AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin 3-1-1 received over 4,450 coronavirus-related service requests in April, marking a significant increases in calls, according to the Code Department, which responds to the requests.
KXAN pulled nearly 100 anonymous coronavirus requests from the city’s website submitted over the weekend. The 3-1-1 submissions mostly alert the city to group gatherings, possible violations of the city’s stay-at-home order, parties in parks and people in public without masks, among other issues.
The requests paint a picture of concern throughout the city as most Austinites hunker down at home and practice social distancing in the hopes of staunching the spread of COVID-19.
But the 100 calls KXAN reviewed and mapped offer just a glimpse of the city’s work to gain compliance with the local orders; calls for coronavirus-related issues have skyrocketed in recent weeks, according to the Code Department. A spokesman said the department has received 14,632 virus-related requests from March 4 to April 12.
You can view a map of the 100 coronavirus-related weekend calls below:
“We’re getting a lot more complaints. This is a major issue that has happened within the city,” said Matthew Noriega, a code supervisor with the Code Department. “We help them to understand it’s for their safety. It’s for the safety of the citizens of Austin.”
Noriega said most of the complaints they are receiving are related to overcrowding, non-essential businesses being open and businesses not complying with city orders.
A cluster of 17 requests over the weekend originated near the intersection of Rainey Street and Cummings Street. They described large numbers of people on the hike-and-bike trail without masks and groups of people congregating. All Austin parks and trails were closed over the Easter weekend.
“Multiple campers, groups gathering, dogs off leash, joggers and bikers in park – supposed to be closed!! No one wearing a mask!!!! Dogs off leash. Public bathroom and water fountain not closed off and being used! Gross!!!Please enforce the closed park ordinance,” said one request for service submitted Sunday. “Cross street is East Ave and Cummings.”
The Code Department has a dedicated Public Assembly Code Enforcement (PACE) team to handle complaints of over occupancy and gatherings. PACE members visually inspect complaint areas and, if they find a violation, they educate people on the city’s “stay home” and “work safe” orders, according to a Code Department spokesman.
Nationwide, there have been nearly 600,000 cases of the virus and over 25,000 deaths. Travis County has had 856 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 11 deaths, as of Tuesday afternoon, according to city data. The virus is most dangerous for the elderly and people with existing medical conditions.
Since mid-March, the City of Austin has issued a series of orders to stop group gatherings and promote social distancing. On March 20 and 21, the city “prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people for other than social purposes unless social distancing could be maintained.” On March 24, the city issues a stay-at-home order requiring everyone to stay in their residence “except to perform certain essential activities” and essential work. And the city issued an additional “work home stay safe” order Monday.
The code department said the 14,632 coronavirus-related 3-1-1 requests included the following categories: “restaurants not in compliance,” “exposure concern-self,” “exposure concern-public, event related,” “over occupancy at business or gathering, requesting information,” “active construction,” “bars that are open,” and “other.”
A million calls a year
For 3-1-1, coronavirus-related calls add a layer on top of the large number of requests the department receives daily.
Austin 3-1-1 receives over a million calls a year that result in more than 200,000 calls for service for city departments. That is roughly 550 calls for service per day, according to the city. You can see a breakdown of which departments handle 3-1-1 calls in the chart below.