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Austin-Travis County moves down to Stage 3 of COVID-19 risk guidelines, residents should still use caution

by: Russell Falcon

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin and Travis County are now in Stage 3 of its risk-based guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The move is due to lower positivity rates and cases, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said on Tuesday.

“We are moving to Stage 3 because our key indicators are trending in the right direction,” said Escott.

This doesn’t mean that residents should relax precautionary measures, however. Escott, Austin’s interim top doctor, still recommends keeping practices like rigorous hand-washing, mask-wearing and social distancing in place.

  • FULL COVERAGE: The latest coronavirus news in Austin, Texas, the United States and the world

“As much as possible, though, we would like individuals to continue to act as if we are still in Stage 4 so that we can be in a better place as school starts,” said Escott.

APH updated risk-based guidelines chart as of August 10, 2020 (APH)

Stage 3 includes the following guidelines:

  • Higher-risk individuals (those over age 65 and/or those with chronic medical conditions) should avoid non-essential travel, dining and shopping
  • Everyone — including those not at high risk — should avoid social gatherings and any gatherings with more than 10 people

“Our key indicators are all showing that we as a community are reducing our COVID-19 numbers, but we need to remain focused on improving the health outcomes for communities of color, who continue to be disproportionately impacted by the virus,” said Stephanie Hayden, APH Director.

Positivity rate is a key factor in determining risk stages, Austin Public Health explains. The rate is calculated using the number of positive cases divided by the number of overall tests being administered.

“Our goal is to have a positivity rate below 5% by September 8, when most Austin-Travis County students start their school year,” said Dr. Escott. “In addition to an overall positivity rate below 5%, every individual race and ethnic group in Austin should have a positivity rate below 5%.”

On August 4, Escott announced the city of Austin and Travis County would remain in Stage 4, despite an aggressive decline in cases since mid-July.

Austin-Travis County first entered Stage 4 in June, when the area’s seven-day moving average for hospitalizations in Austin reached 20.

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