The “Warn Central Texas” alert system was designed for use during a disaster, which health officials say the city is experiencing.
The alert was distributed on Saturday by text, phone calls and email to residents in Austin and nearby areas of Travis County.
“Our hospitals are severely stressed and there is little we can do to alleviate their burden with the surging cases,” Austin-Travis County Health Authority’s Desmar Walkes said in a statement. “The public has to act now and help or we will face a catastrophe in our community that could have been avoided.”
Walkes explained that hospital bed availability and critical care are extremely limited for anyone – not just COVID-19 victims.
Austin and the surrounding county elevated the COVID-19 risk level to stage 5, which is the highest level of alert.
According to the Texas Department of Health, there are over 3,400 active cases of COVID-19 in Travis County.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statewide ban on mask and vaccine mandates on July 29, saying “the path forward relies on personal responsibility,” Axios reported.
The state has achieved a 44.5% rate of full vaccinations, according to Our World in Data.
Officials urged residents to stay informed on COVID-19, vaccinations and testing by visiting www.AustinTexas.gov/COVID19 or calling 3-1-1 (512-974-2000).