Locals react to Austin-Travis County's move to Stage 4

After months of declining COVID-19 cases, the trend has reversed. Austin Public Health officials announced a return to Stage 4 on Friday after observing an increase in cases and hospitalizations.

For those fully vaccinated, Stage 4 recommendations call for the use of a mask at outdoor and indoor events, while dining, shopping, and even at private gatherings. Those who are partially vaccinated or haven’t gotten a shot are encouraged to stay home, refrain from travel, and leave only for something essential like grocery shopping.  

However, because of Governor Abbott’s order, the city cannot enact a mask mandate.

"I think we’ve seen at a local level, Mayor Adler, Judge Brown, they want everyone wearing masks, but Governor Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton do not want that mandated," said Attorney Adam Loewy in an interview with FOX 7 on Saturday.

Local bar operator Austin Talley agreed with the governor’s decision to leave mask-wearing in the hands of the individual.

"I’m just going to continue doing business as usual," said Talley, operations director at Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Icehouse. "If they want to wear masks when they come to my establishment, wear a mask, if you don’t, you don’t have to."

For Chad Warden and Cole Stevens, they considered vaccination their ticket for spending a mask-free Saturday afternoon downtown.

"If they feel safer wearing one indoors then go for it, but I don’t see a real reason to, especially if you’re already vaccinated," said Warden.

Though the city currently cannot enforce a mask mandate, Loewy hinted at the possibility of legal action.

"The city has lost on this legal issue before," said Loewy. "But I have a feeling that they’re going to make another run at it because I think they are very concerned about it."

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