With shelter in place coming tomorrow in Travis and Williamson counties, officials preview expectations

A photo of a medical face mask, pills and a paper that reads "COVID-19"
Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt confirmed the county plans to issue a shelter in place order on March 24. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt confirmed the county plans to issue a shelter in place order on March 24. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt formally announced on a March 23 press call that the county plans to issue a shelter in place order March 24, with a probable effective time of midnight that evening. Eckhardt's comments echoed Mayor Steve Adler's confirmation that the city of Austin would also announce such an order, which would take inspiration from shelter-in-place orders already in place in Dallas County, Waco and Kansas City.

Eckhardt said that she expected Williamson County to make a similar order tomorrow.

“We are looking at an order that requires all non-essential businesses to function as a work from home, or to significantly curtail their business activities," Eckhardt said.

The order will have four major provisions, she said, including allowances for essential activities, government functions, critical functions and business functions. All non-essential businesses will be ordered to have employees work from home, but Travis County residents will still be free to go out to do essential tasks such as grocery shopping, visiting pharmacies and medical trips. She also said the order would likely last 2-3 weeks.

Eckhardt confirmed that Travis County's order would hold similarities with other counties and municipalities that have already issued shelter-in-place orders.

"Major counties and major cities have all been looking at the same example orders from across the United States when crafting their own," she said.

Several other populous Texas cities and counties have already issued shelter in place orders, which dictate that individuals should refrain from leaving their places of residence except to conduct essential business or duties. In Dallas County, essential functions were outlined as healthcare work, essential critical infrastructure work, and operations that support residences and other businesses.

Eckhardt did not specifically outline what methods would be used to enforce the order, but said officials will predominantly rely "on the good sense, the good will, and the everyday heroism of Travis County residents."

However, Eckhardt also said that a statewide shelter-in-place order would be more effective that a "piecemeal" approach in ensuring that every major metropolitan area in Texas cuts gatherings of any size—although Gov. Greg Abbott has said he will not issue a statewide order.
By Olivia Aldridge

Reporter, Central Austin

Olivia joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in March 2019. She covers public health, business, development and Travis County government. A graduate of Presbyterian College in South Carolina, Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas. Her work has appeared on NPR and in the New York Times.


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