A recent resurgence in COVID-19 cases across Texas has prompted local leaders in metropolitan areas to take precautions in hopes of limiting the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant.
Local health officials in Austin-Travis County announced the shift to Stage 4 in a virtual press conference Friday morning. At this stage, all residents—including those who are vaccinated—are recommended to wear masks at all times while indoors, and unvaccinated individuals are asked not to gather at all and only to make essential trips. This is the first time since February of this year Travis County reached Stage 4; local health officials announced the shift to Stage 3 last week.
The announcements come amid a statewide rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. On Thursday, Texas’s seven-day average for new cases was just over 4,500—a 177 percent increase over the past two weeks—and the state was recording 25 deaths per day. Hospitalizations have also increased 47% over the same period, though more than 99% of hospital admissions in Texas are among unvaccinated individuals.
Though Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on all local pandemic-related mandates in May prohibits enforcement, leaders and health experts have implored the public to take action to protect themselves and their communities. Abbott has recently stated that he will not impose another mask mandate, though the governor is facing mounting criticism for prioritizing politics over the safety of Texans.
“COVID is surging in Texas as schools prepare to reopen. But Greg Abbott won’t allow schools to mandate mask wearing,” wrote Julián Castro on Twitter this morning. “He’s so afraid of losing his primary—losing his office—that he’ll put millions of children, their educators and families at risk.”