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Coronavirus: Austin, Williamson County adopt CDC guideline, recommends public wear masks

The City of Austin made the announcement as an effort to further slow the spread of COVID-19.

AUSTIN, Texas — After an update in the CDC recommendations, Austin-Travis County announced on April 5 it is recommending the of use fabric face coverings by the general public when conducting essential activities or essential business outside of their residence.

Williamson County announced similar recommendations a day later.

The City of Austin made the announcement as an effort to further slow the spread of COVID-19, as the city could see its peak in cases toward the end of April to early May, according to a previous data model ran by the city. 

Mayor Steve Adler said a new model should be available in the coming days.

"Everybody should be using fabric face coverings as the next step in the fight against the spread of COVID-19,” Adler recommended. "They’re really easy to make, and everybody has everything they need to make one lying around the house. It’s important, though, to absolutely still follow the six-foot rule."

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Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott announced the recommendation with support from Mayor Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt to provide an additional protective measure to prevent asymptomatic carriers from spreading the virus, the release stated.

“This is another piece of a complex process to slow the spread and flatten the curve in our community,” said Dr. Escott. “While you might otherwise feel well and healthy, we need everyone’s help to prevent the potential asymptomatic spread to others who could face more severe symptoms.”

The majority of individuals getting infected in Travis County are between 20 to 39 years old, according to Mayor Adler.

Scarves or bandanas are some household items that can serve as a face covering, the City advised. There are also do-it-yourself plans available online including guidance from the CDC and guidance from Austin Public Health.

"So, cotton is the preferred, you know, as long as the thread count is high. The higher the thread count, the better the filtration is going to be," Dr. Escott said on Monday. "What we don't want to happen is for people to wear things which are not comfortable and they end up adjusting and touching their face more often."


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Dr. Escott also said that it's not necessary to wear a face-covering when driving alone in a car. But if you're going somewhere where you may encounter someone from your car, it's recommended that you wear the face covering. 

"If they're going to a drive-thru, for instance, if they're going to a curbside pick-up and there is going to be anticipated face-to-face interaction, they should have a face covering on them," said Escott.

"It is critical to understand that a face-covering does not substitute for the need to maintain physical distancing and the Stay Home, Work Safe Order," City officials said. "Face-coverings, combined with physical distancing, may further decrease the risk of spread."

The City advised the public to not use N-95 respirators, which are in short supply and needed by healthcare workers and first responders.

Officials said face coverings should not be placed on young children younger than two years old, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance.

It is vital that people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, even mild ones, should not leave home for any reason except for medical care. Mild symptoms in COVID-19 positive patients include:

  • Sore throat
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Change in the ability to smell and taste
  • Nasal congestion 

The City said anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should call their healthcare provider before walking into a clinic, urgent care center or hospital. People experiencing COVID-19 symptoms who are uninsured and do not have an established doctor can call the COVID-19 Hotline at 512-978-8775 for guidance. 

For more information and updates, visit www.AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.  

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