Mayor Adler tweeted afterward, “This virus is as infectious today as it was a month ago. Everybody should be minimizing physical interactions as much as they can as we dip our toe to increase commercial and social interactions. That’s what today’s ‘stay home’ Order does.”
The order, in tandem with Governor Abbott’s recent order, allows “non-essential” businesses such as restaurants, barbershops, and salons to open at 25 percent capacity.
In addition, it says individuals “shall” maintain social distancing standards, wash their hands, and wear face coverings.
But enforcement of those “shall” clauses is, according to the city, self-policing. It reads, “While violation of this Order is a criminal offense, except as otherwise provided herein, enforcement of this Order is substantially reliant on self-regulation and a community commitment to public health and safety under the novel threat of COVID-19.”
Furthermore, the order states that, while the city doesn’t want to levy criminal penalties for violations, it reserves the right to. “If there is not widespread compliance,” the order reads, “the City and Travis County will increase enforcement efforts, as allowed by law.”
The enforcement protocols cited by the city read, “A criminal violation of this Order is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000 and/or confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days, or both fine and confinement, except as limited by state order.”
However, after Dallas salon owner Shelley Luther was sentenced to seven days in jail for violating a temporary restraining order requiring her to close her business, Abbott announced he’d be retroactively adjusting the state’s order to preclude confinement as punishment.
That change is not, as of this publishing, reflected in the established GA-18 order.
Another provision of the city’s order urges some restaurants to keep logs of their customers, otherwise, the city will publicize, “the location where people with confirmed infections have been, with relevant dates and timeframes, so as to otherwise trace contacts.”
It reads, “all restaurants allowing dine-in service and all reopened services with allowed occupancy or capacity of 75 or less are encouraged to maintain an activity log of, as reasonably possible, the contact information for all inside or sit-down customers and employees including the dates and times they were present in the business and the location where they sat or were served if a restaurant or reopened service with seating.”
It also explicitly states that failure to wear a mask cannot be punished by civil or criminal penalties — something Abbott specifically prohibited after some counties instituted the requirement with established punishment.
Austin’s order, as did in earlier versions, exempts homeless individuals from its provisions.
Depending on what Abbott decides to do once this order expires on May 15, the city’s order could be in conflict with the state’s as it runs through May 30.
Abbott, however, states in his orders that his supersedes all local orders.
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Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.