REQUIRED: Austin businesses must ensure all customers, workers wear masks

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — All Austin businesses will be required to ensure all workers and customers wear face masks, according to a supplemental order from Austin Mayor Steve Adler that starts Thursday and lasts until August 15.

The order says businesses must develop and display a health and safety policy that requires a face covering while on the premises.

“Austin businesses are great and many of them, if not most, have already done this. During this time, we will transition to a more direct order on masks, working with our business community so our whole city moves forward together and so that everyone can get prepared,” Adler’s statement reads.

There are some exceptions to the order. A mask is not required when:

  • You are alone in a single, separate space
  • You are among people of the same household
  • You are eating or drinking
  • You are outdoors engaging in an allowed activity with social distancing
  • Wearing a mask poses a safety or health risk

Austin City Council member Greg Casar originally announced the plan Wednesday evening. According to Casar, the order will allow businesses a few days to implement.

Austin-Travis County leaders said earlier Wednesday that they were considering whether to mandate businesses to require that employees and customers wear masks to limit transmission of COVID-19 after Gov. Greg Abbott said an order issued in Bexar County does not contradict state public health orders.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler joined KXAN News Today on Thursday to discuss the mask order and how the city plans to enforce it.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff on Wednesday issued an order mandating businesses to require employees and customers to wear face coverings when social distancing isn’t feasible. Businesses could face a $1,000 fine for failing to follow the order which is in effect through June 30.

“Judge Wolff’s order is not inconsistent with the Governor’s executive order,” a spokesman for Abbott said in a statement. “Our office urges officials and the public to adopt and follow the health protocols for businesses established by doctors that are available at open.texas.gov.”

During an interview with KWTX in Waco, Abbott said local leaders have always had the option of placing restrictions on businesses and that “Bexar County finally figured that out.”

The new Wednesday order comes one day after Gov. Abbott was sent a letter from several mayors of some of Texas’ biggest cities — asking for the authority to regulate the use of face coverings.

Along with Adler, mayors of Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso, Arlington, Plano and Grand Prairie signed a letter asking for a more comprehensive, applicable way to combat COVID-19 spread.

In a press conference that afternoon, Abbott said the spread in certain communities was the fault of people under 30 who visit bars or gather socially while ignoring safety guidelines.

“There have been pictures that I have seen and others have seen about these bar-type settings where clearly the standards are not being followed,” Abbott said on Tuesday.

Shelley Meyer, co-founder of ICONIC AUSTIN BRANDS, has required employees and customers to wear masks since reopening Wild About Music, Toy Joy, Yummi Joy, and Austin Rocks.

She said a local order would relieve some pressure from businesses that are caught in the middle.

“We’ve had some push back (requiring masks),” Meyer told KXAN. “We’ve had people claim their civil liberties were being violated. We’ve had people claim they’re compromised and can’t wear a mask. It’s been difficult.”

Local, statewide COVID-19 cases

On Wednesday, for the second day in a row, Travis County reached a new record for the number of new cases.

After reporting 220 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, the county reached more than 1,000 active cases for the second time. On Sunday, Austin-Travis County leaders extended the area’s ‘stay home’ order.

In neighboring Williamson and Hays counties, there are 415 and 903 active cases as of Wednesday, respectively.

Also on Wednesday, the state of Texas reported a record 3,129 new cases — breaking the previous record which was also set the day before.

On Tuesday, there were 2,622 new cases reported in Texas.

The number of hospitalized Texans has also reached a record high — for the sixth consecutive day.

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