Yesterday on July 14, 2020, Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County’s Interim Medical Director, announced new emergency rules, authorized under two ordinances passed unanimously on July 9, 2020, at a special-called Austin City Council meeting. Violations of the health authority’s emergency rules could result in a fine of up to $2,000. These rules supplement Governor Greg Abbott’s statewide orders and prior City of Austin coronavirus orders issued by Austin Mayor Steve Adler. They are set to expire on November 12, 2020, unless the rules are withdrawn or amended.
Effective immediately and with limited exceptions set forth in the Emergency Rules, Austin residents may be fined for, among other things, failing to wear a mask in public, failing to maintain a distance of six feet from individuals who are not residents of their same household, assembling in a group that is larger than 10 people, traveling outside Austin while awaiting COVID-19 test results or after testing positive for COVID-19, or failing to mention a positive test to a doctor or first responder. Notably, while Governor Abbott’s statewide face covering requirement applies “wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household,” Austin’s new rules do not explicitly exempt those practicing social-distancing from the City’s mask requirements.
In addition, an individual who has experienced a known exposure must quarantine at home for 14 days or risk a fine.
Persons who are responsible for maintaining a property other than governmental properties, properties where medical services are provided, and a dwelling unit where the individual resides may be subject to a $2,000 fine for failing to enforce mandatory public health and safety guidelines. Among these requirements are enforcement of mask policies, employment of specific sanitation and disinfection protocols, enforcement of group size limitations, implementation of daily worker health screening and specific personal hygiene standards, and display of mandatory signage including a sign, which must be displayed at or near the entrance to the facility, requiring face coverings, at least one Austin Public Health “Help Prevent Disease” sign at each entrance and on each restroom door, and signs in Spanish and English to be displayed where information for workers is customarily posted explaining the requirement to maintain at least six feet of distance and to wear a face mask.
The Emergency Rules include additional provisions relevant to construction sites, childcare facilities, and healthcare providers.