City of AustinFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Businesses Overwhelmingly Comply with Rules to Combat Spread of Disease
Austin and Travis County have adopted new Orders to align with statewide restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.
The new Orders, effective now through May 1, 2020 unless terminated or modified by a subsequent Order, state: “Staying home is safest.”
View the City of Austin’s Order HERE.
The overall purpose of the new Orders is to mirror the Texas Governor’s Order against social gatherings of more than 10 people, and also to maintain Austin’s prohibition of gatherings for other than social purposes. This clarification addresses questions that have arisen about having more than 10 people in a work environment in a single large space but where they are not close to another. It also adds childcare as an exemption from the Order. The Order recognizes that health officials are not able, at this point, to require the same social spacing in homeless camps, but protecting this vulnerable part of our community remains a highest priority.
“This new action will continue to move us closer to reducing the spread of this virus, by providing more clarity to individuals and businesses so we can all do our part and get through this crisis together,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler.
“Today’s order supplants and is different from my March 17 Order in that it takes into consideration Governor Abbott’s March 19 Order,” said Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt. “Governor Abbott’s Order set our state-wide baseline. Our local response team will continue to confer on additional measures above this baseline necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve in Travis County.”
The new Orders, which replace the previous Orders adopted March 17, 2020, reinforce the importance of social (physical) distancing. Gatherings of more than 10 people for other-than-social purposes are also prohibited unless social distancing can be maintained and controlled. Social distancing is defined as maintaining and controlling a minimum of six feet of separation between people other than during incidental and momentary passing.
The new Orders define the agencies considered “critical infrastructure”, which are ordered to continue operating and encouraged to implement screening precautions to protect employees:
- Financial institutions
- Emergency services
- Transportation systems including airport facilities and operations; transit and transit facilities
- Water and wastewater systems.
The following categories are added to the list of services exempted from restrictions and are strongly encouraged to comply with physical distancing and sanitation measures:
- Family-home or center-based childcare facilities
- Veterinarian services
- homeless shelters, homeless encampments, and any non-profit community establishment, whether part of or separate from a homeless shelter, providing food in a dining facility to the indigent.
The following exemptions from restrictions were on the previous Orders and carry over to the new Orders:
- Grocery stores and pharmacies
- Hospitals and medical offices and facilities
- Government buildings providing essential services
- Schools or institutes of higher learning.
The Governor’s office issued a statewide Order on March 19, 2020 which ordered the closure of the following business or organization types that had not been closed under the previous Austin-Travis County Orders:
- Massage parlors
- Visiting nursing homes, retirement, or long-term care facilities is prohibited unless providing critical assistance.
The Statewide Order is in effect until April 3, 2020 unless extended by the Governor's Office. The intent of the new Austin and Travis County Orders is that when the Governor lifts the closure order on schools then they will be able to re-open at their discretion.
Since their introduction on Tuesday, March 17, Austin’s service industry establishments have overwhelmingly complied with the Austin and Travis County Orders to close bars and move restaurants to take-out service only.
City of Austin Public Assembly Code Enforcement Teams (PACE) and Code Compliance Officers are presently responding to 3-1-1 complaints, confirming whether there is a violation, and providing education and information about the restrictions and answering questions to help businesses and property owners gain an understanding of the Orders and comply voluntarily.
For those found in non-compliance a verbal warning is issued and information provided. A citation may be issued, as a last resort, if voluntary compliance is not achieved after the initial communication and inspection. PACE teams and Code officers have so far visited 158 establishments in response to complaints received through Austin 3-1-1. To date no citations have been issued.
“Our goal right now is voluntary compliance. We are responding to calls, offering guidance and have seen overwhelming voluntary compliance,” said Interim Director of Austin Code José Roig. “We understand these are unprecedented times. We are grateful for and appreciate the cooperation of the Austin community and business owners.”
“We understand the recent restrictions have resulted in a significant economic impact. These new Orders are designed to provide clarity and certainty for Austin’s businesses and workforce during these extraordinary times,” said Economic Development Director Veronica Briseño. “Austin is a resilient city. The expectation is that we all comply with physical distancing now so we can stop the spread of this disease and return to a healthy economy as quickly as possible.”
Public health officials are relying on individuals and businesses to exercise personal responsibility and use social, or physical, distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Community members are encouraged to call 3-1-1 if they see a violation.
Residents of Austin and Travis County are being asked to increase efforts to protect the at-risk population after initial investigation reports from Austin Public Health showed evidence of a community spread of COVID-19. While it is still early in the epidemiologists’ investigation into the severity of the spread, officials say a critical point has been reached and it is important the public understand that individuals’ actions will impact the health of the whole community.