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Austin, Travis County move down to stage 2 risk level of coronavirus restrictions

Wednesday, May 19, 2021 by Jerry Quijano, KUT

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The chief medical director for the city of Austin said Tuesday the area is now at stage 2 of Austin Public Health’s risk-based guidelines. The change is effective immediately.

Dr. Mark Escott said the decision was made based on the “significant decreases in cases that we’re seeing.”

“We feel confident we are in a place where the stage 2 restrictions are appropriate and that’s thanks to the great work our community has done to continue masking, continue distancing, continue getting vaccinated. These investments are paying off,” Escott said.

The new rules reflect more closely the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s coronavirus guidance, which was updated last week.

Under stage 2, fully vaccinated people do not need to wear a face covering for indoor and outdoor private gatherings.

It is still recommended that everyone wear masks when traveling or dining indoors, unless a business owner allows fully vaccinated people to go without a face covering.

It is also recommended that fully vaccinated people continue to wear a mask and maintain social distance when risk of transmission is high for people who have not been fully vaccinated.

Masks are still required at hospitals, long-term care facilities and other health care facilities.

Austin Public Health’s risk-based guidelines are partly based on the seven-day moving average of new coronavirus-related admissions at the area’s hospitals.

That number was 14 on Tuesday, the lowest it has been since October. It reached its highest peak in January, when the Austin area was still under stage 5 guidelines. The seven-day moving average of new hospital admissions was 91 on Jan. 10.

The decision to downgrade to stage 2 was also made after health officials considered the impact of hospital admissions from people outside Travis County on the area’s coronavirus figures.

Hospital admissions from non-Travis County residents were being weighed into the rolling average that health officials use to determine the area’s risk level. Using a “filtered” moving average – that is, only counting admissions from Travis County residents – Escott said the area had been below stage 2 admissions thresholds for 10 of the last 14 days.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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