Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said mandatory face coverings are "another key piece to flattening the curve," but should not be substituted for maintaining social distancing measures. In the same order, city and county officials also extended the area's shelter-in-place order through May 8. The original order, set March 25, was to expire April 13 after 11:59 p.m.
"It is critical that the public understand that this will not only help in slowing the spread of the disease, but face coverings are also part of our foreseeable future to safely reopen our society," Escott said.
The orders specify that face coverings must be worn when in a public building, using public transportation or ride shares, pumping gas and while outside when six-feet of social distancing cannot be maintained. Masks are not required when eating or when wearing one would pose a health, safety or security risk.
"Our extended orders carry a very simple message, cover your nose and mouth when out in public to save lives," Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said. "Wearing a face covering in addition to the other steps the public has been taking are essential to support our community."
Austin Mayor Steve Adler, in a statement, said he was impressed by the "resiliency and spirit " of the community and urged everyone to "take care of each other."
With face masks now mandatory, fabric stores have been elevated to "essential business" status "for the sole purpose of selling fabric and supplies necessary for the creation of fabric face coverings," according to release from city and county officials.
Earlier in the day, celebrity Austinite Matthew McConaughey posted a video on social media, as Bobby Bandito, his coronavirus-fighting alter-ego, explaining how to make a face mask at home. Community Impact Newspaper has also published a face mask-making guide.
— Matthew McConaughey (@McConaughey) April 13, 2020