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Travis County shelter-in-place order extended, masks required

The new decree lasts through May 8

Austin skyline shot from southeast part of lake, partly cloudy, late afternoon Katie Haugland Bowen/Creative Commons

Update: Travis County’s stay-at-home order has been extended until 11:59 p.m. May 8. The order also requires face coverings.

Residents over the age of 10 must now wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when when conducting essential work or activities in public.

That includes when they are in public building, using public transportation or ride shares, pumping gas, and while outside when six feet of physical distancing cannot be consistently maintained. A face covering is not required when eating, riding in a personal vehicle, when one is alone in a separate single space, or in the presence of other members of one’s residence.

When wearing a face covering poses a greater threat to mental or physical health, safety, or security—such as when used by anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance—the requirement is waived.

Travis County’s shelter-in-place order owing to COVID-19 will likely be extended past next week’s expiration date, meaning Austin residents can expect to be homebound into the foreseeable future unless they’re performing essential activities such as grocery shopping or endeavors related to health and safety.

Fabric stores are now considered essential businesses due to the new face-covering requirement.

The Statesman reports that Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt is preparing a new shelter-in-place order that will likely go into effect on Tuesday, April 14 following the original order’s Monday, April 13 expiration. It’s unclear when the order, if adopted, would expire.

The new order being penned by Eckhardt, who along with Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell signed the original shelter-in-place decree, will reflect updated information about the virus from public health sources including projections about its spread from the University of Texas. The order will also reflect Governor Abbott’s directive to Texans to stay at home, as well as include safety standards for essential businesses.

Among those businesses addressed in the decree will likely be construction companies, who were mostly given the green light to proceed as essential businesses by Gov. Abbott despite Travis County’s initial order that did not consider most construction essential. Community Impact reports that the new decree will likely include best practices for construction companies and workers still in operation moving forward in relation to the new coronavirus.

With the new shelter-in-place order poised to take effect, social distancing and a full stop to gatherings will continue to be required. Social distancing means staying at least six feet from other people when conducting essential activities outside the home. Public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or dwelling unit will remain prohibited, with the exception of essential activities or essential work.

“We’re looking at the difference between thousands of deaths and hundreds of deaths,” Eckhardt said of the extended order. “I know social distancing is painful and working from home can be problematic and impossible for some, but for a relatively small amount of effort we can reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths.”