Austin's stay-at-home order enforceable by up to $1,000 fine and 6 months in jail; city says penalties are a last resort

With heavy restrictions on public gatherings in place, sizable crowds gathered on the free side of Barton Springs pool March 24, only hours before Austin's stay-at-home order went into effect. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
With heavy restrictions on public gatherings in place, sizable crowds gathered on the free side of Barton Springs pool March 24, only hours before Austin's stay-at-home order went into effect. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

With heavy restrictions on public gatherings in place, sizable crowds gathered on the free side of Barton Springs pool March 24, only hours before Austin's stay-at-home order went into effect. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

With the new shelter-in-place order in effect from March 25 through April 13, local authorities in Austin and its surrounding areas say they do have enforcement mechanisms available to ensure residents are following the stay-home order in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease that has impacted much of the globe.

As laid out in the official order, Austin peace officers, code inspectors and fire marshals are given enforcement authority. Those in violation can receive up to a $1,000 citation or be placed in jail for up to 180 days. During her announcement of the shelter-in-place order, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said authorities would reserve such penalties for "egregious" violations.


“At the end of the day, what [this] means is that we’re asking our community to stay home to the greatest extent possible,” Eckhardt said during the March 24 announcement of the order. The Austin area followed Dallas County and the city of Waco as Texas jurisdictions to issue lock-down orders. Similar orders have been issued on a statewide scale across the country.

Austin has been under strict restrictions on public gatherings since March 17, when Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced prohibitions on gathering of more than 10 people and shut dine-in service at all area bars and restaurants. Gov. Greg Abbott followed it up with a similar statewide decree two days later.


The announcement, nor the restrictions on gatherings already in place, did not stop substantial crowds of Austinites from gathering on what is known locally as the free side of Barton Springs Pool to take advantage of March 24's sunny and 90-degree weather. A city spokesperson said to combat crowds like this, it would rely on people reporting violations of the order to 311, Austin’s hotline for information and non-emergency calls, starting March 25. The spokesperson said the city's priority would be to "inform and educate" and would only use penalties as a "last resort."

According to Austin's order, only "essential businesses" as outlined in the order's text are allowed to stay open. Likewise, only social activity deemed essential, such as those related to health and safety, obtaining necessary services and supplies such as groceries, exercise that meets social distancing requirements and caretaking duties are permitted. Check here for more information on what is allowed and not allowed.


MOST RECENT

The Austin Trail of Lights will open nighly from Nov. 28 through Dec. 31. (Courtesy Trail of Lights Foundation)
PHOTOS: Austin Trail of Lights returns to Zilker Park this week

The traditional holiday light show is open from Nov. 28 through New Year's Eve.

Commissioners on Nov. 22 voted to approve a density change to preliminary plans for The Preserve, a neighborhood that city documents said could include 565 single-family homes at the northeast corner of Teel and Panther Creek Parkways. (Courtesy city of Frisco)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: Neighborhood near PGA Frisco could see larger lots; ERCOT says Texas power grid ready for expected winter demand and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Nov. 24.

Local and state officials have made statements welcoming Samsung to Taylor following the announcement that the city will be home to its new $17 billion semiconductor fabrication plant. (Courtesy KXAN)
State, local officials react to Texas governor, Samsung joint announcement

Local and state officials have made statements welcoming Samsung to Taylor following the announcement that the city will be home to its new $17 billion semiconductor fabrication plant. 

Austin City Council will meet for a work session dedicated to housing affordability discussions Nov. 30. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Austin City Hall notebook: Council set for dive into housing, development after Thanksgiving break

A Nov. 30 work session could see city leaders work through a range of adjustments to city development code, rules and processes.

The new initiative will build the communities capacity to address homelessness along with collecting data from people who have increased access to those in need. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
ECHO, St. David's Foundation launch new program to build a community approach to homelessness

The program aims to address inequities in traditional homelessness response.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sits beside Samsung CEO Dr. Kinam Kim as he announces the company is brining a $17 billion facility to Taylor. (Screnshot via KXAN)
Samsung makes it official: Announcement from Governor's Mansion confirms $17B facility coming to Taylor

Nearly a year after Williamson County officials began pitching Samsung to bring a megafacility to the area, the electronics giant has made it official.

Bill Curci is a chief operating partner for Shuck Me, a seafood restaurant in Fort Worth. (Bailey Lewis/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: Fort Worth restaurant Shuck Me is fishing- and family-centric; a guide to Houston's 2021 Thanksgiving Day Parade and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Nov. 23.

Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County health authority, discusses Thanksgiving safety at a news conference. (Darcy Sprague/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin health authorities remind community of COVID-19 risk ahead of Thanksgiving

Austin health officials warned of a high rate of community transmission ahead of Thanksgiving.

Lizzy and Brandon Simon are running the North Austin location. (Courtesy Lizzy Simon)
Operation Turkey to provide thousands in need with Thanksgiving meals

One local couple is running a North Austin site with the goal of serving 2,500 meals to those in need this Thanksgiving.

Williamson County officials met with Samsung executives at Dell Diamond in January. (Courtesy Williamson County)
For the love of the game: How baseball may have been perfect start for Samsung in Williamson County

The first attempt to bring Samsung to Williamson County relied on a passion for what is considered America’s pastime.

Capital Metro is still deciding if it will put the MetroRail Red Line above or below the North Lamar and Airport boulevards intersection. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Capital Metro moves forward with funding for one of Project Connect’s ‘most complex’ intersections

The North Lamar Boulevard and Airport Boulevard intersection will eventually have the Red, Blue and Orange lines running through it.