Austin updates special events application to focus on COVID-19 safety

Downtown Austin skyline April 30, 2020 (KXAN Photo/Kristen Currie)

Downtown Austin skyline (KXAN Photo/Kristen Currie)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin has updated its permitting for special events with enhanced strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as cases continue to rise.

The Austin Center for Events (ACE) announced on Friday it will soon require an enhanced version of the Health and Safety Form to be completed as a part of its special event application process. The new permitting process will go into effect on Aug. 30.

ACE says the form presents event organizers with COVID-19 mitigation efforts to consider and allows for applicants to provide information on how they intend to implement them.

“While the current permitting process has been in effect since April of 2021, in collaboration with Austin Public Health (APH), additional identified measures are now included on the form to increase public safety as hospital resources have become strained during the latest COVID-19 surge,” ACE said Friday.

The news comes after the popular festival Bat Fest 2021 was canceled just days before the event.

Bat Fest, which celebrates the famed Mexican free-trailed bats that reside underneath the Congress Avenue bridge, announced it was canceled after it was denied a special event permit.

“It goes without saying that we all recognize what incredibly challenging times we are in these days. Like many in our community, we are eager to plan and prepare for events,” said Assistant Director of the Development Services Department Beth Culver in a news release. “The challenge is that we are in an ever-evolving situation. The Austin Center for Events and APH teams are committed to working with event organizers to provide as much information as available to help inform event planning efforts to keep our community safe.” 

Per ACE, some of the enhanced mitigation criteria include:

  • Screening at event entrances by requiring in-person attendees to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to the event
  • Developing strategies for maintaining at least 6 feet of social distancing
  • Including “mask zones” in outdoor event areas where social distancing is not possible

The submitted form for indoor events with more than 1,000 attendees and outdoor events with more than 2,500 attendees must be approved by Austin Public Health.

The permit changes only apply to events that are required to get a Special Event Permit. Activities at Q2 Stadium, Circuit of the Americas and Mood Amphitheatre at Waterloo Greenway are not impacted.

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