Austin Public Health Updates COVID-Related Guidance For Vaccinated And Partially Vaccinated People
Austin Public Health updated its COVID-19 risk-based guidelines Tuesday to include guidance for vaccinated and partially vaccinated residents.
The guidelines state that people who are fully vaccinated can attend private indoor and outdoor gatherings, travel, dine and shop. Whether they’re advised to wear masks in these settings depends on the county’s current risk level. Health officials determine that level based on the average number of daily COVID-19 hospital admissions in the area.
Right now, that average is 17, so Austin-Travis County is in stage 3. At this level, fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks at private outdoor gatherings, but should still wear them at private indoor gatherings. They should also wear them when traveling and dining and shopping, according to the chart.
People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.
In stages 1 and 2, fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks at private indoor or outdoor gatherings. Only in stage 1 are fully vaccinated people told they don’t need to wear masks when dining or shopping. They should always wear them when traveling, according to the chart.
Partially vaccinated and unvaccinated people can attend private indoor and outdoor gatherings, travel and dine and shop during stages 1-3, but they’re advised to wear masks when doing so. They’re advised not to take part in these activities, unless doing so is essential, in stages 4 and 5.
APH says people need to keep following requirements of local businesses, venues and schools no matter their vaccination status.
“We want people to get vaccinated,” Dr. Mark Escott, interim Austin-Travis County health authority, said in a press release. “Now and certainly in the future as the vaccination rate improves, there will be improved freedom associated with vaccination. In other words, the need to continue masking and the other necessary precautions will continue to decrease for those who are vaccinated.”
The new risk-based guidelines also include updated thresholds for each risk stage. To enter stage 2, the area needs to see between five and 14 daily COVID-19 hospital admissions on average.
To enter stage 1, the number needs to fall below five, or there needs to be 70%-90% herd immunity through vaccination. APH says other factors, like the local COVID-19 positivity rate and ICU and ventilator capacity can also affect decisions to move stages.
“As a result of both declining length of hospital stays and declining mortality rates, we feel comfortable reassessing the transition of stages,” Escott said. “We expect that there is going to be a long tail in terms of achieving vaccine herd immunity or completely getting COVID-19 out of our community. So, we expect that we may see a slow declining plateau of cases, and as the vaccination rate improves in the community, and we hit 70% to 90% vaccinated we could look at transitioning to Stage 1 safely.”
Currently, about 43% of Travis County residents 16 and older are fully vaccinated, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.