Mayor Adler orders Austin bars, restaurants to close

Hannah Williford

Editor’s note: This story is part of The Daily Texan’s coverage of how coronavirus concerns are affecting UT-Austin. Read the rest of our coverage here.

Mayor Steve Adler ordered bars and dine-in service at restaurants to close in Austin and prohibited gatherings of 10 or more people, effective at noon on Tuesday. 

Adler said restaurants will be allowed to offer takeout services and encouraged members of the community to use the services.

Critical infrastructure, including government buildings, schools, groceries, pharmacies, transit, hospitals and medical facilities, are exempt from these orders, said Dr. Mark Escott, the interim health authority for Austin Public Health. 

“Collectively and individually, we get to decide what kind of spike we’re going to have as this virus begins to enter the general population, which we know it’s going to do,” Adler said. “But we have control over whether it arrives quickly or we have it spaced out over time.”

Escott said although they think everyone who has currently tested positive contracted COVID-19 through travel, he said there is a high risk for community spread.

Escott said they expect the arrival of 1,000 test kits this week and are opening community testing sites, which he expects to increase this week and next week.  

“The measures that we are taking today are not a result of a knee-jerk reaction and not a result of fear, but strategic planning and consultation with our experts,” said Escott.

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said grocery stores are instituting queuing and setting aside priority times for at-risk citizens to shop.  

“I’m asking for folks to be patient, for folks to share and find ways to reach out to neighbors without using their hands,” Eckhardt said.

Adler recognized the economic struggle closures cause and urged businesses to find ways to work from home and the community to take advantage of takeout services. 

“That economic harm is really, at this point, a crisis that is every bit as large as the virus itself,” Adler said.

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said residence evictions will not take place in Austin until after April 1, and Austin Energy will not disconnect utility services at this time.

“The next four to six months is going to be critical for us as a community and us as a country to make the right decisions, to make hard decisions so that we can flatten that curve very quickly,” Escott said.