Vaccinated Austinites urged to wear masks during Delta strain COVID-19 outbreak


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In a major setback for the local restaurant industry and public health in general, Austin Public Health (APH) recommends that everyone – vaccinated, unvaccinated and partially vaccinated – wear masks when indoors . The APH is also urging eligible unvaccinated people to get vaccinated as soon as possible, as COVID-19 cases increase rapidly in the Austin area due to the highly transmissible delta variant.

For restaurants and bars, this means that customers in Austin and Travis County are urged to continue to wear their masks when not sitting down to eat and drink, whether indoors or out. outside. Customers should also keep their masks on when collecting takeout and delivery orders. Workers in the service sector should also keep their masks on while working.

The new recommendations were announced as Austin and Travis County are set to revert to Step 4 of the region’s risk-based guidelines (statistically, the area should already have reached this benchmark), which determine how masks should be used based on COVID- related data. Currently, there is a seven-day moving average of 125 new cases with 31 new hospital admissions; there are 1,061 active cases in the county, with a total of 196 hospitalizations; and the county’s positivity rate is 9.6 percent, which is up three percent from last week; Texas-wide, it’s 11.52 percent. On July 20, the APH confirmed four cases of the delta variant in the Travis County area. (The city moved to stage 3 in mid-July.)

“We know the delta variant is here and it’s rampant in our community,” Dr. Desmar Walkes, the new Austin-Travis County health authority, said in a statement. “It will continue to cause more cases and more hospitalizations if we don’t come together to stop it. Do your part – wear a mask inside and get vaccinated if you haven’t already. ”

Of the Travis County population, 62.16% of eligible people were fully vaccinated, with 71.20% partially vaccinated, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Children under 12 are still not allowed to be vaccinated, although a vaccine for children 5 and older should be ready by mid-winter. Of the eligible population, only 51.6% of Texans are fully immunized.

It is mainly unvaccinated people who contract COVID-19 at this stage, these people are now very susceptible to the contagious virus, which could lead to hospitalization, long-term health problems and death. This does not mean that people who are vaccinated are unlikely to catch the virus – they are – but these so-called “breakthrough” cases tend not to be as serious. This is another reason to get vaccinated.

If and when the city enters step 4, the guidelines require vaccinated people to wear masks for indoor and outdoor events, as well as to remain masked when dining out; people are allowed to take off their masks when seated for actual eating and drinking as directed in step 4. Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated people are discouraged from visiting restaurants, shops and travel unless it is necessary, and should not participate in any indoor or outdoor event.

Austin has tried to implement its own stricter rules twice during the pandemic so far and has had to contend with Texas. First, the state sued the city three times over the New Year’s restrictions, and the case was ultimately closed in the spring. Then Austin continued to demand masks and social distancing after Abbott lifted all COVID restrictions in March, to which Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a complaint that was dismissed.

These precedents will make it nearly impossible for the city and county to impose rigid mandates to limit the spread of the Delta variant.

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About James Almanza

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