New public health orders require Austin, Travis County businesses to post notices of COVID-19 safety measures

Businesses will be required to post signs stating their COVID-19 safety protocols by Jan. 17 or face a fine. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Businesses will be required to post signs stating their COVID-19 safety protocols by Jan. 17 or face a fine. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)

Businesses will be required to post signs stating their COVID-19 safety protocols by Jan. 17 or face a fine. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin and Travis County announced new public health orders Jan. 13 requiring local businesses to advertise what, if any, COVID-19 mitigation measures are in place on their properties under penalty of a $1,000 fine.

Under the new orders effective at noon Jan. 17, all businesses must post a notice outlining their masking, testing and vaccination policies for customers and employees at every entrance to an establishment. All businesses are also required to post Austin Public Health signage recommending mask-wearing and vaccination in a "conspicuous location," according to the health order.

The orders also specifically lay out businesses' ability to require employees and customers to be masked and either show negative COVID-19 test results or proof of vaccination before entering.

Mayor Steve Adler said he signed the new orders in the wake of a Jan. 6 state appeals court ruling against Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton that blocked the state leaders from overruling a Harris County masking requirement.

"We are enabling businesses to better protect public health and to make sure they have enough healthy workers to stay open,” Adler said in a statement. “Today’s orders authorize businesses to choose for themselves whether they want to require masking or testing, or look at vaccinations in their own facilities as a way to protect their customers and employees. This is an example of government getting out of the way of business."


Under the new orders, local police, fire and code enforcement officers may cite businesses that do not post the required signage.

The full health orders, including notification and signage requirements, may be viewed here. The mandatory masking and vaccination poster from Austin, Travis County and Austin Public Health is shown below.



Officials said the new business measures were rolled out in part due to the recent surge in cases and hospitalizations brought on by the virus' omicron variant that has upped local COVID-19 risk guidelines to Stage 5, the highest level. The region also continues to see some of its highest-ever rates for COVID-19 test positivity and community spread.

The local governments also highlighted the related staffing shortages for businesses and health care centers as a reason behind the new mitigation measures.

“We appreciate every business that does their part to keep our community and their customers healthy and safe,” Travis County Judge Andy Brown said. “Today’s orders support local businesses by providing them tools and options to keep their doors open, customers safe and our local economy growing.”

Alongside the announcement of the new notification requirements, the city also announced several pandemic-related support measures it plans to roll out in the near future. The city said it is now readying to distribute 96,000 masks to small businesses, and plans to provide additional financial relief throughout the year are also in the works.

“Since the start of the pandemic in Austin, the city has distributed nearly $50 million in direct financial support to local businesses, employees and critical service industries,” said Veronica Briseño, chief economic recovery officer in Austin. “We are preparing another round of relief for 2022—including new grants and emergency funding programs, workforce development classes and child care support initiatives.”
By Ben Thompson

Austin City Hall Reporter

Ben joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2019 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Northeastern University in Boston. He spent more than two years reporting on Montgomery County and The Woodlands area before moving to Austin in 2021 to cover City Hall and other news throughout the city. Contact Ben with questions, tips or feedback at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @BThompson_CI.