Governor's Orders May 1, 2020

The State of Texas Governor Greg Abbot, along with recommendations from the Texas Strike Force, the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the CDC issued a new executive order on April 27, 2020 to start a strategic plan to ‘Open Texas’ in the response to COVID-19 disaster. Under Governor Abbot’s new executive order, Phase I of the plan includes guidelines to reopen certain businesses and services with minimum occupancy restrictions starting May 1, 2020. Additional outlines to the order can be found on the Office of the Texas Governor website

The Governor's new and preexisting orders can be found on his website here.  

City of Austin Orders

The Stay Home – Work Safe Order initially issued March 24, 2020 has been extended through June 15, 2020. The Order requires residents to stay at home, except for essential activities, essential businesses, and reopened businesses to prevent further spread of COVID-19. Additionally, the Order requires the public to wear fabric face coverings when conducting essential activities or work.

All open businesses must comply with physical distancing and face covering requirements.

What You Need to Know

The Public Health Order asks that all Austin/Travis County residents avoid nonessential outings and stay inside as much as possible to contain the spread of COVID-19.

It’s still fine to leave your home to buy groceries, go for a run, walk the dog, pick up medicine, visit a doctor or travel to and from work (If designated as an essential or reopened business). 

Face Covering Information

A significant percentage of individuals with the COVID-19 virus lack symptoms. Because an infected person can transmit the virus to others before showing any symptoms, the covering of a person’s nose and mouth when outside your home or residence is necessary to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. This is consistent with the findings of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Austin-Travis County Health Authority. 

Wearing a face covering is not a substitute for maintaining 6-feet social distancing and hand washing, as these remain important steps to slowing the spread of the virus. All persons over the age of ten must wear some form of covering over their nose and mouth, such as a homemade mask, scarf, bandana or handkerchief, when:  

  • Entering into or inside of any building open to the public 

  • Using public transportation, taxis, or ride shares  

  • Pumping gas 

  • Outside and six feet of social distancing cannot be consistently maintained between the person and individuals outside of their household 

Face coverings are not required when: 

  • Riding in a personal vehicle 

  • Alone in a separate single space 

  • In the presence only of other members of their household or residence 

  • Doing so 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 

  • Eating  

Parents and Guardians of children under 10 shall be responsible for appropriately masking children when outside their residence.  

  • Medical grade (N95) and surgical masks should be reserved and used only by medical professionals and first responders. Examples of how to make cloth face coverings can be found under “You and Your Family” and from the CDC. 

FAQs Regarding the City and Governor Orders

Can someone hold a garage sale?

No, under current city, county, and state orders, garage sales are not permitted. All orders require individuals to minimize social gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household, unless a person is providing or accessing an essential business or activity or a reopened retail service, engaging in essential travel, or participating in permitted outdoor activity. A garage sale is not an essential business or service or a reopened retail service.

Can a memorial service be held in a parking lot where everyone stays in their cars?

Yes, a memorial service held in this way is permitted under the City and State orders. Section 6(e)(xxiv) of the Mayor’s April 13, 2020 Stay Home – Work Safe Order provides that a funeral, mortuary, cremation, burial, cemetery, and related services, are essential services and may continue, provided that social distancing of six feet per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible.

A memorial service that is a religious service held in a church, congregation, or place of worship is also an essential service and is permitted under the City and State Order. Participants in religious services should follow the joint guidance issued by the Attorney General and the Governor.

Does the Governor’s Order mean that all employees, essential and non-essential, can go back to work if their business is allowed to open?

Employers of businesses that are permitted to reopen will determine the number of employees that will return to work.

Where do social gatherings fit in the new executive order?

Current city, county, and state stay home orders require individuals to minimize social gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household. This means social gatherings are not permitted and people may leave their homes only to provide or access an essential business or activity or a reopened service, to engage in essential travel, or to participate in permitted outdoor physical activity, including a wedding, wedding reception, religious service or funeral as long as social distance is maintained.

The Governor’s new Order also encourages people over 65 to stay at home and to socially distance from people at home who have been outside the home in the past 14 days.

According to the Governor’s new order can people attend funerals, religious services, weddings, picnics, and festivals / gatherings? (And how many people can attend)? (Includes Guidance for Faith-Based Services, Places of Worship and Funerals as printable PDFs)

Guidance for Faith-Based Services, Places of Worship and Funerals

A version of this information is available in English | Spanish | Traditional Chinese | Simplified Chinese | Vietnamese | Arabic 

Funerals: Funerals are permitted. Funerals held indoors other that at a church, congregation or house of worship, may operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the facility. The occupancy limit does not apply to outside areas. Social distancing should be practiced.

Religious Services: A religious service held in a church, congregation, or place of worship is an essential service and is permitted under the City and State Order. Participants in religious services should follow the joint guidance issued by the Attorney General and the Governor

Weddings: Under the Governor’s Order GA-21, wedding venues are permitted to open and services required to conduct weddings are permitted. Weddings held indoors other that at a church, congregation or house of worship, may operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the facility.

