On May 5, 2020, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order reopening certain businesses throughout Texas. Businesses named in the order that may reopen, include but are not limited to:

  • In-store retail services;
  • Dine-in restaurants;
  • Movie theaters;
  • Museums;
  • Libraries;
  • Shopping malls;
  • Hair salons;
  • Nail salons; and,
  • Barbers.

The order imposes some restrictions for most businesses set to reopen, such as operating at 25 percent of the total occupancy.

Even though Texas is reopening after the COVID-19 outbreak, the City of Austin’s Stay Home, Work Safe Order remained in effect through May 8, 2020. In a Facebook Live post, Austin Mayor Steve Adler expressed concern about moving too fast. Mayor Adler and Travis County Judge Sara Eckhardt indicated that they would release local orders before Friday, May 8, 2020.

The City of Austin issued a Media Advisory with guidance for businesses that recently reopened or planned to reopen under the Governor’s executive orders. The guidance consisted of Frequently Asked Questions About City and Governor Orders.

Some of the highlights from the FAQs about reopened businesses include:

  • Individuals can leave home to obtain or provide services in reopened businesses according to the Governor’s order, in addition to leaving home for essential business, activities, or travel.
  • At the time, childcare facilities may not provide services for non-essential employees, including workers in reopened services.
  • Businesses may set their policies for face-covering requirements on site, even though the city may not impose a civil or criminal penalty for failing to wear a face mask, according to the Governor’s orders.
  • The Austin Police Department, Austin Fire Marshall, and the Austin Code Department will enforce the restriction for some reopened businesses to limit occupancy to 25% of the total capacity limit.
  • Individuals can engage in outdoor sports with the restriction that no more than four participants play the sport at any time, and the sport does not involve contact with other participants.
  • Current state and city stay at home orders require people to minimize social gatherings, so events and festivals continue to be prohibited.
  • The Governor’s order allows people to attend certain events, including funerals and weddings. Religious services held in a church, congregation, or place of worship are essential services. However, people attending the event should follow guidelines by the Governor and Attorney General.
  • City facilities remain closed. The City Manager will determine when to reopen City facilities.

You can review the full set of FAQs here.

Residents of Austin Encouraged to Remain At Home

On May 8, 2020, the City of Austin adopted its own updated Stay Home-Work Safe Order. The updated order incorporates the provisions of the Governor’s executive order into local rules for businesses and residents of Austin.

The current Stay Home-Work Safe Order continues to encourage residents to remain at home except for essential travel. It also requires face coverings in public, but the order clearly states there is no civil or criminal penalty for failing to wear a face mask.

The order also encourages people to continue practicing social distancing by maintaining at least six feet away from other people and washing hands frequently with soap.

The Mayor’s new order makes it clear that local leaders continue to be concerned about the spread of COVID-19. Residents could be at a higher risk of contracting coronavirus now than they were when the original Stay at Home Order was issued on March 24.

The order warns residents of Austin that relaxing stay at home restrictions too quickly could result in a surge in deaths and hospitalizations. Without adequate testing and tracing, the surge could be overwhelming.

Contact Tracing and Activity Logs for Reopened Businesses in Austin, TX

The activity logs pertain to dine-in service restaurants and other services that have an allowed occupancy rate of 75 or less. These businesses are encouraged to maintain an activity log for customers and employees. The activity logs should note where the person was served or seated, as well as the date and time of the service.

The purpose of the activity logs is to assist in contact tracing. The logs allow Austin Public Health officials to inform and test other people who may have come into contact with a person infected with COVID-19.

Identifying contacts can help prevent the spread of the virus. In the absence of an activity log, Austin Public Health may release the location where people with confirmed cases of coronavirus have been to the public.

All businesses and residents of the City of Austin are encouraged to read the updated Stay Home – Work Safe Order from Mayor Adler. The full order is available online.