AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Austin-Travis County omicron surge has peaked in hospitalizations and case counts are declining, the local health authority said at a joint meeting of commissioners. from Travis County, Austin City Council on Tuesday.
The 7-day rolling average of hospitalizations, a metric widely used to inform the COVID-19 risk-based guidelines we find ourselves in, was at 61 on Monday. It has been falling since late January, when the moving average was double 128. The threshold to reach Step 4 is 50.
“We’re still in stage 5, however, we’re heading towards stage 4,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes of the Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “It will probably happen in the next 10 days or so.”
Walkes said they would take their time making the decision to move to less restrictive guidelines and reminded city and county leaders that other factors outside of hospitalizations such as community transmission rate (CTR) and the positivity rate – which are still high – are also guiding this movement.
The region moved to stage 5 of the COVID-19 risk-based guidelines in early January after seeing a rapid increase in cases and hospitalizations as the omicron variant spread rapidly in central Texas.
So far, no cases of the BA.2 omicron subvariant have been detected in Austin-Travis County and Walkes says that even if this subvariant is detected, she suspects it won’t have a significant impact on moving to Stage 4 risk-based guidelines. .
“I think we will find that we will always have this drop in the number of cases because our community is doing what it needs to do to protect itself,” she explained. Yet, while our community includes people who are unprotected against the virus, the possibility of new variants is always significant.
Stage 4 risk-based guidelines would always recommend mask-wearing regardless of vaccination status in public places.
Health officials argue that getting vaccinated is the best protection against a severe case or death from COVID-19. About 71% of Travis County residents are fully vaccinated, of whom only about 30% have received their boosters, leaders reported Tuesday.
“The situation of increasing our vaccination rates will continue to be an ongoing struggle that really requires a community effort,” Walkes said.