Austin, Texas – Today, December 23, for the period since the pandemic began, Austin Public Health (APH) has officially raised the risk level of the COVID-19 community to Stage 5, the highest level.
This change was made today based on a rapid increase in rates of hospital admissions, cases and test positivity across the community. Other important indicators for stage changes, including the number of patients in the ICU, the use of the ventilator and the 7-day moving average of the cases, are all in an upward trend.
“This is a critical time for the community,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County Provisional Health Authority. “We need to slow the spread of the virus in the community now. We cannot allow another increase in cases and hospitalizations after the next vacation. Our hospitals will be overloaded and people will die unnecessarily ”.
Stage five recommendations include:
- No meetings with anyone outside your home
- Dining and shopping should be limited to essential travel
- Avoid non-essential travel
- It is recommended that companies operate using non-contact options (ie on the sidewalk, delivery)
Risk-based guidelines are not changes to local orders, rules or regulations for companies; they are guidelines for individual actions and behaviors. However, changes to orders or additional restrictions may be necessary in the coming days to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.
“The public needs to do everything they can to reduce contact with people outside the home,” said APH director Stephanie Hayden. “We did an incredible job of keeping this virus under control in our community and we need everyone to try and do it again.”
Director Hayden added: “We flattened the curve before. The difference now is that we have a glimpse of the finish line of a vaccine in the community. Any serious illness or death from that moment on would be a tragedy. ”
Austin-Travis County leaders remind the public to continue to be vigilant and to practice good hygiene, physical and social detachment, and to wear masks to prevent the spread of the disease and help keep others safe. Avoiding meetings away from home is especially important this holiday season. COVID-19 holiday safety recommendations can be found at AustinTexas.gov/HolidaySafety.
Based on the upgrade to Stage 5, some city services will be changed.
Austin Resource Recovery’s regular services along the sidewalk will not be changed. However, the Recycling and Reuse Delivery Center will be closed to the public from December 24th. Residents can request a non-contact household collection of hazardous household waste at austintexas.gov/dropoff. Items for reuse or recycling cannot be collected at this time.
In addition, the Austin Animal Center will close to the public from December 24th. After December 25, adoptions will be made virtually and the foster parents, adopters and rescues will be collected on the sidewalk. The facility will not accept any non-emergency surrender from the owner and those who find stray animals will need to apply for admission by calling Austin 311.
Service changes and facility openings for Austin Parks and Recreation will be posted on its website at austintexas.gov/parkclosures.
Information on the closing of holidays in the city of Austin can be seen here.
For additional information and updates on COVID-19, visit AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.