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COVID-19: Austin-Travis County Adopts CDC Guidelines Regarding Public Use Fabric Face Coverings

This recommendation does not substitute the need for physical distancing. Medical masks and respirators should be reserved for healthcare workers.

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Austin, TX — Consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Austin-Travis County is recommending the use of fabric face coverings by the general public when conducting essential activities or essential business outside of their residence in order to further slow the spread of COVID-19.

Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott announced the recommendation today with support from Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt to provide an additional protective measure to prevent asymptomatic carriers from spreading the virus. This follows the CDC’s recent announcement of a similar recommendation on Friday due to evidence of asymptomatic positive cases and transmission for COVID-19.

“This is another piece of a complex process to slow the spread and flatten the curve in our community,” said Dr. Escott. “While you might otherwise feel well and healthy, we need everyone’s help to prevent the potential asymptomatic spread to others who could face more severe symptoms.”

It is critical to understand that a face covering does not substitute for the need to maintain physical distancing and the Stay Home-Work Safe Order. Face coverings, combined with physical distancing, may further decrease the risk of spread.

Scarves or bandanas are easy, household items that can serve as a face covering. Plenty of do-it-yourself plans are also available online including guidance from the CDC and guidance from Austin Public Health.

The recommendation is for use of fabric face coverings and not medical-grade masks or N-95 respirators, which are in short supply and should be conserved for healthcare workers and first responders. It is important that our healthcare workers on the front line combating COVID-19 have access to the medical grade equipment that they need to care for themselves and our community. To donate much needed personal protective equipment, visit Austin Disaster Relief Network’s website.

For maximum effectiveness, the face covering should cover both the nose and mouth and attach securely behind the ears. Coverings should be washed after each use with hot water and detergent and hands should be washed immediately after touching the cover.

Face coverings should not be placed on young children younger than 2 years old, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance.

It is vital that people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, even mild ones, should not leave home for any reason except for medical care. Mild symptoms in COVID-19 positive patients include:

  • Sore throat
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Change in the ability to smell and taste
  • Nasal congestion

Individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should call their healthcare provider before walking into a clinic, urgent care center or hospital. People experiencing COVID-19 symptoms who are uninsured and do not have an established doctor can call the COVID-19 Hotline at 512-978-8775 for guidance. For more information and updates, visit www.AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.

Source: Press release

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june 2020

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