COVID-19 News

Austin leaders extend stay home order and tackle confusion about governor's plan

Austin extends stay home order and tackles confusion about state plan

South Congress Avenue Soco Austin skyline
Austin's at-home order remains in effect until June. South Congress/Facebook

Austin's Stay Home/Work Safe order has once again been extended. The current city order, set to expire May 8, will now run "through the end of the month," according to Mayor Steve Adler.

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt later clarified the county order is extended through June 15.

The new order
"Nothing much is different in our orders," Eckhardt noted, noting that provisions for social distancing, including the wearing of face masks, limiting groups of non-household members, and non-essential activities, are also extended. 

Both Eckhardt and Adler noted that they are working with scientists and doctors to monitor new cases in the wake of Governor Greg Abbott's orders reopening restaurants, malls, theaters, hair salons, barber shops, and other businesses in recent weeks. If that number is hit — Adler said they will announce that number once they know it — it's likely that lockdown measures will be implemented once again.

"It's entirely possible we'll be taking additional steps before the end of the [order]," Mayor Adler said during a May 8 press conference. "It's possible we'll be back in with supplemental orders before then."

Eckhardt then noted that prior to when Abbott's reopening measures were implemented, Austin's hospitalization rate was hovering around 75 people per day. That number is now around "90 to 95," according to the judge. 

Both the mayor and judge also said the city leaders are working hard to improve local access to testing. "Right now, we don't have more tests because there aren't enough to go around," Adler said, "but we do have more tests than those who ... qualify for a test." (Find out if you're eligible for the free COVID-19 test.)

Following local versus state recommendations
Clarifying whether people should follow the governor's orders or local orders, Eckhardt admitted it was "confusing." 

"Yes, the governor's orders are controlling, but the recommendations of the public health officials remain the same. Only come in contact with the people that are essential today," she said. "The recommendations of your public health officials have not changed."

She later said local and state leaders remain in "partnership" in the fight agains the novel coronavirus.

Animal shelter (halfway) opens, local parks (halfway) close
Earlier this week, the City of Austin announced two new provisions to the stay home/work safe order. First, dog adoptions are set to begin again at the Austin Animal Center. Beginning Friday, May 8, potential adopters can view adoptable dogs on the Austin Animal Center website, choose up to two dogs to meet, and then email ASOAnimalAdoptions@austintexas.gov to schedule an appointment. 

Meanwhile, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department said it will start capping capacity at the following local parks: Emma Long Metropolitan Park, Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park, and Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park.

Beginning May 8, park rangers will begin monitoring numbers at those parks. On Thursday, May 14, visitors must a obtain day pass via an online registration system or make a reservation by phone. As of press time, that registration system was not set up.

City-owned pools, libraries, and schools remain closed.