Today, Austin Public Health extended its emergency rules — which includes masks requirements and social distancing for diners and restaurants — through the end of the year, as part of the city’s novel coronavirus mitigation plans.
This extension is issued during a time when the Austin area is experiencing a rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Or, as Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott writes in a statement, “A significantly worsening situation here in Travis County from COVID-19 transmission.” The rules are now active through December 31.
These ongoing regulations, which haven’t changed since the last time these rules were first issued in July, include the following:
- Masks are required for everyone, including restaurant/bar/truck customers and staffers. There are certain exceptions, including while people are eating and drinking or seated to eat and drink at a restaurant.
- People still have to practice social distancing, maintaining a gap of six feet between people and groups. For restaurant seating, this distance is brought down to four feet if there is a physical, solid obstruction in place.
- Social groups are still limited to 10 people.
- Restaurant staffers should undergo health screenings before shifts.
- High-contact areas at restaurants/bars/food trucks must be sanitized at least two times a day.
- There should be displayed signage regarding face masks, social distancing, and COVID-19 prevention.
- If a person in a household group is suspected of having the virus, that entire group is supposed to shelter in place until the results are known. This applies to restaurant/bar/truck workers as well.
- Those who test positive are required to quarantine for at least 10 days from the beginning of their symptoms, and then an additional 24 hours without any fever. This applies to restaurant/bar/truck workers as well.
- Those who have been around someone with the virus are likewise required to shelter in place for 14 days from the last date of interaction. The rules also note that all staffers who have potentially been in the proximity of a co-worker who tested positive should be notified and quarantined.
These emergency rules are technically considered separate from Travis County’s and Austin’s stay home, mask, and otherwise be safe order (expiring on December 15), even though they are basically the same.
Businesses and services that have been permitted to reopen under Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive orders — restaurant dine-in service, mall food courts, bars under the permission of county judges — are still able to operate. Just earlier today, Interim Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe re-upped his decision to keep area bars closed through at least November 17, when his replacement will take over his position.