Mandatory screenings will take place at all Travis County senior care facilities before employees, volunteers or visitors are allowed to enter the buildings.

Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County interim health authority, said March 11 at a news conference that the new procedure to protect the area's most vulnerable residents from coronavirus will occur at dozens of nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and long-term care facilities.

Those entering the buildings, including new patients or residents, will be tested for a fever before being allowed to enter.

Escott said the procedures were put in place to protect senior citizens, the most vulnerable group for risk of death from coronavirus. He said studies from China, where the virus originated in December, showed a case fatality rate of approximately 20% in patients over 80 years of age. For those under 50 years of age, the coronavirus fatality rate drops to 0.2%

"Visitors are still welcome," Escott said. "If you are sick, you are not welcome."

Escott said facilities will have a couple days to comply with the order. Facilities will receive a letter outlining the guidelines for testing. He also hinted other orders, especially when it comes to protecting the senior population, could come soon.

According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics from 2019, Travis County has more than 123,000 residents over the age of 65. As of March 11, Austin and Travis County have not had a confirmed case of coronavirus.

Nineteen of the 31 U.S. coronavirus deaths have been linked to a Washington nursing home.

"Our effort right now is to prevent an outbreak," Escott said.