The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/daily/news/2021-07-23/austin-re-enters-stage-4-of-covid-19-precautions/

Austin Reenters Stage 4 of COVID-19 Precautions

By Beth Sullivan, July 23, 2021, 1:40pm, Newsdesk

Today, July 23, Austin Public Health announced Austin and Travis County have reentered Stage 4 of the local COVID-19 Risk-Based Guidelines, only a week after Austin returned to Stage 3.

The last time Austin was in Stage 4 was from February through mid-March – before widespread vaccinations.

Under Stage 4, health officials recommend fully vaccinated individuals wear a face mask while attending indoor gatherings, dining, traveling, and shopping, in addition to masking up at outdoor gatherings if they’re unable to socially distance. People who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated should avoid both indoor and outdoor gatherings and mask up for essential-only traveling, dining, and shopping.

Austin’s return to Stage 4 comes as confirmed cases and hospitalizations have risen dramatically in the past two weeks. As of July 23, Austin’s seven-day moving average for new hospital admissions stood at 35, only five days after the key metric crossed Stage 4’s qualifying threshold of 30. Since July 4, the seven-day moving average of hospitalizations has increased by 203%, said Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes in a press conference this afternoon. In less than 20 days, the number of COVID patients in local intensive care units has increased nearly 242%. “That is an incredible increase that our hospitals are going to be strained by,” said Walkes.

In addition to hospital capacity, health official’s biggest concern is that the highly transmissible Delta variant is spreading from those vaccinated to those unvaccinated, especially children ages 12 and under who are unable to get the vaccine. As local students prepare to return to in-person learning in less than a month, APH is encouraging students to wear a mask at school. Earlier this week the Chronicle learned from Austin ISD officials that the district must and will enforce caregivers’ requests for their children to wear masks on campus. “If you tell Austin ISD that your child should wear a mask when in school, Austin ISD will make sure of that,” emphasized Walkes.

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Locally and nationally, the majority of those being hospitalized because of COVID-19 are unvaccinated. In Austin, less than 10% of COVID patients admitted to the hospital are vaccinated, said Dr. Brian Metzger, medical director of infectious diseases at St. David’s HealthCare. According to data being tracked by the Texas Department of State Health Services, 62.41% of people ages 12 and older in Travis County are fully vaccinated, and 71.57% of that same demographic are fully vaccinated as of July 22, which means that more than 90% of local cases are coming from between 30-40% of Austin’s vaccine-eligible population who are not yet fully vaxxed.

As the struggle to contain the pandemic continues, APH officials and local doctors are emphasizing the importance of both vaccines and proven prevention measures like masking, especially so as the novel coronavirus mutates into more transmissible and potentially more deadly variants. “The ability to replicate and cause these mutants – the reason that happens – is because the virus is allowed to continue to transmit to folks and replicate, and in the case of this country, it's largely due to lower rates of vaccination than we'd like to see,” said Metzger. “We need that herd immunity, we need to all protect each other.

“So, how do we do that in the short term? We need to be wearing masks, especially in indoor environments with people that are not in our household, and we need to get vaccinated.”

As a reminder, COVID-19 vaccinations are free and require neither identification nor insurance. Locate providers in your area using vaccines.gov, or text your Zip Code to 438829 (822862 in Spanish) to find a nearby clinic. Below you’ll find a list of pop-up vaccine clinics available to all eligible individuals without registration or appointments today through this Sunday.

Friday, July 23

Southeast Library (APH)
• Time: 2-8pm
• Address: 5803 Nuckols Crossing
• Vaccine: Moderna (18+ years only)

Little Walnut Creek Library (APH)
• Time: 2-6pm
• Address: 835 W. Rundberg
• Vaccine: Moderna (18+ years only)

Saturday, July 24

Travis County Expo (Travis County)
• Time: 9am-5pm
• Address: 7311 Decker
• Vaccine: Pfizer (12 years and up), Johnson and Johnson (18+ years only)

Del Valle High School - Opportunity Center (Travis County/APH)
• Time: 9am-2pm
• Address: 5301 Ross Rd., Del Valle
• Vaccine: Pfizer (12 years and up)

Dailey Middle School (Travis County)
• Time: 9am-2pm
• Address: 14000 Westall
• Vaccine: Pfizer (12 years and up)

The Rock ATX (APH)
• Time: 9am-1pm
• Address: 12224 Jourdan Crossing
• Vaccine: Moderna (18+ years only)

La Moreliana Market (Travis County)
• Time: 9am-1pm
• Address: 5405 S. Pleasant Valley Rd. Ste. E
• Vaccine: Pfizer (12 years and up)

Virginia Brown Recreation Center (APH)
• Time: 10am-2pm
• Address: 7500 Blessing Ave.
• Vaccine: Pfizer (12 years and up)

Turner Roberts Recreation Center (APH)
• Time: 10am-2pm
• Address: 7201 Colony Loop
• Vaccine: Pfizer (12 years and up)

Hong Kong Supermarket (Travis County)
• Time: 10am-2pm
• Address: 8557 Research Blvd.
• Vaccine: Pfizer (12 years and up)

Martin Middle School (Travis County, AISD, Austin Voices)
• Time: 10am-2pm
• Address: 1601 Haskell
• Vaccine: Pfizer (12 years and up)

Little Walnut Creek Library (APH)
• Time: 2-6pm
• Address: 835 W. Rundberg
• Vaccine: Moderna (18+ years only)

Cristo Rey Church (APH)
• Time: 4-6pm
• Address: 2208 E. Second
• Vaccine: Moderna (18+ years only)

Sunday, July 25

Travis County Expo (Travis County)
• Time: 9am-5pm
• Address: 7311 Decker
• Vaccine: Pfizer (12 years and up), Johnson and Johnson (18+ years only)

Austin Country Flea Market (APH)
• Time: Noon-5pm
• Address: 9500 Hwy. 290
• Vaccine: Pfizer (12 years and up), Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson (18+ years only)

Islamic Ahlul Bayt Association (Travis County)
• Time: 5-7pm
• Address: 12460 Los Indios Trl.
• Vaccine: Pfizer (12 years and up), Johnson and Johnson (18+ years only)

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