Travis County has been yo-yo-ing between low and medium levels of community spread COVID-19 for the past three weeks.
On Thursday, the county moved back into the medium level after a week hiatus in the low level.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses key statistics to set the community spread level on a county-by-county basis. It looks at the seven-day transmission rate, which is the number of cases per 100,000 people. Anything above 200 case puts a county into the medium level.
This week, Travis County hit 206.29. Last week, that number was at 190.12. The week before, the county hit medium level at 202.99 for the first time since the CDC started this new measurement system at the end of February.
Hays, Williamson and Caldwell counties are also in the medium level. Bastrop County is in the low level.
The numbers, though, are nothing close to what Central Texas experienced during the omicron surge in January, when for several days, the transmission rate was more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 people.
The CDC also looks at new COVID-19 hospital admission and percentage of staffed beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.
Hospitalizations for the metropolitan area have been on the rise as well. The seven-day number of new hospital admissions per 100,000 was 5.8. Last week it was 4.9, June 9, it was 4.0. The seven-day percentage of inpatient beds occupied by people with COVID-19 was 2.5%. Last week it was 2.1%. On June 9, it was 1.5%.
On Thursday, there were 92 people with COVID-19 hospitalized including 21 new admissions, 14 people were in intensive care units and three people were on ventilators. The seven-day hospitalization rate was 82.3. For most of April and May, that seven-day hospitalization rate was in the 30s, with some upper 20s.
What’s the difference between low and medium?
For people up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccinations:
Low: Taking precautions is optional when gathering, dining and shopping.
Medium: Precautions are optional when gathering, dining and shopping. But wear a mask when social distancing is not possible.
High: Use precautions when gathering, dining and shopping.
For people who are at higher risk:
Low: Precautions are optional when gathering, dining and shopping.
Medium: Use precautions when gathering, dining and shopping.
High: Use precautions when gathering, dining and shopping.
Precautions mean wearing a mask, social distancing and avoiding crowded situations.
“We need everyone to do their part, especially those who are at higher risk,” Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority, has said previously. “Wear a mask inside when gathering with others. We know that this will help protect loved ones at risk for poor outcomes and our hospital system.”
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What does it take to get to a high level of spread?
To be at a high level of spread, a county would have to:
- • Be above 200 in new cases per 100,000 people.
- • Have a seven-day average of new hospital admissions for COVID of more than 10 per 100,000 people. Travis County is currently at 5.8.
- • Have 10% of staffed hospital beds occupied by people with COVID-19. Travis County is currently at 2.5%.
What is causing the spread?
We are gathering and traveling again this summer. Kids are in summer camps. We’ve gone back to life that looked more like 2019 than 2020 or 2021.
Travis County also now has BA.2, BA.4 and BA.5 versions of the omicron variant, which come with high levels of contagiousness. BA.4 and BA.5 caused a sure of COVID-19 cases in Europe this spring.
Tracking COVID-19: New COVID-19 omicron variants show up in Travis County as cases rise
What can we do to control the spread?
Everyone six months and older can now get vaccinated. Last week, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for youngest children were approved.
Everyone 5 years old and older is eligible to get vaccinated and eligible for a booster five months after the original series (two doses for mRNA vaccines for most people, three doses for immune compromised people). Adults 50 and older can get a second booster four months after their first booster.
Austin Public Health has all ages of vaccines available at its walk-up clinic at Old Sims Elementary, 1203 Springdale Road, 2-7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays.
Vaccines: Kids 6 months to 4 years now eligible for COVID vaccine. Here’s what you need to know.
Vaccinations can help prevent severe disease and death, experts say. That’s really the goal of the vaccines: preventing hospitalizations and death, while keeping hospitals available to non-COVID-19 patients.
If you’re not feeling well, take a COVID-19 test, either through Austin Public Health, your primary care doctor, a testing center or pharmacy or an at-home test (though, those are starting to be scarce again in Austin).
Austin Public Health has testing available 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday at Metz Elementary, 84 Robert T Martinez Jr. St. Tests are free at that site.
You also can get free at-home tests to have on hand through the U.S. government.
Know when to quarantine or isolate
Quarantine if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, but you have not tested positive yet. You need to quarantine for five full days and then wear a mask for the next five days. If you have had COVID-19 in the past three months, you do not need to quarantine unless you have symptoms, but you should wear a mask for 10 days.
If you test positive, you enter isolation even if you do not have any symptoms. You should isolate for five full days and then continue to isolate until you test negative and are fever-free for 24 hours. Wear a mask for the next five days just to be sure.
The day you test positive or need to quarantine is considered Day 0. The next day is Day 1.
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