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What’s closed, what you can do in Austin amid coronavirus outbreak

What are you allowed to do, and how are the city and county responding? Here’s a running list

Downtown Austin
| Shutterstock

Update (April 14): Travis County has extended its stay-at-home order through May 8 and instituted requirements for wearing fabric face coverings in public.

Fabric stores are now considered essential businesses.

The city of Austin has a list of closed or limited-hours city departments and facilities on its website. Many departments are still conducting business online and via telephone.

CIty park use and changes

The ban on public park use in the city that was in effect over the past weekend ended Monday. However, in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our area, the Parks and Recreation Department will decrease parking access for downtown parks, district parks, and neighborhood parks to increase physical distancing by park and trail users.

In addition, the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake will convert to a “one-way” trail to increase physical distancing. These changes began Monday, April 13, and the full transition is expected to be completed by Friday, April 17.

Life in Austin has sputtered to a halt as COVID-19 curbs the way Austinites get around—and the places they visit. There’s no curfew, and the region has not entirely shut down, but residents are now under a stay-home/work-smart order that dictates residents venture outside only when necessary.

New closures are announced almost daily as the pandemic spreads. Below, we’re tracking the latest updates.

Update (April 6): Austin and Travis County now recommend that the general public use fabric face coverings when conducting essential activities or essential business outside of their residences. The recommendation is in accordance with a recent recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), intended as an additional protective measure to prevent asymptomatic carriers from spreading the virus. The CDC has a helpful guide to how to wear face coverings.

Face coverings are not a substitute for social distancing. Please continue to follow recommended distancing procedures.

What are the basics?

Stay at home as much as possible. Go outside only for recreation and trips for food, medicine, and doctor’s appointments, or to help friends, family, and neighbors in need. When outside of the home, practice social distancing, meaning keep six feet of separation between you and people not in your household.

So I can still go outside?

Yes, you are encouraged to exercise and get fresh air. But too many people are venturing away from their neighborhoods with friends and nonfamily members. On Saturday, March 28 the Austin Parks and Recreation Department announced the closure of all park amenities with the exception of restrooms and water fountains. Those closures have continued to multiply, with the latest information below:

Update (April 9): The city’s parks, trails, green belts, and preserves will shutter tonight through Monday morning to prevent overcrowding during the Easter holiday, but Mayor Adler says he’s considering closing the parks indefinitely in order to stem the spread of COVID-19. “Quite frankly, I think we need to consider closing them down at the end of that period as well, so that we really do show the discipline that we need to show in this community,” Adler told the Statesman.

Update (April 7): All city of Austin parks and trails will close from sunset Thursday, April 9 and through sunrise, Monday, April 13, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the Easter weekend. This closure applies to all city parks, trails, greenbelts, and preserves, including the Roy and Ann Butler Hike and Bike Trail. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department’s Park Viewer app provides ongoing, updated information about which specific parks and green spaces are closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Update (April 6): The city has now closed municipal golf courses for any use. No walking, running, biking, or any other activity is allowed on those golf courses. (Golf-course staff will maintain and monitor the courses.)

The Barton Springs spillway aka “Barking Springs” is closed.

Recently closed parks amenities include:

  • Basketball courts
  • Tennis courts
  • Skate parks
  • Pavilions
  • Municipal golf courses for any use, including walking, running, and bicycling.

Closed by PARD:

  • Playgrounds
  • Exercise equipment

Park green space and trails and golf course green spaces—where social distancing can still be maintained—remain open.

PARD’s announcement also notes that permanent restroom structures that are operational are cleaned and sanitized multiple times a day. (Some restrooms were already closed were for construction or repair.)

As of April 7, all state parks are closed to the public. A reopening date has yet to be determined.

Social distancing dos and don’ts

  • Do: Go for walks and bike rides on paths that have not closed in your neighborhood—but don’t go in groups and keep your distance from others.
  • Do not: Visit friends and family, unless it’s urgent.
  • Do: Maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others when you go out.
  • Do not: Gather in groups.
  • Do: Work from home.

Where can I learn more about the stay-home/work-safe order?

You can read about the order, what is considered essential activity and work, how long the order is expected to last, and state actions related to COVID-19 in our stay-at-home explainer. The story also contains a link to the order issued by the city and county.

On April 8, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, who along with Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell signed the original shelter-in-place decree, said she was penning another shelter-in-place order that is poised to go into effect indefinitely on April 14.

