Explained: When people in Austin-Travis County should wear their face coverings


TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the City of Austin and Travis County are now requiring people to wear a cloth face covering or mask whenever they leave home.

The lengthy stay-at-home orders issued this week by the city and the county specify that anyone over the age of 10 has to wear something that covers both their nose and mouth. That could be a homemade face mask, a scarf, a bandana or a handkerchief.

When it is required

According to the orders, people will have to wear face coverings whenever they’re doing the following things:

  • Going into or spending time inside any building open to the public, like a grocery store.
  • Using public transportation, taxis or rideshares.
  • Pumping gas.
  • Outside & cannot stay six feet apart from others.

When it’s not required

However, there are exceptions to these new rules. Austin city leaders said people do not have to wear a simple face covering or mask when they go outside to exercise or go on a walk, run or bike ride.

The mask requirement also does not apply during these activities:

  • Riding in a personal vehicle.
  • Working alone in a single, separate space.
  • When you’re only around other members of household or residence.
  • Doing so poses a greater mental or physical health, safety or security risk.

Requirements for construction

In its new order, the City of Austin spelled out additional requirements for anyone working in construction.

The requirements for active construction sites within city limits include:

  • Workers must wear face coverings and maintain six-foot physical distance.
  • Staggered shifts for sites with more than 10 active workers.
  • Daily briefings reiterating COVID-19 safety requirements and checking for protective equipment.
  • Mandated hand-washing stations and restroom facility placements at least six feet apart.
  • Provision of single-use paper towels and no-touch trash receptacles.
  • Designation of COVID-19 safety monitor.

Potential consequences

Anyone who does not follow these requirements could face some serious consequences.

The city and county state a criminal violation of their orders could be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $1,000, a jail sentence of 180 days or both.

City and county leaders, however, admit that it would be very difficult to police everyone, so they said it now falls upon residents to monitor themselves and keep others accountable.

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