Mayor Steve Adler, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott are emphasizing the current Stay Home, Work Safe Orders for Austin and Travis County that remain in effect. This includes the provisions to avoid gatherings, observe social distancing and wear face coverings. Officials also plan to extend their April 18, 2020 Order later this week, with modifications made to comply with the Statewide Orders issued by Governor Greg Abbott last week.
These local actions are consistent with last week’s statewide order which maintains and continues the requirement that everyone “shall minimize social gatherings and in-person contact not in the same household.” The previous exception to this general, statewide rule, for essential services, has been joined with a new exception for a limited number of reopened services.
Austin-Travis County will continue and extend the mandated use of face coverings, as established by the prior the April 18th extension and update of the local “Stay Home, Work Safe” orders. Per the statewide executive order, local jurisdictions may no longer enforce the mandated use of face coverings through civil or criminal penalties.
“The real penalty for not wearing a face covering in Austin is that more people will get sick and some of them will die,” said Mayor Steve Adler. “That should be penalty enough. Our community acts through the choices that individuals make. Together, we will decide how COVID-19 will impact us. Let’s make the right choices.”
Provisions of the Austin-Travis County “Stay Home, Work Safe” orders that remain unchanged – consistent with the Governor’s Order – include a ban on gatherings of groups of people who do not share a household as well as the continuation of social and physical distancing while out in public. In addition, travel is permitted only to essential and re-opened businesses or to conduct an essential activity, such as exercise or an outdoor activity.
Under last week’s statewide executive order which initiated greater social and business interactions, certain non-essential businesses and services may reopen including in-store retail, some dine-in restaurant services, movie theaters, museums, libraries and shopping malls. Reopened businesses must operate at 25% of the listed occupancy. It remains unclear whether the resulting new interactions will lead to a spike that would overrun hospitals and Public Health officials will monitor for increased infections and hospitalizations over the next three to four weeks – the period of time needed to measure any impact and determine if new action is necessary.
“With case numbers and deaths continuing to rise, there is no doubt Travis County continues to be threatened by COVID-19. This is why we must extend Stay Home, Work Safe,” said Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt. “Face coverings and social distancing are helping. Now is not the time to abandon these effective measures.”
The new statewide order remains in effect through May 15, 2020 and is subject to extension based on the status of COVID-19 in Texas. The Statewide order may also be extended based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
“We need the community to continue to stay home, practice physical distancing, and use fabric face coverings when in public,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “While we were looking at similar reopening plans, we were anticipating a later implementation date given the needs of our community. We still need to slow the spread and flatten the curve to ensure our hospital systems continue to have the bandwidth to treat patients effectively.”
Austin Public Health continues to remind our community of the importance of practicing good hygiene as well as physical and social distancing to help keep each other safe.
Public Enrollment Testing Information
The public is encouraged to fill out the Public Enrollment Testing Form at www.austintexas.gov/COVID19 to see if they’re eligible for a free COVID-19 test. Since the testing form’s launch on April 23, nearly 4,900 people have created accounts and completed the assessment form. As of Monday, May 4, almost 2,000 patients have been scheduled for a test and more than 800 patients have been tested. Austin Public Health has received 391 tests back from the lab showing 381 negative cases and 10 positive COVID-19 cases. To learn more about how to take the self-assessment watch this quick guide (Espanol). If you are approved for testing, you can schedule an appointment at a free drive-thru testing site. Remember, if you are experiencing severe symptoms like chest pain, difficulty breathing, confusion, or a fever that doesn’t respond to medication, please call 911 or go to the ER.
For more information and updates, visit www.austintexas.gov/COVID19.