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Updated order expands on COVID-19 safety plans for Austin businesses

Austin businesses are required to enforce that employees, customers and guests wear a facial covering or mask.

AUSTIN, Texas — After stating last week that he would further update guidelines for businesses to enforce facial coverings among staff and patrons, Austin Mayor Steve Adler has officially updated the order.

The 21-page order, which can be read in full here, expands upon last week's enforcement and focuses on making all businesses require face coverings and not just have a safety plan. The order also continues to suggest social distancing and hygiene practices to continue mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

RELATED: Mayor Adler speaks as Austin businesses begin enforcing face coverings

The order is divided into several sections:

Section 1

This section states all individuals and businesses are required to practice the social distancing, hygiene and face-covering behaviors described in the order, unless excepted by the Governor's Executive Order GA-26. They are also required to follow protocols recommended by the Governor's Open Texas Checklists.

The order continues to suggest avoiding or minimizing social gatherings, advises those over 65 or who are immunocompromised to avoid groups outside their own household and limits socializing in groups of more than 10 people. It also continues to restrict non-critical visitations inside nursing homes, retirement facilities and long-term care facilities.

It states a civil or criminal penalty could be imposed upon businesses, but not individuals, for violations of the face-covering requirements. 

It also states that if someone within a household tests positive for COVID-19 or is awaiting results, the entire household is ordered to isolate and not travel outside the Austin unless to see medical attention or upon Austin Public Health approval.

Section 2

This section expands on social distancing and hygiene guidelines. Social distancing still means keeping a 6-foot distance from people outside your own household. People are advised to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when soap is not available. People are advised not to shake hands and to regularly clean high-touch surfaces.

Section 3

This section expands on facial covering or mask behaviors. All persons over the age of six years old must wear one at all times when outside of their residence except in certain instances defined by the order, such as when they are alone, when they are eating or when doing so poses a greater health risk.

RELATED: Why requiring face masks may be as important as social distancing and staying home

Section 4

This section states that anyone over age six must wear face coverings within City of Austin property or facilities, except in certain instances defined by the order.

Section 5

This section expands on face-covering policies for Austin businesses. All businesses (including nonprofits), commercial entities and venue/events operators are ordered to implement and maintain a safety policy or plan to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

This policy or plan must require that all employees, customers and visitors wear face coverings over their nose and mouth, except in the previously defined instances. It must also include the implementation of other mitigating measures designed to control transmissions, such as temperature checks or health screenings. The business is also required to post signage regarding the plan at each entrance.

A sample health and safety policy, as well as signage, can be found here.

RELATED: These states require face masks be worn in public

Section 6

This section expands on updated guidelines for businesses. All businesses are encouraged to operate at a capacity less than otherwise permitted, as the city remains in Stage 4 alert and cases continue to increase. Businesses are also encouraged to maximize social distancing as much as possible.

Section 7

This section deals with City deadlines and permit exceptions for manufacturers that create health equipment used in fighting the coronavirus. 

All deadlines and expiration dates for site plans, subdivisions, zoning, building permits and similar development applications or permits are extended until Aug. 15 or the date they would have normally expired, whichever is later.

Section 8

This section handles COVID-19 reporting from hospitals, clinics and pharmacies. Any entity or person performing or obtaining testing for coronavirus must provide daily updates to the City of Austin.

RELATED: TABC suspends alcohol licenses at 4 Austin bars due to COVID-19 safety violations

Section 9

This section deals with logging and privacy protection for retail and restaurants. These entities are encouraged to maintain a voluntary activity log of customers and staff, when reasonable, including their contact information and the dates and times they were present in the establishment.

These logs are to be maintained for one month only and are property of the business, not the City. The logs are to be used by public health authorities for contract tracing when needed.

Section 10

This section outlines criminal offenses for violating Section 3 and 4 of the order.

Peace officers, City of Austin Code Department inspectors and the Office of the Austin Fire Marshal are authorized to enforce the order. A criminal violation is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000, but not by confinement. Each day a violation occurs is a separate offense.

Pursuant to the governor's order, criminal penalties can only be imposed upon businesses and not individuals, for facial covering violations.

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