AUSTIN, Texas - Austin 3-1-1 said there have been more than 11,000 calls reporting COVID-19 order violations since the pandemic appeared in the Lone Star State in March.
Out of the more than 8,100 COVID-19 complaint cases reported to Austin's Code Department, the city's public safety dashboard shows just two citations have ever been filed. That's after code inspectors responded to more than 900 complaints at Austin restaurants and 71 at bars.
"So, 71 calls at different bars, but we have issued no citations," said Matthew Noriega with Austin's Code Department.
Even if a complaint includes a video showing a clear violation, code said it's not enough for them to act on it.
"The inspector that's assigned to the case has to witness the actual violation for a citation to be issued," Noriega said.
So far, in each case where bars have been reported to be over capacity, or not enforcing either social distancing or mask-wearing, the violation was not occurring when an inspector arrived to investigate, according to code.
"Currently Austin Code department operates between the hours of 7 a.m.-8 p.m., so there may be times where the call comes in after 8 p.m., but we do respond until the next day, within that 24 hour period," said Noriega.
The fire and police departments can respond to after-hours calls, but because violations are considered Class C misdemeanors, they also must witness a violation to issue a citation.
Still, code said it's important Austinites follow COVID-19 policies in order to help put an end to the pandemic.
"The City of Austin relies on the support and participation of all Austin businesses and the general public to abide by the orders that have been set in place, and the best compliance comes from a shared responsibility to wear a mask, social distance and avoid crowded gatherings for the betterment and health of our community," Noriega said.