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(Sonia Garcia)

Austin Public Health is downgrading to Stage 3 of its COVID risk-based guidelines as of Tuesday, attributing the shift to declining COVID hospital admissions and more vaccinations in the community.


At Stage 3, APH recommends those vaccinated continue to mask up indoors only in private settings and are free to go without a mask when outdoors, dining or shopping. Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated individuals are asked to mask up both indoors and outdoors when not able to socially distance. Additionally, high-risk individuals are advised to avoid crowded indoor venues and unessential travel.

COVID hospitalizations have been in the Stage 3 threshold since the start of the month with a moving average of new hospitalizations at 19.4 as of Monday. Austin Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said almost all hospitalized are unvaccinated in Austin.

"Now is not the time to let our guard down. While our numbers are dramatically better than they were at the peak of this surge, we need to remain committed with the widespread, highly transmissible Delta variant," Walkes said.

COVID cases have been on a steady decline since the end of August after a summer surge that impacted hospitals. The positivity rate of COVID has dropped 60% from 14.8% to 5.9% from its peak in early August.

Hospitals are seeing relief with local ICU patients decreasing over 62% from 237 patients on Aug. 22 to 90 on Oct. 11. Pediatric cases continue to be a concern with eight kids admitted to hospitals Monday and two going to PICU.

Health officials are urging residents to wear a mask to continue showing less COVID risk in the community and to get vaccinated. Of those eligible for the vaccine, 71% are fully vaccinated.

"When we work together to wear masks, get vaccinated, and stay home when we are sick, we can protect our community, our hospitals, our healthcare workers, and drive COVID cases down," APH Health Director Adrienne Sturrup said.

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