Travis County-Austin re-enters Stage 4 of its COVID-19 risk-based levels

Travis County has re-entered Stage 4 of its COVID-19 risk-based levels due to an increasing number of cases in the area, health officials announced Thursday in a news briefing.

Dr. Mark Escott, the Austin-Travis County interim public health authority, said 300 new cases were reported Wednesday, which he says is the highest its been since the middle of August. The positivity rate is approaching 7 percent, and the area is currently at a rolling average of 32 new hospitalizations per week.

Austin Public Health uses the seven-day average for new hospitalizations and the positivity rate as its primary key indicators for the risk-based guidelines. The last time the county reached Stage 4 was in June.

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The risk-based guidelines set out five distinct stages of risk, from the lowest threat, Stage 1, to the most serious, Stage 5, along with recommended behaviors for each level. Stage 4 recommends practicing social distancing, avoid non-essential trips and avoid gatherings of more than two people for high-risk individuals.

Escott is also asking businesses, like restaurants, to drop their occupancy level from 25 to 50 percent occupancy, despite Gov. Greg Abbott’s stateside order that allows most establishments with food to operate at 75 percent capacity.

Escott said Travis could be in Stage 5 by early December if numbers continue to rise.

“Unfortunately, we have reached another critical moment in our COVID-19 fight,” Escott said. “…We are not immune to a catastrophic surge.”

Priscilla Aguirre is a general assignment reporter for | [email protected] | @CillaAguirre