Friday, March 26, 2021

Austin Public Health Urges Community to Continue Wearing Masks to Save Lives

Austin Public Health Urges Community to Continue Wearing Masks to Save Lives

July 2020 Health Authority Rules Stay in Place After Court Refuses State's Application for Injunction

Austin Public Health is urging the community to continue wearing masks to halt the spread of COVID-19 after a Court declined to grant the State of Texas an injunction voiding the local health authority's mask mandate and related rules.
The Court decision recognizes the importance of local rules in promoting public health in the community, keeping essential workers safe and ensuring our business community can thrive by driving down COVID-19 transmission.
Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority for Austin-Travis County, told the 261st Civil District Court Friday, March 26, that people wearing masks may have saved 1,100 lives over the past year.
"Data reports on COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita show that, compared with other jurisdictions in the State of Texas, Austin is doing better than most," Dr. Escott said. "We have seen that masking is perhaps the most important of public health mitigation strategies for COVID-19. It's clear we haven't beaten COVID-19 yet. If we can maintain protections it will enable us to get more people vaccinated and ultimately it's going to save lives."
Earlier this month, after Texas Governor Greg Abbott lifted his statewide mask mandate, Austin-Travis County emphasized that the health authority rules initially adopted in July 2020, remain in place through April 15, 2021, unless modified or extended.
Under the existing health authority rules, businesses and other sites must require individuals to wear a face covering, with some exceptions. Businesses should also clean and disinfect high touch items, require at least six feet between groups of ten or less, and post face covering and hygiene signage. In the City of Austin, an individual must also wear a face covering when outside of their residence. These rules remain in place following today's ruling.

The health authority is currently in Stage 3 of the Austin Public Health (APH) COVID-19 Risk-Based Guidelines, which include the following recommendations:  
  • Continue wearing a mask, social distancing, and practicing good hygiene. 
  • Higher-risk individuals (those over the age of 65 and those who have chronic medical conditions) should avoid non-essential dining, shopping, and travel. 
  • Everyone should continue to avoid gatherings with social groups greater than 10. 
  • Businesses and restaurants voluntarily operate at a reduced capacity of 50-75%.

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