Austin, Travis County extend stay at home orders through May 8, require face coverings

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.

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and the city of Austin extended their respective stay at home orders until May 8 on Monday evening, adding a requirement to wear face masks in public.

According to the new orders, Travis County residents over 10 years old should wear a face covering when in public, which could take the form of a bandana, mask, handkerchief or scarf. The orders specify that homemade masks should be made from fabric, and medical-grade mask such as surgical masks or N-95 respirators, should be reserved for front-line health care workers. Fabric stores are now considered essential businesses.

Exclusions to this requirement include if residents are alone in a space, just among family members, engaged in outdoor activity or when wearing a covering presents a greater safety risk.

“Face coverings are another key piece in flattening the curve,” said Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County interim medical director, in a statement for the city of Austin. “It is critical that the public understand that this will not only help in slowing the spread of the disease, but face coverings are also part of our foreseeable future to safely reopen society.”

The addition of face coverings to the orders comes after Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recommended April 3 that Americans wear masks when in public, but to stay at home as much as possible. 

The orders emphasized that face coverings were not a substitute for the six foot distance rule. Essential activities, such as caring for others, obtaining medical services, getting supplies and outdoor activity are still permitted under the order. Essential businesses, such as health care facilities, are encouraged to stay open.

The original stay at home orders were issued March 24 and were set to expire at midnight Monday. Austin Mayor Steve Adler confirmed Monday morning to the Austin American-Statesman that the order for the city of Austin would be extended. 

The orders — a criminal offense if violated — will remain to be enforced mostly through self-regulation.