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City of Austin answers your questions, issues new guidance as Texas begins reopening

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions regarding the City and governor's orders.

AUSTIN, Texas — The City of Austin provided updated guidance Friday on activities and information for businesses that have recently opened, or plan to open soon, under Governor Abbott’s April 17 Executive Order GA-18, which supersedes some provisions of the Austin's “Stay Home – Work Safe” Order, according to City officials.

The new City guidance comes after Abbott announced his plan to reopen Texas, which started Phase 1 on May 1. Gov. Abbott announced that all retail stores, restaurants, movies and malls will be able to reopen on May 1, but will be required to maintain only up to 25% occupancy. Additionally, museums and libraries will be able to reopen, given they follow the 25% occupancy rules and do not reopen interactive features. 

Among questions asked in the City FAQ document include, but were not limited to: 

  • Can someone hold a garage sale? 
  • Can a memorial service be held in a parking lot where everyone stays in their cars?
  • Do wedding venues operate like retail and restaurants at 25% during phase one?
  • Where do social gatherings fit in the new executive order?
  • Will festivals/events be able to happen?
  • May a person engage in outdoor sports?

Here are the answers to the frequently asked questions from the City's new guidance

CITY ANSWERS COVID-19 FAQs

  • Can someone hold a garage sale? 
    No, under current city, county, and state orders, garage sales are not be permitted.  All orders require individuals to minimize social gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household, unless a person is providing or accessing an essential business or activity or a reopened retail service, engaging in essential travel, or participating in permitted outdoor activity.  A garage sale is not an essential business or service or a reopened retail service. 
  • Can a memorial service be held in a parking lot where everyone stays in their cars? 
    Yes, a memorial service held in this way is permitted under the City and State orders. Section 6(e)(xxiv) of the Mayor’s April 13, 2020 Stay Home – Work Safe Order provides that a funeral, mortuary, cremation, burial, cemetery, and related services, are essential services and may continue, provided that social distancing of six feet per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible and groups are limited to no more than ten people. A memorial service that is a religious service held in a church, congregation, or place of worship is also an essential service and is permitted under the City and State Order. Participants in religious services should follow the joint guidance issued by the Attorney General and the Governor. 
  • Does the Governor’s Order mean that all employees, essential and non-essential, can go back to work if their business is allowed to open
    Employers of businesses that are permitted to reopen will determine the number of employees that will return to work. 
  • Do wedding venues operate like retail and restaurants at 25% during phase one? 
    No. Under the Governor’s Order dated April 27, 2020, several additional businesses are permitted to open on May 1,2020.   Wedding venues are not included in the list of businesses that are permitted to open. 
  •  Where do social gatherings fit in the new executive order? 
    Current city, county, and state stay home orders require individuals to minimize social gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household. This means social gatherings are not permitted and people may leave their homes only to provide or access an essential business or activity or a reopened service, to engage in essential travel, or to participate in permitted outdoor physical activity. 
  • According to the Governor’s new order can people attend the following events (and how many people can attend): 
    • Funerals: Section 6(e)(xxiv) of the Mayor’s April 13, 2020 Stay Home – Work Safe Order provides that a funeral, mortuary, cremation, burial, cemetery, and related services, are essential services and may continue, provided that social distancing of six feet per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible and groups are limited to no more than ten people. A religious service held in a church, congregation, or place of worship is also an essential service and is permitted under the City and State Order. Participants in religious services should follow the joint guidance issued by the Attorney General and the Governor.
      Weddings: A religious service held in a church, congregation, or place of worship is an essential service and is permitted under the City and State Order. Participants in religious services should follow the joint guidance issued by the Attorney General and the Governor. Current city, county, and state stay home orders require individuals to minimize social gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household. This means social gatherings are not permitted.
    • Picnics: Picnics are only allowed among members of the same household. Current city, county, and state stay home orders require individuals to minimize social gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household. This means social gatherings are not permitted and people may leave their homes only to provide or access an essential business or activity or a reopened service, to engage in essential travel, or to participate in permitted outdoor physical activity.
    • Festivals/Gatherings: Festivals and other such gatherings are not permitted. Current city, county, and state stay home orders require individuals to minimize social gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household. This means social gatherings are not permitted and people may leave their homes only to provide or access an essential business or activity or a reopened service, to engage in essential travel, or to participate in permitted outdoor physical activity. 
  • Will/when are City facilities going to open? 
    The City Manager will determine the appropriate time to open City facilities based on the available data concerning the containment of the COVID-19 virus. The Governor’s Order GA-18 prohibits the opening of public swimming pools at this time. 
  • Questions asking if the following businesses can open? 
    Current city, county, and state stay home orders which require individuals to minimize social gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household. This means social gatherings are not permitted and people may leave their homes only to provide or access an essential business or activity or a reopened service, to engage in essential travel, or to participate in permitted outdoor physical activity. 
    • Tanning businesses: No, this is a cosmetology service and not a service that people may leave their homes to access. 
    • Escape room adventures: No, this is a social gathering and not an activity that people may leave their homes to access. 
