Travis County leaders suggest businesses voluntarily cut capacity to help slow COVID-19 spread

Travis County

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Travis County leaders raised concerns Tuesday that state orders allow too many people to be inside businesses at one time. They point to cases surging in the Austin area and note those concerns are magnified with Thanksgiving this week.

“The recommendation currently, in Stage 4, is that businesses limit their occupancy to 25 to 50%,” Dr. Jason Pickett of Austin Public Health told county commissioners during a briefing Tuesday.

However, Travis County Judge Andy Brown noticed county leaders’ hands are tied by the governor’s mandate that still allows businesses to remain at 75% capacity statewide.

“The governor has limited our capacity to enforce things in some regard,” Brown said.

“That’s why we’re trying to get in front of this a little bit and had press conferences last week and this week about the importance of wearing masks and not gathering,” Brown also said Tuesday.

The staff at South Congress Books in Austin is doing its part to try and help slow the spread of the virus. Though the store could hold many more, its owner has limited its capacity to about seven people at a time, which with employees, keeps the number of people in the store at 10.

“We walk to the door and say, ‘I’m so sorry. We’re keeping a lid on capacity, and right now we’re full,’ and overwhelmingly, it’s been very affirming that everybody just goes, ‘Oh, that’s fine. Oh, sure, no, I’ll wait,'” said South Congress Books employee Erika Allbright.

Brown is encouraging members of the community to do their part to help reduce a spike following Thanksgiving.

“I think in general we’ve got the power to increase business capacity if we all wear masks, if we stay socially distanced, if we wash hands and if we get a flu shot in particular. It’s really up to the community who has the power to change this and that’s what we’re asking the community to do,” Brown said. “What we do over the next few days, what we do over Thanksgiving, is really going to impact our ability to provide additional flexibility for businesses in the future.”

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