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(Charlie Harper III)

Congress Avenue during the first COVID-19 shutdown earlier this year.

After reaching Stage 5 numbers this week, Austin Public Health is urging Austinites to stay home with Stage 5 restrictions put in place as of Wednesday.


At Stage 5, APH says Austin residents should consider themselves at risk when leaving their home. It recommends:

  • No gatherings outside of a household
  • Dining and shopping be limited to essential trips
  • Avoid non-essential travel
  • Businesses are recommended to operate through contactless options like curbside and delivery
The recommendations are guidelines for individuals and do not affect local orders or regulations on businesses. Violations of any of the recommendations could result in a citation from city and county law enforcement.

The key indicator for Stage 5, according to Austin Public Health's risk-based guidelines, is a moving daily average of 50 or more COVID-related hospital admissions. Travis County crossed this threshold on Monday.

The aftermath of Thanksgiving celebrations has caused a surge with a 90% increase in cases since Dec. 1. There is also a 50% increase in hospital beds being utilized for COVID-19 patients.

The overall positivity rate in Travis County is just under 10%, which is nearly double what it was last month. And, a total of 525 people have died of COVID-19 in Travis County.

Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said Wednesday the decision to sound the alarm is to avoid hospitals and morgues being overfilled as seen in other Texas cities.

APH and local officials encourage residents to continue to take COVID-19 safety measures such as social distancing and wearing mask. With Christmas and New Years around the corner, APH urges Austinites to hold celebrations at home to flatten the curve.

"The time to act is now. We are calling on people to be heroes—to save lives this Christmas," Escott said.

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