AUSTIN, Texas — Texas' statewide stay-at-home order expired on Thursday – and many Austinites took that as a sign to head out to local parks, trails and lakes, often in crowds.
According to the City of Austin's Parks and Recreation Department (PARD), many City parks remain closed. For those spots that are open, the PARD required users to stay six feet away from people who don't live in the same household. Masks are also encouraged, but compliance is voluntary under Gov. Greg Abbott's latest executive order.
"Right now, I'm just enjoying the vitamin D, playing some sports with some friends," said Theo Cummings, a Zilker Park visitor. "I think people are just starting to not take the quarantine as seriously because, as you can see, people are just chilling, having a good time."
Statewide, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says state parks are open for day use only, social distancing is expected, masks are encouraged and groups larger than five people aren't allowed, except for families or people living in the same household.
But are locals following all those guidelines? Some social media posts point to "no."
Travis County Parks tweeted that due to a large number of park visitors, Pace Bend Park and Reimers Ranch Park are closed for Sunday and will open again with limited capacity on Monday. Pace Bend and Arkansas Bend Park were closed on Saturday for the same reason.
"I guess I could see the balance. People want to have fun. There are some valid points to say that we should be in our own family circles, like our friends, neighbors, relationships, but then at the same time, don't get sick. We might get sick again and then it costs more to the economy and put us back under," said Nicholas Littlejohn, a Zilker Park visitor.
Some people think that as long as you're playing it safe, there's no problem going to the park to enjoy the outdoors.
"It's public health. So, it's not responsible to everyone else and their families to go get too crazy too soon," said Littlejohn.
And some Austin area residents have taken to posting on social media about being outside with friends, sometimes with captions referencing quarantine or the stay-at-home orders.
Others have posted photos showing busy waterways and packed parks.
Remember: Current City, County and State orders require minimized social gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household. The City says social gatherings are not permitted and people may leave their homes only to provide or access an essential business or activity or a reopened service, to engage in essential travel or to participate in permitted outdoor physical activity. For more information, check out this Q&A with the City of Austin.
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