walkes, the Austin-Travis County health authority, what she thought about moving down to lower risk-based guidelines over the next few weeks:
How do we make sure through this event (ACL) that we get down to Stage 3, down to Stage 2 and are you feeling hopeful about that as we stare into a bunch of people coming to Austin?
Walkes: “I do feel hopeful about that. Austin has — and Travis County residents have — really done an amazing job. When we announced going up in stage levels as the delta variant raced through our community and caused so many cases in such a short period of time, people put their masks on.”
Walkes added: “That and the fact that we increased our vaccination rates worked and our numbers are going down and we’re in Stage 4 and we’re headed to Stage 3 and we’re hoping that we’re going to have two great weekends filled with music and be able to continue on progressing down and getting out of this scenario.”
When we reached Stage 2 risk-based guidelines, people who are vaccinated would only be asked to wear a mask when traveling, which is mandated by federal law. For people who are unvaccinated, it would still suggest a mask in all situations.
There are not differences for either group between Stage 2 guidelines and Stage 1 guidelines.
Use the arrows to toggle between what the guidelines suggest for people who are vaccinated versus people who are not.