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Austin Updates COVID-19 Guidelines to Include Mask Guidance for Vaccinated People

Those who are fully vaccinated can attend private outdoor events without wearing masks

Two people wearing masks pointing at a laptop
Vaccinated people are still asked to wear masks when dining out
Nadia Chaudhury is the editor of Eater Austin covering food and pop culture, as well as a photographer, writer, and frequent panel moderator and podcast guest.

On Tuesday, May 4, Austin Public Health updated its COVID-19 guidelines to include mask guidance for people who have been fully vaccinated. As part of Austin’s and Travis County’s stage 3 status, fully vaccinated people can now go to private indoor events while wearing masks, and private outdoor events unmasked. While dining and shopping, fully vaccinated people are still recommended to wear masks, though masks can come off during the acts of actually eating and drinking.

These risk-based guidelines are suggestions, not mandates. Despite the state’s cancellation of COVID-19 mitigation measures, the city of Austin and Travis County are still requiring masks and social distancing through Tuesday, May 18, under Health Authority Rules. The changes follow the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines for vaccinated people.

The stage levels are determined by the seven-day moving average of COVID-19-related hospital admissions, the positivity rate, and the number of patients in the ICU and/or on ventilators. Travis County’s seven-day moving average is 17 cases per week with a four percent positivity rate, and there are 788 active cases and 112 hospitalizations. Thirty-four percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.

Dr. Mark Escott, the interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority, still urges caution as people are getting vaccinated. “As the vaccination rate improves, there will be improved freedom associated with vaccination,” he said in a press release.

Escott also predicts that when the population is 70 to 90 percent vaccinated, the city will be able to de-escalate to Stage 1, where vaccinated people won’t have to wear masks in Austin (aside from traveling outside of the city).