(Emma Freer/Austonia)

One of the City Council ordinances would allow businesses not enforcing distancing rules to be declared a nuisance.

Austin City Council unanimously approved two ordinances intended to curb the spread of COVID-19 at a special called meeting Thursday.


One of the new ordinances allows the city to declare properties a public health nuisance if they do not do enough to curb the spread of COVID-19, including enforcing the state's mask mandate and limiting the number of individuals who gather or stand together to at total 10 or less.

Properties maintained by government entities, used as residences, or that provide medical services or childcare are excluded. The city can enforce the ordinance by filing civil lawsuits against violators to force them to comply.

The second allows Austin Public Health to adopt rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19, punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 per day.

In a letter sent to Austin Mayor Steve Adler on Wednesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott appeared to support the council's agenda.

"The City of Austin's consideration of additional enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance with my Executive Orders is an important step toward reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus," he wrote.

Adler, along with mayors from other big Texas cities, has asked the governor for the authority to issue local shutdown orders and other restrictions amid the state's COVID surge. But Abbott has not granted it.

"Bottom line is, we need better, stronger enforcement," he told the Houston television news station KPRC2 on Wednesday. "If the current rules are followed and applied, we will not have to shut Texas back down.".


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