Austin libraries have been closed since March 16, and the Austin Animal Center has been offering only curbside pet adoptions over the last few weeks in an effort to protect the community from the spread of the coronavirus.
Libraries and the animal center are among multiple city departments that will begin opening up more services beginning in June. The library will open its book drops June 1, according to Austin Public Library Director Roosevelt Weeks, giving Austin residents a chance to bring back the roughly 200,000 items checked out across the city. Then, on June 8, the library will start offering curbside service at ten locations.
For the past few weeks, the Austin Animal Services Department has been providing only curbside adoptions. Starting June 8, residents will be allowed inside the Austin Animal Center once again.
Don Bland, the director of the Animal Services Office, said as the economy has begun to reopen and people have begun going out and about more, they have been finding more sick and injured animals, leading to the number of animals at the shelter needing adoption going up over the last six weeks.
Bland said the number of animals at the shelter dropped to as low as 60 about six weeks ago. Now, it is back up to 174, with an additional 371 animals in foster care.
Kimberly McNeeley, the director of the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, said city playground and splash pads remain closed, but the department would continue opening services slowly over the next few weeks. On May 22, the department said “modified pool operations” would be opening in June. There is still no specific opening date for those facilities, including Barton Springs Pool.
“We’re now in position to make additional amenities available to the public. We’ll be doing that in very small, incremental steps,” McNeeley said.
The openings are part of a reintegration plan for the city to slowly get employees back to work and open services. According to Deputy City Manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde, public health officials and the city’s human resources department will analyze the plan every 28 days to determine next steps. Rivera-Vandermyde said about 6,000 city employees are teleworking.
Gov. Greg Abbott has been slowly allowing businesses to reopen since May 1. Texas is currently in what Abbott called Phase 2 of his plan, which includes allowing restaurants to open to 50% capacity and permitting youth camps and sporting events to begin May 31. Abbott is recommending all Texans wear face coverings and keep 6 feet of distance when out in public.
Local officials are keeping a close eye on the rolling average of hospitalizations per day. If that number exceeds 20, they said Austin and Travis County would need to step up its efforts to slow the spread of the virus, which could include more restrictions on businesses. Austin and Travis County have averaged eight to 10 new coronavirus hospitalizations per day since late March.
Austin libraries, in-person pet adoptions to begin reopening June 1
The Austin Central Library will reopen after it was closed for more than two months to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (John Cox/Community Impact Newspaper)