Following a roughly 90-minute discussion centered on the novel coronavirus during its March 16 meeting, Lakeway City Council voted to prohibit gatherings of 10 people or more except for necessary city business.
That vote was part of the city's official adoption of a disaster declaration that also reduced restaurant seating capacity by one half, encouraged self-quarantining of those in older and at-risk populations, and urged business owners to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for business operations.
Council also voted to close the Lakeway Activity Center except for needed events and programs, to close the city's swim center, and to postpone nonessential committee and commission meetings.
Earlier the same day, Mayor Sandy Cox issued a declaration of disaster for Lakeway, which, among other policy implementations, limited public gatherings to 50 people or less.
Lake Travis Fire Rescue Chief Robert Abbott also updated Lakeway City Council on the latest news involving the coronavirus during the March 16 meeting.
Abbott said among other hurdles for LTFR, there are some nationwide equipment shortages that all departments are experiencing, including masks.
Law enforcement officials and other first responders are preparing for the situation to evolve in the next couple of weeks into person-to-person communal spread of the virus, he said.
"I would encourage anyone I talk to to stop putting the memes out there and start paying attention," Abbott said. "This is not a joke."
Physical distancing is key to practice at this time and highly recommended, he said.
City Council Member Louis Mastrangelo asked whether limiting public gatherings to 10 or fewer people, as was recommended by the federal government during an afternoon press conference on March 16, was not too severe.
Abbott said serious consideration should be given to adopting that recommendation.
"Understanding the population demographics in Lakeway as I do, this is not something we want to tread lightly on," Abbott said.
Regarding testing for coronavirus in the area, Abbott said the St. David's location in Bee Cave is the only facility with testing capability in the Lake Travis area, but he expects more facilities to be able to test soon.
Cox added the Baylor Scott & White Health hospital in Lakeway is not planning at this time to have mobile testing capability.
City Manager Julie Oakley said staff and officials have taken several measures in the last two weeks, including additional sanitation measures such as providing more hand sanitizer and gloves for patrol officers.
More educational outreach has been a priority, Oakley said, adding that includes information on the city's website.
"Like the mayor said, this is a unique situation," Oakley said. "We want to make sure we're all singing from the same sheet of music."
City staff are working on a phasing plan in five parts. As an example, Phase 5 potentially closes all city facilities and sends employees home, but Oakley said the phasing plan is still in the works and has not yet been rolled out.