Austin and Travis Co. adopt new orders to align with statewide restrictions to stop COVID-19 spread

Austin City Hall_218003

AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Friday, Austin and Travis County adopted new orders to align with statewide restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

The new orders, effective through May 1 — unless terminated or modified by a subsequent order — state: “Staying home is safest.”

The City of Austin says he overall purpose of the new orders is to mirror the Texas Governor’s Order against social gatherings of more than 10 people, and also to maintain Austin’s prohibition of gatherings for other than social purposes.

This clarification addresses questions that have arisen about having more than 10 people in a work environment in a single large space but where they are not close to another. It also adds childcare as an exemption from the Order. The Order recognizes that health officials are not able, at this point, to require the same social spacing in homeless camps, but protecting this vulnerable part of our community remains a highest priority.

“This new action will continue to move us closer to reducing the spread of this virus, by providing more clarity to individuals and businesses so we can all do our part and get through this crisis together,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler.

The new orders, which replace the previous orders adopted March 17, reinforce the importance of social (physical) distancing.

Gatherings of more than 10 people for other-than-social purposes are also prohibited unless social distancing can be maintained and controlled. Social distancing is defined as maintaining and controlling a minimum of six feet of separation between people other than during incidental and momentary passing.

The new orders provide clarification on what agencies are “critical infrastructure” — and must remain open.

“Critical infrastructure” includes:

  • Financial institutions
  • Communications
  • Emergency services
  • Energy
  • Transportation systems
  • Water and wastewater systems

The following are exempted from restrictions and are strongly encouraged to comply with physical distancing and sanitation measures:

  • Family-home or center-based childcare facilities
  • Veterinarian services
  • Homeless shelters, homeless encampments, and any non-profit community establishment, whether part of or separate from a homeless shelter, providing food in a dining facility to the indigent

The following exemptions from restrictions were on the previous orders and carry over to the new orders:

  • Grocery stores and pharmacies
  • Hospitals and medical offices and facilities
  • Government buildings providing essential services
  • Schools or institutes of higher learning

On Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statewide order on Thursday that ordered the closure of the following business or organization types that had not been closed under the previous Austin-Travis County orders:

  • Schools
  • Massage parlors
  • Gyms
  • Visiting nursing homes, retirement, or long-term care facilities is prohibited unless providing critical assistance

“We understand the recent restrictions have resulted in a significant economic impact. These new orders are designed to provide clarity and certainty for Austin’s businesses and workforce during these extraordinary times,” said Economic Development Director Veronica Briseño. “Austin is a resilient city. The expectation is that we all comply with physical distancing now so we can stop the spread of this disease and return to a healthy economy as quickly as possible.”

Residents of Austin and Travis County are being asked to increase efforts to protect the at-risk population after initial investigation reports from Austin Public Health showed evidence of a community spread of COVID-19. 

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