AUSTIN, Texas — "Stay-at-home" orders were issued Tuesday for Travis County and Williamson County by Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and Williamson County Judge Bill Gravel.
Starting at 11:59 p.m. on March 24 until April 13, Austin residents will need to stay at home or their place of residence with some exceptions.
Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said multiple jurisdictions, including the Austin-area and Williamson County, enacted the orders. The orders are an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Eckhardt called the orders an aggressive, but necessary measure.
It states that if Austinites need to go outside or are using shared space, they must maintain social distancing of at least six feet from other people.
Dr. Mark Escott advised the community to decrease its social interaction by 90% in order to effectively slow the spread of coronavirus. Escott said during the March 24 press conference that if additional precautions such as a shelter-in-place order were not made, hospitals beds "would reach capacity in three to four weeks."
The order also stated that "non-essential business and operations must cease." Businesses that are essential to government service and critical infrastructure, "especially those that provide the basic necessities for food, water and shelter" must remain open. Businesses that are considered essential include hospitals, television, gas stations, grocery stores and day cares.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler reiterated in the press conference that the order does not mean residents are forced to stay indoors.
Exceptions to the order include medical care, trips to the grocery store, outdoor exercise and any other event that contributes to the health or safety of the people — all while maintaining social distancing. Adler advised Central Texans to avoid going out for runs in big groups and communicate virtually whenever possible.
Adler reiterated the 90% decreased social interaction recommendation from Escott numerous times as a crucial part of the potential success of stopping the spread of COVID-19 in Texas.
For a full grasp of the stay-at-home declaration, read the full Austin order online.
Waco, Texas and Dallas County have issued a shelter-in-place. In Dallas, gyms and fitness centers are considered non-essential, but restaurants that offer delivery and take-out are able to stay open there. Public transportation, gas stations, laundromats, hardware stores and auto and bike repair shops are also allowed to remain open in Dallas under the order.
Austin's mayor said this order is the only way the city can control whether or not the health infrastructure gets overwhelmed.
"We need people to focus on staying at home," Mayor Adler told KVUE. "We want people to stay home and not go to work unless they're a critical or essential business."
The Travis County Judge said people will still be able to call a plumber or, for example, pick something up from the office.
"I would strongly encourage people not to panic," Eckhardt said. "This is not a seal-up-your-doors, seal-up-your-windows approach."
During a press conference on Sunday, March 22, Gov. Greg Abbott said at the time he was not planning on issuing a shelter-in-place across the state of Texas, but he added that local officials had the authority to do so in their respective areas.
In the March 24 press conference, Gravel said he understood Abbott's reasoning for not issuing a statewide shelter-in-place and added he respects Abbott's decision.
RELATED: Gov. Abbott issues 2 executive orders to free up 'countless hospital beds'; says no statewide shelter in place
There are at least 86 COVID-19 cases in the Austin area. KVUE is keeping track of the number of cases in Central Texas. To find out how many people have been diagnosed in your county, go here.
MORE CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE:
- How to file for unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic
- Shelter-in-place order issued for city of Waco
- Tito’s Handmade ... hand sanitizer? Distillery looking to produce and give to those in need
- Need a job? These Austin-area stores, other businesses are hiring right now
- Possible coronavirus exposure reported at H-E-B in Schertz
- Austin Disaster Relief Network asks Austinites to donate personal protection supplies
- Coronavirus: Q&A with an Austin emergency room doctor
- Austin-based company creates thermal camera that could help detect coronavirus
- New COVID-19 drive-thru testing site launches in Austin area