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Masks No Longer Required In Austin, Travis County

Two men wear masks while walking.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Austin and Travis County will no longer require masks.

Masks are no longer required in Austin and Travis County.

Officials have turned local health rules related to face coverings into recommendations. Masking in public spaces is now optional, unless a business requires customers to wear masks.

The change comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that vaccinated individuals don’t need to wear masks in most settings, and Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order earlier this week prohibiting government entities in the state from requiring people to wear masks. The governor's order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Friday.

During a news conference Friday, interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said he changed the rules into recommendations because they conflicted with Abbott’s order.

“Now is not the time for us to be in conflict,” Escott said. “Now is the time for us to focus on the message. The message is that unvaccinated people or partially vaccinated people need to wear masks when they’re out in public. Those who are unvaccinated need to get vaccinated. This is the best protection that we have right now.”

Austin-Travis County now has the following recommendations for people who are fully vaccinated:

  • Resume normal activities without wearing a mask, except when required by a business
  • Resume domestic travel without testing and quarantine before or after travel
  • Resume international travel without testing, unless required by the destination, and refrain from quarantine after arriving back in the United States
  • Refrain from testing and quarantine following a known exposure, unless you develop symptoms

Health officials advise people who are partially vaccinated or not vaccinated to keep wearing masks in public.

“Masks still play an important role in further reducing the spread of COVID-19 and will remain a recommended practice for those who are not fully vaccinated, at least until we reach herd immunity,” Escott said in a press release.

APH says 70% of the county needs to be fully vaccinated in order for it to reach herd immunity. Currently, 49.42% of people 12 and older are fully vaccinated in the county, according to state data.

Escott said based on the data APH has for vaccinated people in Travis County, 99.9% of them have not yet developed COVID-19 infections.

“That’s better than the best flu shot we’ve ever had,” he said.

And for those who are vaccinated, Escott said it’s time for them to be able to “relax a little bit.”

Marisa Charpentier is KUT's assistant digital editor. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @marisacharp.
Sangita Menon is a general assignment reporter for KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @sangitamenon.
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