Leaders sign orders to address widespread staffing shortages and growing strain on health care facilities
AUSTIN, Texas – The COVID-19 omicron surge in Austin-Travis County is the most widespread yet and warranted upgrading to Stage 5 of the COVID-19 risk-based guidelines. Today city and county leadership are issuing orders intended to slow the spread and protect our economy and hospital systems. Read the full orders here.
The “Protecting Customers and Employees and Preserving Adequate Workforce Capacity” orders include:
Authorization for business to impose health and safety requirements
COVID-19 outbreaks are creating staffing shortages at health care facilities and businesses—infrastructure vital to our community’s livelihood. The Austin-Travis County Health Authority advises prioritizing messaging that clearly illustrates measures proven to help mitigate transmission.
“We appreciate every business that does their part to keep our community and their customers healthy and safe,” said Travis County Judge Andy Brown. “Today’s orders support local businesses by providing them tools and options to keep their doors open, customers safe, and our local economy growing.”
Data shows widespread and consistent masking helps slow the spread of COVID-19, thereby allowing businesses to stay open. The actions are intended to help the local economy recover by promoting healthy workplaces for employees and customers. Businesses are empowered to choose how they facilitate public health recommendations.
"We are enabling businesses to better protect public health and to make sure they have enough healthy workers to stay open,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. “Today’s orders authorize businesses to choose for themselves whether they want to require masking or testing, or look at vaccinations, in their own facilities as a way to protect their customers and employees," said Adler. "This is an example of government getting out of the way of business. The orders also provide for a notice to be posted on the front door so potential customers can know whether or not a business is providing these protections."
As of Wednesday, Austin-Travis County’s 7-day moving average of hospitalizations is 110. The area’s Community Transmission Rate is 1,254 and the positivity rate is almost 33 percent—the highest it’s ever been.
“From teachers, cashiers, and cooks to nurses, techs and EMS, there’s never been a greater risk for all of us in the community to catch COVID-19, and our way of life is in danger because of it,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “We must take as many precautions as possible to stop this spread. Wear well-fitting masks anytime you go out, get vaccinated and boosted and stay home if you feel sick.”
Local employers play a significant role in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19. The City of Austin is preparing to distribute 96,000 face masks to local, small businesses to help bolster PPE resources available to protect employees and customers. More details about the mask distribution will be announced in the coming days.
“Since the start of the pandemic in Austin, the City has distributed nearly $50 million dollars in direct financial support to local businesses, employees, and critical service industries,” explains Veronica Briseño, Austin’s Chief Economic Recovery Officer. “We are preparing another round of relief for 2022 – including new grants and emergency funding programs, workforce development classes, and childcare support initiatives.”
The City of Austin’s Economic Development Department continues to aid Austin workers, businesses, and non-profit organizations that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic through financial assistance and programming. Virtual one-on-one classes and coaching resources are available for those looking to pivot due to the pandemic. Business guidance, recovery grants, and local policy updates are available online at www.ATXrecovers.com.
Stage 5 Guidance
-Fully vaccinated and/or boosted individuals should continue to wear well-fitting masks when leaving their household and choose curbside/takeout options for dining. High-risk individuals should choose curbside or outdoor options for dining and travel only when essential.
-Partially or unvaccinated individuals, and those who need their booster dose are discouraged from gathering outside of the home and traveling. Wear well-fitting masks when leaving the household. Choose curbside, takeout and outdoor options for shopping and dining. Get fully vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible.
Vaccine and Testing Information
APH clinics offer COVID-19 vaccinations and testing without appointment, although creating an account online in advance saves time. COVID-19 vaccinations are free and require neither identification nor insurance. For more information and to schedule an appointment, call 3-1-1 or 512-974-2000 or visit www.AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.
To help reserve our emergency rooms for medical emergencies, people who are asymptomatic or experiencing minor symptoms may inquire about testing options by calling 2-1-1 or 877-541-7905, or by visiting 211texas.org. Please don’t call 9-1-1 for testing information.