AUSTIN, Texas - Both Travis County and Williamson County have joined the growing list of Texas counties issuing stay-at-home orders.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler shared news of the new order on Twitter. Officials with Williamson County released a press release about the new order on March 24.
The order is effective from today, March 24, to April 13.
Since coronavirus surfaced in the Austin area, orders to stay home whenever possible have gotten more and more stringent. Still, county officials said restrictions need to go even further.
“We need to act fast in considerably decreasing the amount of circulation of people in Travis County and surrounding areas,” said Eckhardt.
Eckhardt said Travis County and Williamson County will sign a stay at home order Tuesday. The orders will limit the public to only leave home for essential activity, essential business, essential government functions and critical care functions.
“I really would strongly encourage people not to panic. We're not going to keep people from going to the grocery store. We're not going to prevent people from picking up what they need from work to work from home,” Eckhardt said.
Eckhardt said the order could last for 2-3 weeks or longer, depending on advice from health professionals. “We believe that a 2-3 week period if instituted right away, will have a significant effect. And we also believe that that affect overtime will lessen considerably,” said Eckhardt.
Governor Greg Abbott announced new statewide measures to try and stop the spread of COVID-19 Sunday. However, he stopped short of issuing a shelter in place order for all of Texas.
“The reality is, I know, as the public knows, that as cases of COVID-19 are increasing in places like Dallas, in Houston, in Austin, and several other urban areas. What may be right for places like the large urban areas, may not be right at this particular point in time for the more than 200 counties that have zero cases of COVID-19,” Abbott said.
“We can do this piecemeal county by county and city by city, but I do believe it would be more effective to have a state order,” said Eckhardt, who would like to coordinate efforts with Abbott.
The governor said a shelter in place order would be similar to actions he has already taken. Last week, Abbott restricted gatherings of more than ten people, closed bars and restaurants except for takeout or delivery orders, and asked people who could to stay at home.
“If they refuse to do that, if we see noncompliance, if we see activities that promote further spread of COVID-19, then stricter standards will be needed,” Abbott said.
Eckhardt said Travis, and other counties near major municipalities, aren't going to wait any longer, even knowing the impact a stay at home order could have on local businesses.
“The health consequences are much direr than the business consequences. That's not to say that the business consequences aren't significant, and we will need to address the economic impact of COVID-19 as well,” said Eckhardt.
Eckhart said enforcement will be outlined in the stay at home order, however, she is hoping the community will take the restrictions seriously enough that enforcement will not be needed.
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