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In Travis County, people older than 10 must now wear face covering in public

The stay-at-home order was extended, implementing requirements for facial coverings and prohibiting public gatherings outside of essential activities.

AUSTIN, Texas — As of April 13, officials have extended the stay-at-home order for Travis County until 11:59 p.m. on May 8 with additional requirements for facial coverings.

The original order was announced on March 23 and was issued to last until April 13; however, the order will now remain in place in a continued effort to practice social distancing and to flatten the coronavirus curve.

The Travis County order, issued by Judge Sarah Eckhardt, mandates that residents remain home unless for essential activities or essential work. Exceptions to the stay-at-home order include trips to grocery stores, medical care, outdoor exercise and other activities characterized as essential.

Now, when leaving home, Travis County residents over the age of 10 are required to wear a form of facial covering over their nose and mouth when in a public building, using public transportation or ride shares, when pumping gas and while outside when six feet of physical distancing cannot be consistently maintained. 

Exceptions include:

  • When alone in a separate single space, whether indoor or outdoor
  • In the presence of only the members of one's household
  • When doing so poses a greater mental or physical health, safety or security risk
  • When engaged in outdoor activity such as running or hiking given that social distancing guidelines are being followed
  • When eating
  • When riding in a personal vehicle

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“Face coverings are another key piece in flattening the curve,” said Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott. “It is critical that the public understand that this will not only help in slowing the spread of the disease, but face coverings are also part of our foreseeable future to safely reopen our society.”

The new requirement calls for fabric coverings, not medical-grade masks or N-95 respirators. As such, fabric stores are now considered an essential business for the sole purpose of selling fabric and supplies for the creation of facial coverings. These stores are asked to maintain physical distancing requirements, limiting the number of customers and staff inside at one time to no more than 10 people and establishing sufficient spacing outside as lines form.

In the coming days, essential businesses will be provided signage and added support to enforce the face-covering requirement. While violating the order is a criminal offense, the City of Austin said enforcement will be substantially reliant on self-regulation. If there is not widespread compliance, enforcement efforts will be increased.

“Our extended orders carry a very simple message, cover your nose and mouth when out in public to save lives,” said Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt. “Wearing a face covering in addition to the other steps the public has been taking are essential to support our community and keep everyone healthy.”

The guidelines order all non-essential businesses and operations to cease, except for minimum, basic operations as defined by the order. However, the order continues to allow employees to work from home.

With some exceptions under the order, all indoor or outdoor public or private gatherings of any number of people are prohibited, outside of your own household.

The order also add new direction for people living in a household where someone is currently being tested for or has tested positive for COVID-19. It requires anyone living in that residence to isolate until cleared by the health authority.

“I continue to be impressed with the resiliency and the spirit of our Austin community,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. “We’ve done so well, and now we have to do more. Wearing face coverings, that can be made at home from things around the house, will help protect store clerks and those around us. Let’s take care of each other.”

The order can be read in full here.

WATCH: Travis, Williamson counties issue 'stay at home' orders

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