Travis County and Austin reached the threshold of COVID-19 cases to qualify for Stage 5 of Austin Public Health’s risk-based guidelines. This means that COVID-19 hospitalizations stayed or are above a daily average of 50 for three consecutive days. On Friday, Travis County recorded 546 new COVID-19 cases.
Despite the continuing increase of COVID-19 cases in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott still has not lifted the executive order he issued last week. He had banned mask mandates by local governments and health officials. Because of this, many counties and cities in Texas could not do anything regarding the mandatory use of masks. Abbott said that they should already be shifting the responsibility to citizens and not mandating them.
He said in part, “Texans have mastered the safe practices that help to prevent and avoid the spread of COVID-19” and that the use of masks and practice of other health and safety protocols is a “personal responsibility rather than government mandates.”
The hospitalizations in most parts of Texas and the United States are due to unvaccinated citizens. The Delta variant is likewise the top threat in the country. Abbott said that the vaccines remain in abundant supply and should be the number one defense against the virus. Although many citizens remain unvaccinated, it remains voluntary to get a shot in Texas. The vaccination percentage in Travis County, as of Friday, was at 63 percent.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention presented data Friday saying that the Delta virus is causing more severe illness than other variants. However, they emphasized that although most hospitalizations are unvaccinated people, vaccinated people may still be as contagious as the former. So, they still recommend the use of masks and observance of other health and safety protocols.
In Thursday’s orders, Abbott further stated that no local government entity could require vaccines or mask mandates. If his orders are violated, local officials or health leaders could face fines up to $1,000 each day, he had added.