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All Austinites asked to mask as health officials shift to Stage 4 for first time in months

All residents are asked to wear masks in Austin as city reenters Stage 4 level of COVID risk. (Charlie L. Harper III/Austonia)

After a week at the Stage 4 threshold, local health officials have officially made the shift to Stage 4, according to their risk-based guidelines.

At this stage, all residents—including those who are vaccinated—are recommended to wear masks at all times while indoors, and unvaccinated individuals are asked not to gather at all and only to make essential trips.

This is the first time since February of this year Travis County reached Stage 4; local health officials announced the shift to Stage 3 last week. Since July 4, the seven-day moving average for hospitalizations has increased by over 203% from 63 to 202 hospitalizations, according to Austin Public Health data. There were 39 new hospitalizations alone on Thursday.

Earlier this week, University of Texas researchers projected the city could see a 92% drop in hospitalizations if residents comply with Stage 4 recommendations.

Ahead of the official announcement, health officials were asking all residents to mask up as if in Stage 4. Independent businesses, such as Waterloo Records and Book People, have adopted officials' recommendations and asked patrons to wear a mask once more. APH expects with the official shift, others will follow suit. As for bars, they say people should wear masks. APH said its recommendations will not affect large events, such as Austin FC games, from operating.

The recommendation is not legally enforceable due to Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order prohibiting mask mandates in May—which he recently said he wouldn't reverse.

The Delta variant—which is now responsible for most new COVID cases, according to the CDC—has been of particular concern to health officials, as it is more contagious and produces more severe symptoms. There have been four confirmed Delta variant cases in Travis County, but officials say there is likely more that have gone undetected due to testing delays.

The number of COVID patients in area ICUs have increased nearly 242% from 24 people on July 4 to 82 people on Thursday, APH reports. With nearly all of hospitalized patients proven to be unvaccinated, APH is asking residents to get vaccinated to prevent the spread.

The county has yet to reach its goal vaccination rate of 70%—the threshold for herd immunity—and currently sits at 62% of the population over the age of 12 fully vaccinated.

"Each of us has a personal choice to make: Will we do our part to stop disease transmission by getting vaccinated and taking the necessary precautions to protect ourselves and others, or will we be part of its continued spread?" Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said Friday.

For info on how to get vaccinated, click here.


Tito's releases (not so?) ugly sweater line for the holidays, profits to charity

Tito's Handmade Vodka

Show your love for Tito's and for the community this year with a wide selection of not that ugly, uglyish, ugly, uglier, and ugliest holiday sweaters.

There's lots choose from, and plenty of accessories like scarves and socks, plus gear for your dog, too.

All of the items can be purchased online or at the Love, Tito’s Retail Store in Austin, TX. 100% of all net proceeds from online or in-store purchases go to one of the nonprofits we’ve teamed up with.

Click here to see the entire collection in the Tito's store.

Mac and Cheese Fest and Free Art Exhibit
Waterloo Greenway, Good Vibrations Installation

🗓 All weekend

🎨 Creek Show Art Exhibit

Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities

All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park

✨ Mozart's Light Show

This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.

6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703

🗓 Saturday

🥊 Kickboxing in the Park

This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.

10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park

🛍 The Front Market

Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.

11 a.m - 5 p.m | 📍Ani's Day and Night - 7107 E Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78741

🗓 Sunday

🧀 Mac and Cheese Fest

Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.

11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway