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As Austin reaches Stage 5 threshold, APH shifts herd immunity goal to 80%

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With more research done on the COVID-19 Delta variant, Austin Public Health is upping its goal of 70% vaccinated to at least 80% due to the extreme virality of the strain.


As more Delta cases are identified—up to 29 cases are confirmed in Travis County—health officials are urging the unvaccinated to get their shots to contain the spread and relieve hospitals from reaching full capacity.

Austin-Travis County surpassed the Stage 5 threshold on Friday and has reached a seven-day average of 61 hospital admissions. However, Austin health leaders have yet to make an official shift as the Delta variant calls for new guidance, APH Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said at a joint Travis County Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday morning.

The new guidance has yet to be released, but Walkes said it will take into account the viral load of Delta on both unvaccinated and vaccinated people.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed the Delta variant was as contagious as chickenpox, which has a herd immunity threshold of at least 90% vaccinated.

Although 63.42% of those eligible in Travis County are fully vaccinated, breakthrough cases—where vaccinated people are contracting COVID-19—are being identified. APH has identified 1,496 breakthrough cases of the roughly 800,000 vaccinated. Most breakthrough cases are showing less severe symptoms or are asymptomatic, according to APH.

Health officials are still asking residents to wear masks, although the city cannot mandate any masking orders due to an executive order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

"Our challenge is going to be whether we're going to stand as a community and everyone who can get vaccinated, get vaccinated, and everyone wear a mask—that's what it's going to take," Walkes said.

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