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Hospitals are seeing increased admissions from COVID as a result of the omicron surge. (Charlie L. Harper III)

Austin's COVID hospitalizations have seen a 135% increase in the past week, reaching the Stage 5 threshold of the city's risk-based guidelines.

Austin Public Health points to the highly-transmissible omicron variant for the reason the community is seeing a surge; it currently accounts for almost 85% of cases in the community. In the past week, the seven-day moving average of hospitalizations jumped from 28 to 66 with 375 admissions last week alone.

While not officially transitioning to the highest stage—which recommends unvaccinated, partially vaccinated and high-risk vaccinated people to not gather with people outside their household—APH asked the community to take preventative actions against the virus at Tuesday's Travis County Commissioners Court and Austin City Council joint meeting.

APH Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said it is time to make the choice to wear masks indoors and get vaccinated so businesses and schools can stay open.

"There is no plan for mandating anything at this point. We are working toward a community-driven effort to stop the spread of this virus and if we work together to do that, we can accomplish it because we've done it before," Walkes said.

The hospitalization numbers reflect both people that are being admitted for COVID and those in the hospital for other reasons that tested positive for COVID. Walkes said she is seeing more in the latter group and is unsure how these cases will impact the hospital systems. Hospitals are dealing with possibly more staffing shortages this surge as many healthcare workers are also being infected.

APH is also seeing more vaccinated people and those who have previously contracted COVID be reinfected. However, it is pushing the community to get vaccinated as those who are have been 40% less likely to need hospitalization.

"Vaccine and preventing spread and infection in our community remains paramount," Walkes said. "This omicron is evading some of the vaccine protection we've had in previous surges. It's important that we get vaccine on board... the reason being is that this vaccine will protect from severe disease."


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