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Austin health officials discuss potential of moving to Stage 2, reaching herd immunity

Austin Chief Medical Officer Mark Escott said Austin could downgrade to Stage 2 in the risk-based COVID-19 guidelines by next week.

AUSTIN, Texas — In a question-and-answer session with the media on Friday, Austin Public Health (APH) said Austin could be downgraded to Stage 2 of the risk-based COVID-19 guidelines as early as next week.

"I'm excited to see that our cases continue to drop, our hospitalizations continue to drop, with only 105 individuals hospitalized as of yesterday," said Dr. Mark Escott, the former interim health authority and newly announced chief medical officer for the City of Austin. "Looking at the numbers and the trends, it appears that as early as today, we may enter into Stage 2 territory. And, of course, we want to continue to monitor the data and ensure that we stay there, and continue to go down. But that means a possible transition into Stage 2 as early as next week."

Escott said this did not happen "by luck."

"It's happened because of our community's commitment to making it happen," he added. "The commitment to be vaccinated, the commitment to wear masks in public, to safely distance, to continue to stay home when we're sick."

Escott said that for the past seven days, 85% of new COVID-19 cases have been in individuals younger than 50. He said this means the community must work harder to get people in this age range vaccinated.

Janet Pichette, chief epidemiologist with APH, added that they've seen a 50% drop in cases since this point last week. She said her department is now starting to spend more time researching vaccine breakthroughs, reinfections and variant cases. 

Dr. Escott later added that while reaching heard immunity nationwide or globally is unlikely, he is confident that the Austin community can do so locally.

"My hope is that people will continue to make the choice to be vaccinated and to do that soon," he said.

As vaccine manufacturers edge closer to gaining approval to vaccinate children, APH leaders also said they hope parents will consider signing their kids up.

"I encourage parents, talk with your health care providers ... but also really think about what is the best thing for your family and make that decision just so you can protect yourselves and protect each other," said Cassandra DeLeon, APH assistant director, who said she chose to vaccinate her 16-year-old son.

In addition to scheduling appointments online, APH is also offering walk-up appointments at the following locations:

For more vaccine information from APH, click here.

For a closer look at local COVID-19 data, click here.

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