Austonia daily newsletter—direct to your inbox 6 a.m.
×
becomeMemberIcon

become a member

After over a month of increasing cases and hospitalizations, Austin is now back at a Stage 4 threshold for risk-based guidelines. (St. David's Medical Center/Facebook)

For the first time since July 30, the seven-day moving average for COVID hospitalizations dropped below 50 on Tuesday, reaching the Stage 4 threshold.


At 49, the number is low enough to lower guidelines, but the city has not yet changed its Stage 5 status.

Austin has been in Stage 5, the highest level of Austin Public Health's COVID risk-based guidelines, for over a month as case rates and hospitalizations surpassed last summer's surge, the Delta variant targeted the unvaccinated and a younger demographic and ICUs surpassed capacity in the Austin metro. But with the seven-day moving average at 49 on Tuesday, it may be a sign that the third surge is beginning to end.

On Tuesday, 515 new cases were reported, down from a third-surge peak of 1,261 on Thursday, Sept. 7. Two days after the peak, Austin reported 1,000 COVID deaths and broke a daily death toll record with 23 deaths in a single day.

But while cases and hospitalizations are dipping, the city still has many factors to consider before dropping safety guidelines. Austin Public Health told KXAN Wednesday that key indicators including "positivity rate, the doubling time of new cases, and current ICU and ventilator patients" will need to be evaluated first.

The metro continues to have no ICU beds available as Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes says patients from other counties come into the area to seek care. Travis County saw 35 COVID deaths for the week of Sept. 17, slightly down from a peak of 36 for two weeks prior.


The lower hospitalization rate comes as Austin reaches a 70% vaccinated population, a number once thought to be needed to reach herd immunity. With the highly contagious Delta variant, however, many think that the new herd immunity rate is closer to 80%. But Austin officials have reported being "cautiously optimistic" as the moving average for hospital admissions slowly declined from their peak of 83.6 on Aug. 11.

"We're starting to see our case numbers decrease over time, and that is an exceptional thing to say at this point, but we're still cautiously optimistic," Walkes said.

Under Stage 4 guidelines with the Delta variant, APH continues to recommend limiting dining to takeout/curbside for unvaccinated or partially vaccinated individuals and slightly lifts shopping and travel guidelines to "only if essential." Stage 4 continues to recommend masks for vaccinated individuals in social and public settings but now includes high-risk vaccinated individuals that were recommended to stay home unless essential in Stage 5.

(Austin Public Health)

(Austin Public Health)

Popular

If the FDA approves emergency use authorization of its COVID vaccine for kids, those 5 years and older will all be eligible for a shot. (Pexels)

The Food and Drug Administration will consider Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine application for emergency use authorization in 5-to-11-year-olds on Tuesday. The vaccine will likely be available to kids starting next week.

Keep Reading Show less

Tesla stock capped at $1 trillion for the first time after a sale of 100,000 electric cars. (Tesla)

Tesla is officially in with the big guns.

After Hertz Global Holdings Inc. placed an order of 100,000 Teslas—the biggest single electric car purchase ever—Tesla officially hit the $1 trillion market cap for the first time.

Keep Reading Show less

Northwest Arkansas is urging Austinites to move once again with a free one-way ticket giveaway. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

While Northwest Arkansas isn't exactly looking to be a breakfast taco-loving, live music-having tech hub, it is branding itself as the Austin of yesteryear. And who better to come to the quickly-growing paradise than Austinites themselves?

Keep Reading Show less