Austin Public Health releases guidelines for schools as mayor extends mask order


AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Friday, Mayor Steve Adler extended the mandatory mask order for the city through Dec. 15.

The order, set to go into effect Sunday, included new guidelines by Austin Public Health for schools.

This comes as Travis County also renewed its mask order the same day.

According to the order, masks covering the nose and mouth are still required when you are outside of your home. This includes inside businesses and commercial entities.

The city’s order also extends other COVID-19 rules already in place. It says social gatherings of any size should be avoided or kept to a minimum. Gatherings of more than 10 people are still prohibited.

Residents must also practice social distancing and good hygiene, including frequent hand washing, according to the order.

It also extends development application deadlines to March 15.

You can read the full order below.

Guidelines for schools

The Austin order also says schools must follow a phased-in approach if they teach more than one grade, unless it jeopardizes their funding from the Texas Education Agency.

Austin Public Health released those guidelines for Austin and Travis County schools Friday.

Some of the new rules include how schools should report confirmed COVID-19 cases. The rules say each school district must designate a point of contact to report cases to Austin Public Health, and someone must also be appointed to call students, their families and workers.

APH also lists extensive rules about cleaning and sanitizing, wearing masks and staying six feet apart.

They also say there should be a process to identify students, families and workers who are at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, as well as those who live with a family member who is at higher risk.

Using that information, plans should then be formed to accommodate those people with special healthcare needs.

Austin Public Health’s top doctor, Dr. Mark Escott, also says he hopes the guidelines could be used as a statewide model for schools. He is hopeful the governor’s office will allow schools to be more flexible when it comes to the number of students on campuses.

APH released a chart showing the different stages for schools depending on the level of COVID-19 transmission in the community. The chart should be used to help determine how many students should be allowed on campus.

Austin Public Health guide chart for phased-in learning released Aug. 14 (Austin Public Health Photo)

Right now, we’re in Stage Four, so APH recommends no more than 25% capacity at schools.

They also say schools should follow a phased-in reopening strategy and should stay at each stage for a minimum of two weeks before moving up to the next level.

You can read all of the rules online.

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