Hours before the Capital City's first stay-at-home order was set to expire, the City of Austin and Travis County extended their Stay Home/Work Smart orders through May 8.
This one is much the same as the one issued in March. All non-essential businesses must remain closed, and gatherings of 10 people or more are prohibited. Restaurants, some of whom were aiming to fully reopen by May 1, must continue to offer only to-go or delivery orders.
Unlike the first, however, the city and county are requiring residents to wear face masks in public. According to the language of the order, not wearing a mask is a criminal offense, though "enforcement of this order is substantially reliant on self-regulation and a community commitment to public health and safety."
The order also notes that this order is for fabric masks, not N95 respirators or medical-grade masks, both of which should be reserved for healthcare professionals and first responders. As a result, fabric stores have now been added to the essential business list. Watch or read how to make your own mask at the CDC website.
From now through May 8, all Austinites over the age of 10 should wear masks while:
- In a public building
- Using public transportation or ride shares
- Pumping gas
- Outside and six feet of distancing cannot be maintained
Face masks do not need to be worn while:
- Riding in a personal vehicle
- Alone in a separate, single space
- In the presence of other members of your residence
The coverings are also not required when wearing one poses a greater mental or physical health risk; safety or security risk; or by anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise could not remove the cover without assistance.
“Face coverings are another key piece in flattening the curve,” said Dr. Mark Escott, interim health director for Austin-Travis County. “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.”
Signs detailing the mask requirements will be given to essential businesses in the coming days. Businesses are required to post the signage and will be given additional resources to help enforce the new rule. Exactly what those resources are is unclear.