AUSTIN, Texas — The City of Austin is now limiting gatherings to 10 people to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Mayor Steve Adler announced on Tuesday. In addition, all Austin bars and restaurant dining rooms must close. Restaurants will be allowed to provide take-out and delivery options.
This comes after the CDC recommended on Monday that organizers cancel or postpone events with 50 people or more for eight weeks.
Community gatherings of 10 people or more in a single room or other confined indoor or outdoor space are prohibited, the City said. But a number of "critical facilities" will be exempt, such as government buildings providing essential services, schools or colleges, grocery stores and pharmacies, transit and transit facilities, the airport and airport operations and hospital and medical facilities. The City said social distancing and frequent cleaning would be encouraged in these facilities.
Other facilities exempt from this order are pet stores, vet facilities, gas stations or convenience stores, hardware stores and banks and financial institutions.
The facilities listed below may remain open, but will need to alter operations:
- Malls are exempt if they sell food products or household staples. Otherwise, the 10 person limit in a single space (the mall) applies.
- Outdoor malls are exempt if they sell food products or household staples. Otherwise, the 10 person limit in a single space (the mall) applies.
- Enclosed dog parks, recreational parks and playgrounds must comply with the 10 person limit.
- Gyms may remain open with the 10 person limit in a single space.
- Food trucks may sell take-away food, but outdoor eating areas should be closed.
- Construction sites may remain open with the 10 person limit in a single space.
- Manufacturing facilities and warehouses may remain open with the 10 person limit in a single space.
- Child care facilities can operate as long as no more than 10 people are present in any single space at the same time. The City stated, "For example, a facility may be able to accommodate placing people in multiple, separate enclosed spaces in a single building such as school classrooms or different floors of a multi-level building, with no more than 10 people in each single space."
Critical infrastructure will remain operational, including Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and CapMetro operations, communications, emergency services, energy and water and wastewater systems. These services are encouraged to implement screening precautions.
Police officers, City of Austin Code Department inspectors and the Office of the Austin Fire Marshall will enforce the new rules. A violation is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or jail of up to 180 days.
The new order will run until at least May 1.
There are currently 10 reported cases of COVID-19 in the Austin area. City leaders urged the Austin-area public to not "panic," but to prepare and practice personal hygiene. The City confirmed its first case on Friday, March 13.
During a sit-down interview with KVUE on Monday, Adler discussed what the City is doing to combat COVID-19 and said he was considering making changes to the City's ban.
“We understand that people will need resources during this difficult time,” said Christopher J. Shorter, Austin assistant city manager. “In anticipation of the impact of the new Orders, The City of Austin, Travis County, and our community partners are providing a range of services to help residents, workers and businesses who are likely to be most burdened by the new restrictions.”
“We are aware that the new Orders will impact all Austin businesses, especially our creative-sector workers and venues,” added Veronica Briseño, director of economic development at the City of Austin. “Many of the resources we’re offering provide immediate support to ensure the economic and mental health of our local business owners, employees, and their families.”
People impacted by the new Orders are asked to visit the City of Austin COVID-19 for more information and to see additional services. Citizens can also contact 3-1-1 with questions about particular services. More resources are available here.
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