What’s closed

City Parks and Recreation Department

  • State parks
  • City parks, trails, greenbelts, and preserves
  • Libraries
  • Museums
  • Playgrounds
  • Exercise equipment
  • Golf courses
  • Recreation centers and cultural centers
  • Basketball courts
  • Tennis courts and centers
  • Skate parks
  • Pavilions
  • Austin Animal Center
  • Pools and aquatic facilities
  • Senior centers
  • Zilker Botanical Garden
  • Zilker Caretaker Cottage
  • Austin Nature and Science Center
  • Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center

Nonessential Municipal Court dockets will be rescheduled

Also closed

  • All nonessential businesses: They can keep running, as long as employees are working from home.
  • Museums: You can’t visit them in-person, but many local institutions, including some of the country’s most renowned, are putting resources, educational materials, and exhibits online.
  • Entertainment venues
  • Bars and nightclubs
  • Gyms
  • Movie and live theaters

What’s open

Essential businesses include:

  • Grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores, carryout or delivery restaurants
  • Hospitals, pharmacies, clinics, veterinary offices, and other health care service facilities
  • Child care facilities providing services that enable essential employees to continue functioning
  • Gas stations and auto repair facilities
  • Banks and financial institutions
  • Critical infrastructure including energy, water, solid waste collection, and other governmental services
  • Hardware stores, plumbers, electricians, and other service providers necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences and other essential businesses
  • Educational institutions, for the purposes of facilitating distance learning
  • Businesses that provide social services and necessities of life for economically disadvantaged individuals and shelter facilities
  • Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, and goods directly to residences or maintain essential business supply chains
  • Roles required for any essential business to “maintain basic operations,” which include security, payroll, and similar activities
  • Restaurant takeout and delivery. (Curbed sister site Eater is keeping thorough tabs on the area’s restaurant scene in relation to COVID-19.)

There will be no changes to essential city services including public safety, trash, recycling, and compost pickup, Austin water service, and Austin Energy services.

Capital Metro transportation services are now free and have new guidelines and multiple schedule changes.

Update (March 31): A statewide executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott declares that residential and commercial construction and real estate activities are essential businesses. Travis County has issued a supplemental construction guidance document for the industry.

Abbott’s order also declares religious services to be essential businesses.

The Austin Independent School District has canceled classes through May 3 and has issued a statement that the closures may be extended. AISD’s COVID-19 page has specific information about closures, distance learning, meals and more.

Previous reporting:

Update (Tuesday, March 17): Bars and restaurant dining areas are ordered closed, and gatherings of more than 10 people are banned. See Curbed Austin’s COVID-19 related updates here.

Update (Monday, March 16): On Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory against gatherings of 50 or more people.

Update (Saturday, March 14): On Saturday, the city of Austin announced that it will prohibit gatherings of 250 or more people through at least May 1. The ban began Sunday.

From Friday, March 13:

Austin’s entertainment economy took a big hit last week when SXSW was canceled due to concerns about the novel coronavirus pandemic. Cancellations and postponements cascaded from there—including events with a direct effect on the city, such as Live Nation’s suspending its touring shows through the end of March, the NCAA Big 12 tournament that was to take place this week, and an IndyCar race scheduled for April at the Circuit of the Americas track.

In addition to the extension of spring break at the University of Texas the closure of several school districts and universities, the Austin Independent School District canceled classes and closed its administrative offices Friday after two Covid-19 cases were confirmed in Travis County. The district’s spring break starts next week. Some institutions and places normally open to the public have closed temporarily out of caution.

Nevertheless, options for entertainment—and just getting out the house, with proper social distancing —remain around Austin, at least as of Friday.

Below is a list of what’s currently open along with buildings and areas normally open to the public that have announced temporary closings. This is a running list and will be updated on a regular basis. Information on additional closures can be sent to cindy@curbed.com.


Cancellations and closures

Note: Cancellations and closures are occurring on an ongoing basis. Contact venues or event organizers before heading out for anything.

Arts and entertainment spaces

The Thinkery children’s museum will be closed to the public through at least March 22. All programming, events, and spring break camps for that period are canceled.

The Contemporary Austin (Downtown and Laguna Gloria locations) is closed in response to Covid-19. The Texas Memorial Museum is also closed, as is are the Blanton Museum of Art and the Harry Ransom Center.

The LBJ Presidential Library is closed to the public starting today. LBJ Library and LBJ Foundation events have been canceled until further notice, including the Future Forum, Friends of the LBJ Library programming, tours ,and other visits. Staff will continue to answer reference and other requests via phone or email.

Austin History Center will be closed for deep cleaning March 21 and 22. (It’s unclear if this is related to the coronavirus pandemic.)

All events at the University of Texas’s Frank Erwin Center and Bass Concert Hall and McCullough Theatre are canceled for the immediate future.

Public Events

In general, Austin has banned “mass gatherings” of 2,500 people or more unless organizers can to assure Austin Public Health that mitigation plans for infectious diseases are in place.

