AUSTIN (KXAN) — Both Travis and Williamson Counties have issued stay-at-home orders for the entire Austin area, effective 11:59 p.m. Tuesday through April 13.
The orders state non-essential businesses are to close, and both public and private gatherings of any number outside a single household are prohibited.
The orders also restrict travel of any kind to “essential” travel only, like going to work at an essential business or going to the grocery store as examples.
During a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Mark Escott, the interim health authority for Austin-Travis County, said he also recommended that schools remain closed for the remainder of the school year. He called it a “basic and necessary step” to stop more people from getting sick.
Dr. Escott cited modeling from the University of Texas when he said hospitals could reach capacity in the Austin area in three to four weeks. “We cannot wait until the hospitals are already overrun to take action,” he added.
Essential activities are defined in the order involving:
- Health and safety
- Necessary supplies and services
- Outdoor activity
- Certain types of work
- To take care of others
The health and safety exception simply means if you have to leave your home to get medicine or anything directly involving the health and safety of anyone in your household (pets included), you can.
Necessary supplies and services means you can go to the grocery store for food, get supplies to work from home, household consumer products and “products to maintain the safety, sanitation and operation of a residence.”
You can go outdoors for exercise if you practice social distancing and stay at least six feet apart from everyone.
If your job is deemed essential, you can carry on work-related activities.
You can also leave your home to take care of a family member, or pet, at another residence.
The order is enforceable, it says, by peace officers, code enforcement inspectors and the fire marshal’s office. Violations will result in misdemeanor crimes with fines up to $1,000 and six months in jail.
“The best enforcement is our responsibility to one another,” Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said. “We do expect, as we’ve seen in the past, that this community comes together and that any kind of criminal enforcement is really not needed.”
She said it’s more about education and information.
“Enforcement is the last option, and only if we see something egregious,” she said.
During the news conference Tuesday, leaders called on people to reduce their interactions with other humans by 90 percent.
“I think everyone’s trigger with this virus is recognizing that while it’s going to pass through and lots of people are going to get it, to try and not have everyone get it all at once so the hospital systems are not overtaxed,” Adler said.
Eckhardt said Williamson County will join the city and Travis County in signing the order.
“We have a very short window to really effect COVID-19 expansion through our community,” Eckhardt said. “The longer we wait, the more acute the spike will be. So we need to act fast to decrease the circulation of people in Travis County and surrounding areas.”