Facilities that operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy for the facility may provide wedding reception services. The occupancy limit does not apply to the outdoor areas of a reception or to outdoor wedding receptions.

Picnics: Picnics are only allowed among members of the same household. Current city, county, and state stay home orders require individuals to minimize social gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household. This means social gatherings are not permitted and people may leave their homes only to provide or access an essential business or activity or a reopened service, to engage in essential travel, or to participate in permitted outdoor physical activity.

Festivals/Gatherings: Festivals and other such gatherings not addressed specifically in the City or State Orders are not permitted. Current city, county, and state stay home orders require individuals to minimize social gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household. This means social gatherings are not permitted and people may leave their homes only to provide or access an essential business or activity or a reopened service, to engage in essential travel, or to participate in permitted outdoor physical activity.

Will/when are City facilities going to open?

The City Manager will determine the appropriate time to open City facilities, including pools, based on the available data concerning the containment of the COVID-19 virus.

Can THIS business open? Includes pet groomers, escape rooms, art, music, and others.

Current city, county, and state stay home orders require individuals to minimize social gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household. This means social gatherings are not permitted and people may leave their homes only to provide or access an essential business or activity or a reopened service, to engage in essential travel, or to participate in permitted outdoor physical activity.

Escape room adventures: No, this is a social gathering and not an activity that people may leave their homes to access.

Pet groomers for everyone, not just veterinarian issues: Yes, non-health related service is a permitted non-essential retail service. It must follow the Governor’s guidelines for reopened services.

Laser tag/Paint ball: No, this a social gathering and not an activity that people may leave their homes to access.

Dog boarding/daycare: This service may be accessed only if it is part of veterinary care.

Wine tasting rooms: Unless a wine-tasting room falls under the dine-in restaurant service under the Governor’s Order GA-21, it cannot reopen. An establishment only qualifies as a dine-in restaurant service if the restaurant has less than 51 percent of its gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages and is not required to post the 51 percent sign required by Texas law as determined by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Musicians/music classes: No, this does not fall under any exception to the city, county or state stay home orders and is not a service that people may leave their homes to access. Classes may be accessed remotely.

Artist showings/classes: No, this does not fall under any exception to the city, county or state stay home orders and is not a service that people may leave their homes to access. Classes may be accessed remotely.

Retail services: Yes, services may be provided through pick-up, delivery by mail, or delivery to the customer’s doorstep. In-store retail services may be provided if operated at up to 25 percent of the total occupancy of the retail establishment.

Cosmetology salon: Yes, may open starting May 8. Work-stations must be 6 feet apart, and social-distancing, hygiene and face-covering behaviors must be followed.

Pools: Yes, indoor and outdoor pools may open starting May 8 at 25 percent capacity. Pools owned and operated by the City of Austin remain closed.

Gyms: No. Gyms are scheduled to open May 18 with a 25% capacity. Locker rooms and showers must remain closed.

May a person engage in outdoor sports?

Individuals may engage in outdoor sports that do not include contact with other participants, and no more than four participants play the sport at any time. Individuals engaged in outdoor activity shall continue to comply with social distancing requirements. More information about city golf courses can be found at https://www.austintexas.gov/department/golf-atx.

Who determines occupancy for businesses?

The Development Services Department will assist businesses that choose to open determine occupancy. Business owners can find more information on our Business and Industries page.

What parts of the City’s stay-home order still apply?

The Mayor’s April 13, 2020 “stay home” order is in effect until midnight on May 8. Governor’s Order GA-21 modifies the City order by expanding the list of businesses and services that people may leave their homes to access (reopened businesses). GA-21 also provides that a city may not impose a civil or criminal penalty for violations of the face covering requirement.

What if any changes apply to nursing homes?

The Governor’s new Order does not change the current requirements for local nursing homes issued by the Austin-Travis County Local Health Authority on April 20, 2020.

What does this mean for childcare facilities? Are these allowed to open for non-essential workers? Are there limits on the number of children and/or teachers?

Childcare facilities may continue to provide services that enable those working in essential services to work. At this time, childcare facilities may not provide childcare for non-essential workers, including workers in reopened services. If people need help locating a provider that is open and accepting new children, they can visit the Frontline Child Care Availability Portal at find.frontlinechildcare.texas.gov. If people have questions or need assistance, please contact Capital Workforce Solutions.

Childcare must be carried out in stable groups of no more than 10 people. Stable means that the same 10 people or fewer must be in the group each day. If there is more than one group at a childcare facility, each group must be in a separate room. Children and staff shall not mix in other groups or change groups.

How do the Governor’s orders impact/change the direction/guidance that the City has for the construction industry?

The guidance, signage, and requirements issued by the City to the construction industry remain the same. The City will not impose a civil or criminal penalty for violations of the face covering requirement.

