Stay-at-home order FAQs: Answers to questions about child care, schools, outdoor exercise and more

A stay-at-home order was issued by local officials March 24. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
A stay-at-home order was issued by local officials March 24. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

A stay-at-home order was issued by local officials March 24. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Beginning March 25, the restrictions put in place by local governments to reduce physical interactions among residents and keep people at home due to the coronavirus will become more aggressive.

A stay-at-home order was issued by Austin, Travis County and Williamson County that is intended to reduce social contact by 90% in an effort to avoid stressing the local health care system. Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said statistical modeling suggests that in three to four weeks hospitals could reach capacity as the virus spreads.

Community Impact Newspaper reporters are answering readers' questions about what this means for them and their families. The text of the city order can be found here and the county order here. If you have additional questions, please reach out to us via social media or at austinwriters@communityimpact.com.

What is a stay-at-home order?

The orders put in place by the city of Austin and Travis County are intended to further reduce the amount of physical contact among local residents. Previously, Austin had a limit on social gatherings of no more than 10 people. Now, social gatherings are prohibited. The city and county also were encouraging companies to have employees work from home. Now, all companies must have employees stay home unless they meet specific criteria as an essential business.


“At the end of the day, what [this] means is that we’re asking our community to stay home to the greatest extent possible,” Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said.

How long will the order last?

The order will go into effect March 24 at 11:59 p.m. and will remain in place until April 13, unless local officials take action to cut the order short or extend it to a later date.

For which activities can I leave my home?

The order outlines essential activities for which residents can leave home, including getting supplies or services from essential businesses; outdoor activities such as exercise or walking a pet; caring for others who cannot care for themselves; activities essential to health and safety such as medical appointments; and going to work for jobs considered essential businesses and services.

Which retail businesses are still open?

The order outlines essential retail stores and services that can remain open while following gathering limits and social distancing guidelines. Those businesses include grocery and liquor stores; hardware and supply stores; banks; pharmacies and medical services; restaurants for takeout and delivery services; gas stations; and laundry services. Shopping malls that don't meet the essential services criteria would have to close. Several area malls already announced closures.

Will my trash still get picked up?

Sanitation services, public works and other industries are considered "critical infrastructure," meaning those services will continue operating. In addition, the order exempts all "essential government functions," which includes police, fire and Emergency Medical Services personnel.

Will my mail still get delivered?

According to the U.S. Postal Service website, it is considered an essential service delivering critical items such as medication and Social Security checks, and therefore service will continue on after the order was declared. The city order specifically says it does not apply to the federal or state government.

How does this affect transportation?

After the order, local public transit agency Capital Metro tweeted it would continue to operate on the adjusted schedule it announced March 17. Airplanes, taxis and ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft are also allowed to continue operating because they provide "services necessary for the performance of essential activities," according to the order. However, these services remain open only for essential travel.

What other local services will remain open during the order?

Other business and government services that are classified as essential will also remain open with essential employees continuing to go to work. Those services include child care services for employees still required to go to work; in-home care and caregiving services; trade services such as plumbing and electricians; hotel and lodging facilities that practice social distancing standards; and news media.

How will local schools be impacted by the order?

Prior to the announcement, Austin ISD and other local school districts had already extended their spring breaks and put plans in place for distance learning once school resumes. There have been no official changes to those plans as of March 24, but Escott said in a March 24 press conference that county officials "don't see any way that schools will be able to return to [in-person] session this semester."

Nicholas Cicale - Jack Flagler



MOST RECENT

Tents have become a common sight throughout Austin including along Cesar Chavez Street downtown, but with the passage of Proposition B the city may now consider moving unsheltered homeless individuals to designated sites. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin City Hall notebook: Designated campsites for the homeless are back on the table

City staff had previously dismissed developing official camping locations in 2019, but new directives from City Council this week could revive the concept in Austin.

Wag-A-Bag is headquartered in Round Rock. (Megan Cardona/Community Impact Newspaper)
Wag-A-Bag to operate under new ownership, name; Austin, TxDOT at odds over I-35 overhaul; and more top Central Texas news

Read the most popular business and community news from the past week from the Austin area.

The Highland Tech Center is an office complex that finished redevelopment in March. (Courtesy Aquila Commercial)
North Central Austin business news: Office complex opens in Highland, picnic meals offered in the parks and more

Mes Amis is an outdoor dining service that provides baskets with French-style cuisine for picnics. Two new fitness studios, Hive + Honey and Regymen, are also now open.

Stephanie Hayden-Howard will become an assistant city manager in Austin on May 10. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Role changes coming for health officials leading Austin-Travis County COVID-19 efforts

Dr. Desmar Walkes will take over as Austin's next medical director and local health authority as Dr. Mark Escott and Stephanie Hayden-Howard transition to new roles with the city.

Barton Springs Pool, shown here in March 2020, will require reservations for residents wishing to visit after 8 a.m. starting on May 17. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Barton Springs Pool will require reservations starting May 21

Visitors who want to visit the pool after 8 a.m. will have to make a reservation for a two-hour block of time.

Road closure stock image
TxDOT to demolish I-35 ramp in North Austin early Saturday morning

State crews will perform controlled implosions of the northbound I-35 to northbound US 183 flyover between 6-8 a.m. in the morning on May 8 and May 15.

A pilot Austin Police Department cadet class is now set to commence in June under an updated training regimen and with additional city and community oversight on the APD academy's culture and curriculum. (John Cox/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin City Council votes to restart APD cadet training in June, with framework for ongoing reviews of pilot academy

The Austin Police Department's 144th cadet class will now kick off training next month, with continued oversight of APD's instruction and culture throughout the 34-week academy process.

Holland Photo Imaging celebrates 40 years in business this year. (Courtesy Holland Photo Imaging)
The latest business news in South Central Austin

1. Holland Photo Imaging, located at 2125 Goodrich Ave., Ste. A, Austin, is celebrating its 40th anniversary in the community this year. Founded in 1981 by Pete Holland, the business has been owned by residents Brian and Morgan Morrison since 2006. Holland Photo Imaging offers film processing, printing, framing, photo restoration and archiving services. 512-442-4274. www.hollandphoto.com

A sign advertises a property for rent in Austin on May 6. Local eviction orders remain in place through August 1 protecting most tenants from eviction. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Local eviction moratoriums remain in effect despite federal judge’s decision

The May 5 ruling from a U.S. District Court judge striking down a federal moratorium does not affect orders in place in Austin or Travis County.

Q2 Stadium in North Austin
U.S. women’s national soccer team to debut Q2 Stadium next month

The USWNT takes on the Nigerian national team at Q2 Stadium ahead of the summer Olympic Games.