Austin-Travis County moves to adopt CDC recommendations for wearing face coverings in public

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin-Travis County is moving to adopt CDC recommendations about using face coverings in public, according to a release.

The county is adopting the guidelines for using fabric coverings when doing essential activities or doing essential business outside of a home to try to slow the COVID-19 spread. The CDC made the recommendations Friday.

“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.” 

Qurrat Thakur is among those already making cloth masks.

“It was very personal to me because my sister in law works at UT health clinic,” Thakur says.

Thakur, who co-owns a chemistry lab in Round Rock with her husband, quilted as a hobby.

But with the outbreak of COVID-19, she realized she could put those sewing skills to another use.

Her neighbor, Varsha, has helped her sew dozens for others.

“Even though we can’t get together, we’ve been kind of dropping things off at each other’s doors,” Thakur says.

Melissa Hinnant is the owner of a local business called Grace and Lace who has shifted her entire business model over the last few weeks.

“We moved from, you know, the main part of our business, really of making women’s apparel to now putting all of our efforts to getting masks here and getting them out as quickly as we can,” Hinnant says.

When she realized that her clothing manufacturer could also ship masks, she posed a question on social media:

“I was like, ‘Is this a real thing? Are there doctors really in need, this desperate for masks? And within hours, we were bombarded with over 500 emails,” Hinnant says.

To date, she says they’ve been able to send out over 18,000 masks across the country– including to doctors and first responders.

Hinnant was shipping KN95 masks and surgical masks and is now adding cloth masks, after CDC recommendations.

Thakur has also seen a spike in requests since those recommendations on Friday.

“Now I know with the CDC recommending that everyone should wear one, everyon’e scontacting me saying they’re willing to pay for it,” Thakur says.

Hinnant says Grace and Lace donated 2,500 masks and is now crowdfunding to keep shipping.

“Whatever you can with what resources you have is what’s going to get us through this as a nation,” Hinnant says.

Local support of the guidelines came from Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and Austin Mayor Steve Adler to help prevent people who are asymptomatic from spreading the virus.

“Everybody should be using fabric face coverings as the next step in the fight against the spread of COVID-19,” recommended Mayor Steve Adler.  “They’re really easy to make and everybody has everything they need to make one lying around the house. It’s important, though, to absolutely still follow the six foot rule.”

Coverings should go over the nose and mouth and attach behind the ears to be the most effective, and they should be washed after each use with hot water and detergent. Hands should be washed immediately after touching them.

It is important for the public to know that a covering does not mean social distancing of six feet and abiding by the stay-at-home order is not needed, the release said. Face coverings combined with the two may help lower the risk of spread.

The public should not put any coverings on children younger than two-years-old, anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to take off the cover without help.

N95 and medical grade masks should still be reserved for healthcare workers and first responders.

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. 

The public can use scarves, bandanas or make their own. The city is making do-it-yourself plans available online with guidance from Austin Public Health and the CDC here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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