Local Health Authority Issues Emergency Rules and Orders
Tue, 07/14/2020 – 19:54
Emergency rules align with Council actions, and Orders apply to school districts and private schools.
Austin, Texas — Today, the Health Authority for Austin-Travis County adopted rules and orders that promote the health and safety of Austin-Travis County residents in the fight against COVID-19.
Last week, Austin City Council authorized the health authority to adopt rules to protect individuals from COVID-19, creating an offense and penalty, and declaring an emergency. Today, Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority, adopted rules that align with the Council actions. These rules are effective July 14, 2020 and expire November 12, 2020.
The Austin-Travis County Health Authority control order, which derives its authority from Chapter 81 of the Texas Health & Safety Code, mandates specific actions aimed at slowing the spread and reducing the impact of COVID-19 on public health. The Emergency Rules govern individuals and sites within the City of Austin and impose requirements reasonably necessary to protect public health related to the transmission of COVID-19.
In response to the increasing rate of COVID-19 transmission, cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the Austin-Travis County area, Dr. Escott has also created orders that require all public and private schools offering instruction to students in one or more grades, pre-kindergarten through grade 12 and any independent school districts within Austin-Travis County, to take a range of immediate actions to enhance protections against the spread of COVID-19 among the community. These orders are effective July 14, 2020.
“The big challenge is maintaining operations when people get sick, especially when faculty and staff get sick as we see every year with influenza,” said Dr. Escott. “Imagine that COVID-19 is twice as contagious as the flu. There would be a large impact on the continuity in individual schools primarily providing in-class education.”
The following restrictions are effective as of the execution of this Order:
- School systems shall not re-open schools for on-campus, face-to-face instruction until after September 7, 2020;
- Virtual instruction shall be permitted as per a school system’s own plan;
- Extracurricular sports and activities shall not take place until school systems re-open for on-campus instruction;
- At least two weeks prior to re-opening for on-campus instruction and on-campus activities, the school or district shall develop a plan to be submitted to the Austin/Travis County Health Authority for re-opening on-campus activities and instruction and make the plan available for parents and general public.
“After consultation with stakeholders, direction and guidance for re-opening schools for on-campus instruction will be issued prior to September 7,” Dr. Escott said. “This order includes appropriate control measures based on the higher risk for spread of COVID-19 in schools due to the necessity of large groups gathering in indoor spaces and the difficulty for children to follow social distancing and hygiene guidelines.”