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Another COVID-19 surge is starting to show itself in Austin as omicron sweeps the nation. In response, Austin Public Health is upping its COVID recommended precautions by officially going into Stage 4 of its risk-based guidelines.

At Stage 4, fully vaccinated individuals are recommended to wear masks when gathering with people outside of their household, traveling, dining and shopping; booster shots are suggested as well. Partially or unvaccinated individuals should wear masks, avoid gatherings with people outside of their household, only travel and shop if essential, and choose takeaway/curbside options for dining; it is also advised to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible.

APH made the move to Stage 4 as the community transmission rate is at a high 404.46. The state average is 319.7. Cases have been on the rise since the first omicron cases were discovered in Austin earlier this month. The variant has shown much faster transmission than delta, though it is still unclear whether the sickness that ensues is milder or not.

The seven-day moving average of hospitalizations jumped to 36 on Tuesday, up from 28 the day before. Earlier this month, the COVID-19 Modeling Consortium by the University of Texas projected that community transmission of omicron could pose record hospitalizations and surpass all previous peaks.

"COVID-19 hospitalizations and the community transmission rate are surging once again. This means our ICUs are filling and that emergency care could become compromised for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. We must act now to protect both,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler.

Heading into New Year's Eve weekend, health officials are asking Austinites to be COVID conscious of how they celebrate. They point to kids returning back to school soon and that early data indicates the omicron variant poses a dangerous risk to a younger population.

“As we get closer to the New Year celebration, I encourage everyone to follow the Stage 4 guidelines and mask up when recommended. These small preventive measures will go a long way when it comes to keeping our entire community safe," Travis County Judge Andy Brown said.


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