It's a bitter irony that in times like these we can't do the one thing that might help ease the anxiety and dread: be together. As Austin Public Health officials confirm the city's 10th case of COVID-19, the city has decided to close all restaurants and bars, effective at noon on Tuesday, March 17.
In addition, the city is also banning all groups larger than 10. The ban will be lifted on May 1, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Violating the order may result in a $1,000 fine.
The ban will not affect grocery stores and pharmacies, according to the Statesman. Restaurants will be allowed to offer to-go ordering, delivery, and carry-out. Food trucks should be allowed to stay open, but the mayor urged seating areas to be removed.
Mayor Steve Adler, former Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, and Austin Public Health Medical Director Dr. Mark E. Escott spoke at a press conference around noon, telling residents to expect changes and acknowledging the economic hardship faced by many Austin residents.
"Your leadership is focused on the people and small businesses that are being impacted the most," Adler said, adding Workforce Solutions as a potential resource for those dealing with lost income.
Adler hinted at this morning's news in a late-night tweet on March 16, writing:
We have been closely watching cities across the country move to close restaurants & bars. I've been on the record in favor of this as part of #Austin 's #COVID19 response. @JudgeEckhardt & I will make a public announcement tomorrow at 11:00AM CST.— Mayor Adler (@MayorAdler) March 17, 2020
Austin is just the latest U.S. city to close restaurants and bars in the wake of COVID-19. Over the past several days, cities across the U.S., including New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, and Dallas have shuttered bars, restaurants, gyms, theaters, and other large-scale gathering places.
Many Austin restaurants have already switched to take-out, drive-thru, or to-go ordering, including Franklin Barbecue, P. Terry's, Kerbey Lane Cafe, all McGuire Moorman Hospitality restaurants, all El Chile Group restaurants, among others.
This is a developing story.