Starting Tuesday, June 23, Austin-Travis County Orders require businesses to adopt and enforce health plans that require face coverings.
Austin, Texas – With a record number of COVID-19 cases being reported for several days in a row this past week, Austin-Travis County leaders are implementing revised Orders to help slow the spread of COVID-19 as the State continues to reopen.
Starting Tuesday, June 23, new Orders issued by Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe require publicly-facing businesses to adopt and enforce health plans that require face coverings. The Orders will remain in place until Aug. 15, 2020.
The Orders state that at a minimum, the business must require all employees and visitors wear face coverings (with some exemptions). The Orders state that businesses must post the health and safety policy or plan in a location where employees and visitors can see it.
In addition, Mayor Steve Adler is also be ordering all businesses, whether they interact directly with the public or not, to require their employees to wear face coverings. This does not apply to the Travis County Order.
“It's on each of us to wear a mask to keep our economy open and one another safe,” said Mayor Steve Adler. "With our numbers rising, we’ve got to do this, we’ve got to do this together, and we’ve got to do this now. Austin is a city of US."
Businesses may also implement other measures to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, such as temperature checks or health screenings.
An individual doesn’t have to wear a face covering under the following exceptions:
- Alone in a separate single space, whether indoors or outdoors;
- When the person is in the presence only of other members of the same household or residence, whether indoors or outdoors;
- When doing so poses a greater mental or physical health, safety or security risk;
- When outdoors engaging in an allowed activity while alone, or with only members of the same household or residence, or while maintaining a consistent separation of six feet or more from others and engaging in conduct authorized and as allowed by Governor' s Order GA-26 or subsequent executive order; or
- When eating or drinking in a restaurant or bar.
Austin-Travis County recommended the use of fabric face coverings by the general public in early April to further slow the spread of COVID-19. However, in May, Gov. Greg Abbott said local authorities cannot enforce the requirements for individuals to wear face coverings.
“I think this is a strong position that our business community needs to take in order to ensure that we are doing as much as we can to mitigate that risk of spread, to protect our community, and to ensure that those businesses can stay open,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority.
In the City of Austin, if an individual believes the Order is being violated by a business, they can report it directly to Austin 3-1-1. Austin Code will then reach out to the business regarding the complaint and remind the business about the requirements and where they can access information to gain compliance.
If the business has a second offense, Austin Code will dispatch to the business and check to see if they’re in compliance with the Order, if not, the business will be issued a $1,000 fine per day until the business complies.
If a business has a customer who is unwilling to abide by the Order, the business can ask the individual to leave. If they refuse to leave, the business can call 9-1-1. Austin Police will respond and if the individual still refuses to leave, the individual will be arrested and charged with criminal trespassing.
It is critical to understand that a face covering does not substitute for the need to maintain physical distancing. Face coverings, combined with physical distancing, decrease the risk of spread.
For maximum effectiveness, the face covering should cover both the nose and mouth and attach securely behind the ears. Coverings should be washed after each use with hot water and detergent and hands should be washed immediately after touching the cover.
Face coverings should not be placed on young children younger than two years old, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance.
It is vital that people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, even mild ones, to stay home, except for medical care. Mild symptoms in COVID-19 positive patients include:
- Sore throat
- Body aches
- Change in the ability to smell and taste
- Nasal congestion
For more information and updates, visit www.AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.