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(Laura Figi)

An alternate care site at the Austin Convention Center opened earlier this month to care for COVID patients amid rising hospitalizations.

Trauma Service Area O, an 11-county region that includes the Austin area, no longer qualifies as a high-hospitalization area according to state guidelines. As a result, certain businesses may increase their capacity limits from 50% to 75% and hospitals may resume elective surgeries.


The threshold for high hospitalization status is reached when the portion of COVID-19 patients in a trauma service area's hospitals exceeds 15% for seven consecutive days.

The Texas Department of State Health Services sent a letter to Travis County Judge Andy Brown on Saturday alerting him that Trauma Service Area O no longer qualifies.

"While our community has taken measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19, this new development does not mean this deadly virus is no longer a threat," Brown said in a statement. "I continue to encourage everyone in Travis County to take extra steps to help mitigate any further spread of COVID-19."

Trauma Service Area O surpassed this threshold on Jan. 3, as confirmed cases and related hospitalizations surged in the wake of the holiday season.

Since Jan. 9, however, the average number of daily hospital admissions due to COVID has generally trended downward. The daily average number of COVID-related hospital admissions in the five-county Austin metro is now 75 per day, down from 94 on Jan. 9, according to Austin Public Health. The daily average number of new confirmed COVID cases has also declined, from a high of 702 on Jan. 17 to 519.

Although Trauma Service O is no longer in the high-hospitalization range, Travis County remains in Stage 5, the most acute stage, according to APH's risk-based guidelines.

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