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What Austin’s ‘Stay Home Work Safe’ Order Means for Local Restaurants

Takeout and delivery are still considered essential services in Travis County and Austin during the COVID-19 pandemic

Takeout containers
Takeout containers
Nadia Chaudhury is the editor of Eater Austin covering food and pop culture, as well as a photographer, writer, and frequent panel moderator and podcast guest.

Today, Mayor Steve Adler and Judge Sarah Eckhardt issued a “stay home work safe” order for Austin and Travis County in response to the growing novel coronavirus pandemic. It’s effective starting on Tuesday, March 24 at 11:59 p.m. through Monday, April 13.

Under this mandate, nonessential businesses will have to close and all social gatherings are banned. However, restaurants — which are considered essential — will be able to stay open to serve takeout and delivery food during this time. (Bars and restaurant dining rooms remain closed through Friday, May 1.) Liquor stores, grocery stores, farmers markets, and farms also fall under the essential category.

Residents are expected to stay at home and only venture out for food, medical supplies, and other necessary items, as well as for fresh air purposes and walking dogs. While outside, social distancing — aka keeping a distance of six feet or more between groups and people — is required. Open businesses are required to implement social distancing regulations, i.e. people waiting to enter stores and and those on check-out lines.

Those who fail to follow these orders are subject to $1,000 fines or jail up to 180 days.

Dallas county issued its own shelter-in-place mandate yesterday, followed by Houston’s “stay at home, work safe” order this morning. Both of these orders came right after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said that he would leave it up to the discretion of cities and counties as to whether to mandate shelter-in-place protocols on Sunday, March 22. He cited the fact that there are Texas counties with zero confirmed cases, which meant to him that there wasn’t a need for a state-wide mandate as of yet.

Last week, Gov. Abbott issued an executive order closing all Texas restaurant dining rooms and bars for dine-in service, along with banning gatherings of groups containing 10 or more people, as part of his declaration of a public health disaster in the state on Thursday, March 19. It runs through Friday, April 3. Austin Mayor Steve Adler issued a similar mandate on Tuesday, March 17 for the city, though that one runs through Friday, May 1.

Update, 11:09 a.m.: This article has been updated to clarify the name of the order.