    • Pet groomers for everyone, not just veterinarian issues: Yes, non-health related service is a permitted non-essential retail service. It must follow the Governor’s guidelines for reopened services. 
    • Laser tag/Paint ball: No, this a social gathering and not an activity that people may leave their homes to access. 
    • Dog boarding/daycare: This service may be accessed only if it is part of veterinary care. 
    • Wine tasting rooms: Unless a wine-tasting room falls under the dine-in restaurant service under the Governor’s Oder GA-18 it cannot reopen. An establishment only qualifies as a dine-in restaurant service if the restaurant has less than 51 percent of its gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages and is not required to post the 51 percent sign required by Texas law as determined by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. 
    • Musicians/music classes: No, this does not fall under any exception to the city, county or state stay home orders and is not a service that people may leave their homes to access. Classes may be accessed remotely. 
    • Artist showings/classes: No, this does not fall under any exception to the city, county or state stay home orders and is not a service that people may leave their homes to access. Classes may be accessed remotely. 
  • Will festivals/events be able to happen? 
    Festivals and other such gatherings are not permitted. Current city, county, and state stay home orders require individuals to minimize social gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household. This means that social gatherings are not permitted and people may leave their homes only to provide or access an essential business or activity or a reopened service, to engage in essential travel, or to participate in permitted outdoor physical activity. 
  • May a person engage in outdoor sports? 
    Individuals may engage in outdoor sports, provided that the sports do not include contact with other participants, and no more than four participants play the sport at any time. Individuals engaged in outdoor activity shall continue to comply with social distancing requirements. More information about city golf courses can be found at https://www.austintexas.gov/department/golf-atx
  • Who determines occupancy for businesses? 
    The Development Services Department will assist businesses who choose to open determine occupancy. 
  • What do you think about the Governor’s plan? 
    We were looking at similar plans that limit contact based upon occupancy limits, however, we were exploring a date to implement the plans closer to June to give us more time to assess previous policy decisions and determine whether it was safe to begin reopening. 
  • What parts of the City’s stay-home order still apply? 
    The Mayor’s April 13, 2020, “stay home” order is still in effect. Governor’s Order GA18 modifies the City order in two ways. GA-18 identifies additional businesses and services that people may leave their homes to access (reopened businesses). GA-18 also provides that a city may not impose a civil or criminal penalty for violations of the face covering requirement. 
  • Are prohibitions on non-essential trips removed starting May 1? 
    No, the Mayor’s April 13, 2020 stay home order is still in effect. Governor’s Order GA-18 identifies additional businesses and services that people may leave their homes to access (reopened businesses). Now, in addition to making trips related to essential businesses, activities and travel, individuals may also make trips to obtain or provide the reopened services listed in the Governor’s order and to participate in permitted outdoor activity. Otherwise, individuals must stay at home. 
  • What will change for nursing homes starting on Friday? 
    The order issued by the Governor does not change the current requirements for nursing homes issued by the Austin-Travis County Local Health Authority on April 20, 2020. 
  • What does this mean for childcare facilities? 
    Are these allowed to open for non-essential workers? Are there limits on the number of children and/or teachers? Childcare facilities may continue to provide services that enable those working in essential services to work. At this time, childcare facilities may not provide childcare for non-essential workers, including workers in reopened services. If people need help locating a provider that is open and accepting new children, they can visit the Frontline Child Care Availability Portal at find.frontlinechildcare.texas.gov. If people have questions or need assistance, please contact Capital Workforce Solutions. Childcare must be carried out in stable groups of no more than 10 people. Stable means that the same 10 people or fewer must be in the group each day. If there is more than one group at a childcare facility, each group must be in a separate room. Children and staff shall not mix in other groups or change groups. 
  • How do the Governor’s orders impact/change the direction/guidance that the City has for the construction industry? 
    The guidance, signage, and requirements issued by the City to the construction industry remain the same. The City will not impose a civil or criminal penalty for violations of the face covering requirement. 
  • What can Austin do to implement stricter restrictions than the state after the statewide stay-order expires? 
    The state's order will expire on April 30, ours was going to extend to May 8 anyway. Can the city still enforce a stay-home order if the state's order expires? We had a stay-home order before the state, and we were scheduled to have one continue after the state's expired. It's a bit confusing. The City of Austin’s April 13, 2020 stay home order is still in effect. Both the City’s order and the Governor’s order GA-18 require individuals to stay at home unless providing or accessing essential businesses or activities or reopened services. The City requires, to the extent feasible, that all persons practice social distancing and use face coverings when engaging in essential daily activities and performing or obtaining essential services and reopened services. 
  • How will the City enforce the 25% capacity limit? 
    It will be enforced by the Austin Police Department, the Austin Code Department, and the Austin Fire Marshal. The first step of the enforcement process is education. Subsequent complaints that are verified may result in criminal penalties. 
  • How will the City determine the 25% limit? 
    The Governor’s order limits the occupancy of a reopened service to 25% of its total listed occupancy. The City understands this limitation to mean that the customers allowed into the reopened service may not exceed 25% of the maximum occupancy load. This calculation does not include the workers necessary to operate the reopened service. 
  • What should I do if I believe a business is not complying with the 25% capacity? 
    Complaints should be referred to 311. 
  • As a business, can I require that my customers wear face coverings? 
    Yes, a business can set its own policy for face covering requirements on site.

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