The City of Austin and Travis County are extending the region’s stay home/work safe order, authorities announced. The order was originally scheduled to end May 8 and includes the provisions to avoid gatherings, observe social distancing, and wear face coverings.
“Now is not the time to relax, now is the time we must maintain vigilant,” said Dr. Mark Escott, interim Travis County Healthy Authority, during a May 4 press conference scheduled to begin at 3:15 pm. Escott also noted that this weekend saw a slight uptick in hospitalizations.
That 30 seconds was about as far as the city’s Zoom press conference got before technical difficulties derailed it. Twice. Luckily, they also issued a press release, so let’s switch to that.
The new order, announced by Mayor Steve Adler, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, and Dr. Escott comes one week after Governor Greg Abbott declared that some Texas businesses, including restaurants, movie theaters, and malls, could begin reopening at 25 percent capacity and with sanitation measures in place.
Abbott’s new order also made the wearing of face masks optional and stated that cities could no longer hand out fines for violating that order. His order remains in effect until May 15.
“The real penalty for not wearing a face covering in Austin is that more people will get sick and some of them will die,” said Mayor Adler in the release. “That should be penalty enough. Our community acts through the choices that individuals make. Together, we will decide how COVID-19 will impact us. Let’s make the right choices.”
Adler and the governor’s orders are, however, similar in limitations, both of which include a ban on gatherings of groups of 10 or more people who do not share a household as well as the continuation of social and physical distancing while out in public. Travel is only permitted for essential activity, to patronize a reopened or essential business, or for exercise.
“With case numbers and deaths continuing to rise, there is no doubt Travis County continues to be threatened by COVID-19. This is why we must extend Stay Home, Work Safe,” said Eckhardt, also in the release.
As of press time, Travis County had 1,752 confirmed cases and 52 deaths from COVID-19.
This is a developing story. It will be updated if the sound is fixed on the Zoom press conference.