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Elizabeth Pagano is the editor of the Austin Monitor.
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Tuesday, April 14, 2020 by Elizabeth Pagano
Austin, Travis County extend stay-at-home orders, which now require face coverings
Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt have extended stay-at-home orders until May 8 and have expanded those orders to mandate that residents wear fabric face coverings during essential work and activities.
According to a press release sent out by the city about the new orders, “Everyone over the age of ten must wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when in a public building, using public transportation or ride shares, pumping gas and while outside when six feet of physical distancing cannot be consistently maintained. A face covering is not required when eating, riding in a personal vehicle, alone in a separate single space, or in the presence of other members of your residence. Additionally, a face covering is not required when wearing one poses a greater mental or physical health, safety or security risk such as anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance.”
Local authorities stress that the face coverings do not eliminate the need for physical distancing and that medical-grade masks are not required, suggesting the use of bandanas and home-sewn masks. As a result, the new orders classify fabric stores as an essential business that “may allow customers inside the store for the sole purpose of selling fabric and supplies necessary for the creation of fabric face masks.”
“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.”
Additional direction in the orders requires people with Covid-19, or who are living with others who have Covid-19 or symptoms of the virus, to isolate until cleared by the health authority. Those restrictions allow them to seek care or exercise, alone, in the immediate vicinity of their homes and require them to notify Austin Public Health about the development of symptoms or plans to travel, among other things.
“Essential businesses will be provided signage and additional support to enforce the face covering requirement over the coming days,” according to the press release. “While violation of this order is a criminal offense, enforcement of this order is substantially reliant on self-regulation and a community commitment to public health and safety under the novel threat of Covid-19. If there is not widespread compliance with this order, enforcement efforts will be increased.”
Though city parks have reopened after Easter weekend closures, a Monday announcement from the Parks and Recreation Department clarified that restrictions will continue for the foreseeable future.
In an attempt to discourage crowds, the city is also decreasing parking access for parks within the boundaries formed by MoPac Expressway, Barton Springs Road, Interstate 35 and 15th Street as well as downtown, district and neighborhood parks. In addition, the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail that encircles Lady Bird Lake will now be one-way. Those on the southern part of the trail should travel east to west, and those on the north bank of the trail should travel west to east.
Those new restrictions, which went into effect April 13, will be fully implemented by this Friday. A spokesperson from the city told the Austin Monitor that, currently, no parks were scheduled to be closed as a result of extended stay-at-home orders, but “(t)his provision may change at any time by order of Austin Public Health or authorized city of Austin official.”
A number of city facilities, however, are closed and will remain closed including recreation centers, cultural centers, museums, senior centers, pools, Barking Springs, golf courses, tennis centers, playgrounds and park amenities including disc golf courses and basketball courts. A complete list of city park closures can be found online and the parks department encourages visitors to consult the parkviewer app to identify parks with restricted parking.
Travis County also closed its parks over Easter weekend, and some parks remain closed. A list of county parks open for day use, parks that are closed and other restrictions imposed with the aim of slowing the spread of Covid-19 can be found on the Travis County Parks Covid-19 preparedness page.
Texas State Parks are closed under the direction of Gov. Greg Abbott, with new reservations at parks currently closed. Existing reservations after May are still valid for the time being and state parks passes have been extended by two months for all passholders.
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