Rodeo Austin is canceled for the year, as is Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion.

The extremely popular ABC Zilker Kite Festival, scheduled for March 29 this year, is canceled for 2020.

The Urban Music Festival, scheduled for March 27-28, has been postponed and will honor all purchased tickets when it is rescheduled. The annual festival takes place at Auditorium Shores.

Zach Theatre has canceled performances and postponed classes through March 31. The Hideout Theatre has suspended all classes and shows.

The United Soccer League Championship suspended its season, which means no Austin Bold games at its Circuit of the Americas Bold Stadium for a while.

Minor League Baseball, which includes the Round Rock Express, is delaying its season start, so Dell Diamond will be empty for a bit.

Note: See Eater Austin for updated information on food event cancellations and temporary restaurant closures.

What to do instead

There are a number of places to go and fun activities in and around Austin that should incur minimal, if any, risk of contracting the novel coronavirus.

It’s a good idea to read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for pretty much everything Covid-19 related, but especially how to be out and about with minimal risk. This definition is especially important, as the CDC advises social distancing as an important precaution:

Social distancing means remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.

With those things in mind, here are some suggestions for places around Austin you can enjoy currently, as long as you remember to follow social distancing and other basic guidelines (washing your hands, coughing into your elbow, that kind of thing).

Take a stroll, walk your dog. While the public has been cautioned to stay at home except for necessary trips for things such as groceries, pet supplies, and medicine, that doesn’t mean you can’t go outside. However, be sure to stay at least six feet away from other people, make an effort not to touch any surfaces, be vigilant about handwashing and sanitizing, and wear the fabric face covering recommended by the CDC. Note that as of April 9, all Austin parks and trails are closed at least through Monday, April 13. State parks have also been shuttered indefinitely at this time.

Virtual libraries. The Austin Public Library system has extended extended access to its virtual resources. Library account holders who use Kanopy, an online film streaming platform accessible through the libraries site, will be allowed five play credits per month rather than the usual three. Check-out periods from APL’s cloudLibrary have temporarily been increased to 10 days. Users of hoopla, a database that includes digital movies, music, TV shows, audiobooks, eBooks, and comics, may now check out five instead of four items per month. A number of events at libraries have been canceled, but as of Saturday, they remained open.

Theaters. As of this writing, Alamo Drafthouse theaters, Violet Crown Cinema, and most if not all other movie theaters are open. The Alamo site details sanitation measures it is taking as well as its employee sick-leave policies. AFS Cinema is open and following special procedures in response to Covid-19 through March 19. Starting Monday, it will limit ticket sales to 50 percent of its theaters’ capacities to allow for plenty of spacing between filmgoers as well as encouraging social distancing in its lobbies and other spaces. It will close March 20.

Paramount and Stateside theaters are open, taking special measures, and have a few canceled shows. The Vortex is open but is limiting tickets and has restrictions for guests and staff according to its pandemic preparedness plan.

Rude Mechanicals venue Crashbox is open with precautions advised and in place.

Take a drive or a stroll. It’s wildflower season, after all. You can also view many of Austin’s iconic buildings, as well as some architectural wonders at the University of Texas at Austin and St. Edward’s University campuses without touching too many things (plus follow those guidelines, okay?). Or just walk around your neighborhood and get to know it better—maybe even check in on some people if you’re up for it.

Other options

While perhaps slightly more risky (we’re not scientists), these activities and places are still on and open. If you opt to attend/enjoy, please do so with extreme caution. It cannot be stated enough: Follow CDC social distancing guidelines when in public and in general.

Remember: Gatherings of 10 or more people are currently banned in the city.

Live music. While SXSW 2020 was canceled, there are several local music events—including those that have always been “unofficial” (not part of the events put on by SXSW for registrants and wristband-holders). The Austin Chronicle has a decent list of them (including what’s canceled, which is most of them); you can also follow Unofficial SXSW Guide (@SXUnofficial365 http://FB.com/SXUnofficial) for the latest updates.

Restaurants and food events. Again, use caution and follow guidelines. A number of local restaurants are still open, are cleaning and sanitizing more than usual, and are adding more sick leave for employees. Others are closing temporarily or are temporarily making service to-go only. Eater Austin has a list of SXSW-adjacent, food-related events that are still happening, which it updates regularly. A few Austin businesses are offering discounts or giveaways of items that were intended for SXSW events.


Thinkery

1830 Simond Avenue, , TX 78723 (512) 469-6200 Visit Website

Circuit of the Americas

9201 Circuit of the Americas Boulevard, , TX 78617 Visit Website

LBJ Presidential Library

2313 Red River Street, , TX 78712 Visit Website

Blanton Museum of Art

200 East Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard, , TX 78712 Visit Website