Does the City’s Order continue to apply in light of the Governor’s new Order?

The City of Austin’s May 8, 2020 stay home order is in effect until midnight on June 15. Both the City’s order and the Governor’s order GA-21 require individuals to stay at home unless providing or accessing essential businesses or activities or reopened services. The City requires, to the extent feasible, that all persons practice social distancing and use face coverings when engaging in essential daily activities and performing or obtaining essential services and reopened services.

How will the City enforce the 25% capacity limit?

The occupancy limit will be enforced by the Austin Police Department, the Austin Code Department, and the Austin Fire Marshal. The first step of the enforcement process is education. Subsequent complaints that are verified may result in criminal penalties.

How will the City determine the 25% limit?

The Governor’s Order limits the occupancy of a reopened service to up to 25% of its total listed occupancy. The City understands this limitation to mean that the customers allowed into the reopened service may only be up to 25% of the maximum occupancy load. This calculation does not include the workers necessary to operate the reopened service, except non-essential manufacturing service providers and services provided by office workers and does not include outdoor areas of restaurants or wedding receptions. For outdoor swimming pools, the Governor’s Order sets 25 percent normal operating limits as determined by the operator.

What should I do if I believe a business is not complying with the 25% capacity?

Complaints should be referred to 311.

As a business owner, can I require that my customers wear face coverings?

Yes, a business can set its own policy for face covering requirements on site.

What is still prohibited by the Governor’s Order?

People shall avoid visiting bars, massage establishments, tattoo studios, piercing studios, sexually oriented businesses, or interactive amusement venues such as bowling alleys, video arcades, amusement parks, water parks, or splash pads.

People shall not visit nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance as determined through guidance from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC).

Why is there a Stay At Home Order?

There is substantial community transmission of the virus, which is easily spread between people. Many people who have it don’t have symptoms or have mild symptoms, but they can easily spread the virus even if they don’t feel very bad. Some who get the virus, especially those over  the age of 60, those who have weak immune systems, and those with various medical conditions, can end up with serious complications and could need medical intervention such as oxygen or help breathing. 

Because the virus spreads so easily, without intervention like this Order, many people could need medical attention, placing a strain our hospital system. There may not be enough beds or equipment to adequately care for the most seriously ill. It is critical that we do everything in our power to slow down the spread of the virus and “flatten the curve” to avoid overwhelming our health care system. If this succeeds, it means that there will be health care available for those who get sick with COVID-19 or who need emergency medical care for accidents, heart attacks, strokes, and other serious medical conditions.

Can the city still enforce a stay-home order if the state's order expires?

The City of Austin’s May 8, 2020 stay home order is still in effect and will extend through to June 15, 2020. Both the City’s order and the Governor’s order GA-18 require individuals to stay at home unless providing or accessing essential businesses or activities or reopened services. The City requires, to the extent feasible, that all persons practice social distancing and use face coverings when engaging in essential daily activities and performing or obtaining essential services and reopened services.

Do I still need to wear a face covering when entering a business open under the State and City orders?

We are still requiring individuals to continue to wear face coverings when they enter an essential business. In addition, to still comply with the 6-feet social distancing and hand washing, as these remain important steps to slowing the spread of the virus. 

Can I visit friends and family?

All public and private gatherings—including gatherings of friends and family residing in different households or dwelling units--of any number of people occurring outside a single household or dwelling unit is prohibited, with exception to essential activities and essential work or members of a household or dwelling unit.

The more we can limit the number of person-to-person interactions, the more we can hope to contain the spread.

Telephonic or virtual visits are unaffected and highly encouraged. Caring for a family member, the elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons in another household is considered an essential activity and is not impacted by the Order.

Can I exercise or walk my pet?

Yes. Individuals may go on a walk, get exercise, or take a pet outside, as long as at least six feet of physical distancing is maintained. City of Austin park green space and trails have remained open for activities like walking, hiking, jogging or biking. However, some facilities and amenities have been closed. View full details of the City's modified park system operations here.

Can I go to the laundromat?
Yes. Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers are considered essential businesses. However, you should still maintain social distancing from others as best as possible and wash your hands.
What help is available for victims of domestic violence?

If it is not safe for you to remain home, you are urged to find another safe place to stay during this order. Please reach out to:

SAFE: 512-267-7233

Hope Alliance: 800-460-7233

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-877-863-6338

@SAFEatx

How does the Order impact people experiencing homelessness?

Homeless individuals are not subject to the shelter in place order but are encouraged to seek shelter. The City will continue to work with state and local partners, to maximize available resources for the homeless population. To the extent individuals are using shared or outdoor spaces, they shall, to the greatest extent feasible, comply with physical distancing and face covering requirements. For more information, visit www.AustinTexas.gov/Homelessness.

Is it safe to have an inspector in my home under the current Orders?

To keep residents and our inspectors safe, we have temporarily suspended interior inspections of occupied dwellings except when there is an immediate threat to life or safety.