Officials discuss next steps as Austin elevated to Stage 5 restrictions

Austin-Travis County officials are discussing raising the level 5 COVID-19 risk level

Local leaders talk about the reasons for moving up to the top and what it means.

Local executives held a press conference today to announce that Austin has been raised to Level 5 of COVID restrictions. It’s the first time Austin Public Health has officially raised the risk of the COVID-19 community to its highest level since the pandemic began.

Officials say the change came due to a rapid surge in hospital admissions, cases, and test positivity rates across the community. Other indicators such as the number of patients in the intensive care unit, ventilator use, and the 7-day moving average of cases are also trending upwards.

“This is a critical moment for the community,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County’s Interim Health Authority, in a press release. “We must now reduce the spread of the virus in the community. We cannot allow any further increase in cases and hospitalizations after the upcoming holidays. Our hospitals will be overwhelmed and people will die unnecessarily.”

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RELATED: Austin-Travis County COVID-19 Orders Extended Through February 16

With the Austin area moving to Level 5, the new guidelines include:

  • No gatherings with anyone outside your household
  • Eating and shopping should be limited to essential excursions
  • Avoid unnecessary travel
  • Businesses are advised to work through contactless options (e.g., roadside, delivery).

Officials remind people that the risk-based guidelines are not changes to local rules, rules or regulations for companies, but guidelines for individual actions and behavior. However, changes to orders or additional restrictions may be required in the coming days to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed.

Austin-Travis County’s officials also urge the public to remain vigilant and practice good hygiene, physical and social distancing, and wear masks to prevent the disease from spreading and to protect one another. Avoiding gatherings outside your household is especially important this holiday season. You can get safety recommendations here.

RELATED: Many Still Travel, Though Health officials advise against it

Many still travel, although health officials advise against it

Health officials advise against traveling on vacation to see loved ones, but FOX 7 Austin’s John Krinjak notes that many will still take to the streets or fly.

Some Austin city services will be changed due to the upgrade to level 5.

Austin Resource Recovery’s regular roadside services will not change. However, the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center will be closed to the public from December 24th. Residents can request a contactless collection of household waste at austintexas.gov/dropoff. Items for reuse or recycling cannot currently be picked up.

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The Austin Animal Center will close to the public on December 24th. After December 25th, adoptions will be carried out virtually and carers, adopters and rescue workers will be picked up from the roadside. The facility does not accept non-emergency surrenders from owners, and stray animal finders must make an admission request at Austin 311.

Changes to services and facilities for Austin Parks and Recreation will be posted on their website.

Capital Metro also issued a statement regarding the height that it says:

“Since Austin Public Health has determined that Austin and Travis Counties now have a Level 5 risk for COVID-19, Capital Metro recommends critical trips only to protect operators and customers who need to use public transit for critical trips. All regular trips Flights Operations will continue and COVID-19 safety protocols will remain in place. All customers must wear face covers and maintain social distance while using Capital Metro’s services. All vehicles are cleaned daily and electrostatic cleaning is used to ensure that the surfaces are being disinfected. For more information on COVID-19 protocols and security measures, visit CapMetro.org/COVID19. ”

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