Austin health officials move back to Stage 4 restrictions

AUSTIN (Talk1370.com) -- Local health officials say Travis County is back to Stage 4 in Austin Public Health's risk-based coronavirus guidelines, one week ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Interim health authority Dr. Mark Escott said the decision is based on a lack of available medical workers to staff the area's intensive care units.

The guidelines call for businesses to voluntarily limit occupancy to 25 to 50 percent, and for everyone to avoid non-essential travel. Those at higher risk should avoid social gatherings of more than 2 people, avoid non-essential travel, and avoid all but essential dining and shopping.

"We can still do something about it," Escott said. "We can still affect the increase we're seeing. Through our actions, through our call to vigilance, which has been renewed, we can cut that down."

As of Wednesday evening, Travis County reported 2,140 active COVID-19 cases, with 204 patients hospitalized across the five county metro area. 63 of those were in intensive care.

The 7-day rolling average of new hospitalizations was at 32, and Escott said health officials decided to lower the Stage 4 threshold from 40 to 30 based on available staffing.

Travis County Judge Andy Brown, along with Austin Mayor Steve Adler, joined the briefing to share their thoughts as Austin heads towards the Thanksgiving holiday. Brown said that Travis County residents should not "sacrifice future holidays with your families by ignoring the warnings you’re hearing from health professionals."