December 23, 2020
APH Updates for Austin/Travis County Child Care Providers December 23, 2020
Austin-Travis County Moves to COVID-19 Community Risk STAGE 5
Today, Dec. 23, for the time since the pandemic’s start, Austin Public Health (APH) has officially increased the COVID-19 community risk level to Stage 5, the highest level.
This change was made today based on a rapid increase in hospital admissions, cases, and test positivity rates across the community. Other key indicators for stage changes, include the number of patients in the ICU, ventilator usage, and the 7-day moving average of cases, are all trending upward.
“This is a critical moment for the community,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “We must decrease the spread of the virus in the community now. We cannot allow another increase in cases and hospitalizations following the upcoming holidays. Our hospitals will become overwhelmed and people will needlessly die.”
Stage five recommendations include:
- No gatherings with anyone outside of your household
- Dining and shopping should be limited to essential trips
- Avoid non-essential travel
- Businesses are recommended to operate through contactless options (I.e. curbside, delivery)
The risk-based guidelines are not changes to local orders, rules or regulations for businesses; they are guidelines for individual actions and behaviors. However, changes to orders or additional restrictions may be necessary in the coming days in order to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.
New City of Austin and Travis County Orders Issued
Effective 11:59 P.M. on December 23, 2020, the City of Austin and Travis County issued new orders that will continue through Monday, January 11, 2020. The new Orders are available here under the Current Orders drop-down box.
All individuals currently living within the City of Austin and Travis County are STRONGLY URGED TO STAY AT HOME IN THEIR RESIDENCE especially between the hours 10:30 PM and 5:00 AM. For the purposes of this Order, residence include hotels, motels, shared rentals, and similar facilities. Additionally, it is HIGHLY ENCOURAGED and RECOMMENDED that individuals utilize drive-thru, delivery, take-out, curbside, or pick up services for both restaurants and retail businesses.
New HHS Emergency Rule for Child Care Programs
On 12/22/2020, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission adopted a new Emergency Rule, 26 TAC §745.10005, about COVID-19 Precautions. Per the Rule:
- It continues to be a requirement that programs screen all adults and children daily for COVID-19, close contact with a COVID-positive person, and signs and symptoms of COVID-19 before allowing entry to the operation. An operation must deny entry to anyone meeting a screening criterion.
- In addition to screening questions, screening must include a temperature check of each person upon arrival.
- Per the City of Austin Health Authority, anyone with a temperature over 99.6°F should be denied entry to a child care program.
- In most cases, drop-off and pick-up should continue to occur outside the operation.
- Caregivers and staff are required to notify the operation if they experience any illness or symptoms that may be COVID-19 related.
- Operations are required to consult with local or state health authority if a caregiver or staff has been in close contact as defined by the CDC with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and the operation must follow the local or state health authority’s recommendations.
- To consult with the local health department in this situation, programs should call the Austin Public Health Nurse Line at 512-972-5560.
- The rule clarifies that someone who had close contact with a person who had a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 or is under investigation for COVID-19, may be allowed to enter the operation if the local or state health authority has determined the person’s presence at the operation would not put others at risk.
- For individuals who have been in close contact with a COVID-positive person, the CDC notes that a 14-day quarantine is most protective. However, the CDC allows for shorter quarantine options. APH offers a “How Long to Quarantine” flowchart available here. The flowchart outlines in what circumstances a person should quarantine for 14 days and in what situations they could consider a shorter quarantine period. Child care programs that would like to continue advising a 14-day quarantine may do so.
APH Strongly Urges Masks for those Age 2 and Older
Austin and Travis County require masks be work by anyone age ten and older when around people who don’t live in their household. However, the CDC recommends the use of masks for those age two and older when around people who don’t live in their household. APH strongly recommends that:
- Child care programs consider requiring or strongly urging all children age two and older to wear masks (such as a fabric face covering) indoors and outdoors when not eating or sleeping; and that
- Families assist child care programs by having their children age two and older wear masks while in child care when not eating or sleeping.
APH recommends mask usage by children age two and older in child care programs as a critical measure to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Masking may be an especially important mitigation tool in the child care setting given that young children are not able to effectively maintain physical distance or 6 feet or more from others.
Face coverings should not be worn by:
- Children younger than 2 years old
- People who cannot take off the coverings without assistance
- Anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious
- Anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance
- A child with a significant behavioral or psychological issue undergoing treatment that is exacerbated specifically by a face covering
- A child with severe autism or with extreme developmental delay who may become agitated or anxious wearing a mask
- A child with a facial deformity that causes airway obstruction
Teachers should use their best judgement to determine if children should remove face coverings during extreme heat or vigorous physical activity when a face covering could contribute to a greater risk of heat-related illness.
COVID-19 Testing Available through APH
Austin Public Health (APH) operates several COVID-19 testing sites throughout Austin. You can sign-up for a test through the Public Testing Enrollment Form or through the APH Nursing Hotline (512-972-5560). When calling the Hotline press 1 for English, 2 for Spanish, 3 for Vietnamese and other languages. Hotline hours are Mon.-Fri. 8am-6pm and Sat. 9am-1pm.
For a map of testing sites, please view the COVID-19 Test Locations Map.
COVID-19 Vaccine Information
APH is serving as an informational hub for Austin-Travis County on the COVID-19 vaccine. APH receives information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), who are managing the allocation and distribution of the vaccine.
Austin Public Health (APH) has just published its first set of “Vaccs Facts,” a weekly document with up-to-date information on the COVID-19 vaccine. Updated “Vaccs Facts” documents will be posted weekly on the Austin COVID-19 Vaccine page: AustinTexas.gov/COVID19-Vaccines.
We wish you happy and healthy holidays!