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Austin’s top doctor: Stage 5 restrictions could trigger curfew

 AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s top doctor said Thursday a curfew is among the possibilities if rising COVID-19 hospitalization numbers trigger stricter local guidelines.

Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott told Travis County commissioners right now, most modeling projections have our area moving from Stage 4 to Stage 5 guidelines by the end of the month. He added that depending on the rate of new hospital admissions, moving to Stage 5 could even be considered sometime next week.

Projections can change with the community’s behavior, Escott said. He asked the community again to commit to social distancing, wear masks, and avoid holiday travel.

“We simply can’t take the risk of having a substantial catastrophic surge,” he said.

Austin Public Health reports 54 new patients were admitted to hospitals with COVID-19 on Thursday.
That increases the seven-day average to 40 per day, the highest it has been since July.

Under current guidelines, health officials would not move our area to Stage 5 until that seven-day average moves to 50 new hospital admissions per day.

Our area has never been under Stage 5, but context is important. Last month, the city lowered the Stage 4 and 5 thresholds over concerns of not having enough hospital staff. In July, the seven-day average for new COVID-19 hospitalizations reached 75.

Along with a curfew, Escott said Stage 5 recommendations could include eliminating afterschool activities or discouraging dining in at restaurants.

As far as restrictions go, the city and county have limited authority. For example, business openings and closures are determined at the state level.

In October, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said capacity limits on businesses would only change if 15% of hospital patients had COVID-19.

The Austin-Travis County area has not hit that threshold, but cities like El Paso, Amarillo, Abilene, Laredo, Midland, Lubbock, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Waco have.

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