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chart by Emma Freer

Source: city of Austin (chart by Emma Freer)

Fear of exposure to the deadly COVID-19 virus and complaints about violations of social distancing protocols spurred 3,459 calls to Austin's 311 nonemergency hotline throughout the month of March, according to numbers released by the city late Wednesday.

Most of those were people complaining about large gatherings, to the tune of 1,633 calls. Some 901 callers worried they had been exposed, while another 820 thought someone else was infecting people, according to the numbers.


A total of 5,477 calls came from people just wanting more information about the virus and efforts to contain it.

Another 1,772 callers wanted to report things like solicitors, nonessential businesses being open, and people selling food from their homes. Callers reported bar and restaurant violations 102 times.

In normal months, callers to 311 are reporting things like stray animals and code violations.

On March 4, as reports of cities starting lockdown procedures began to rise, Austin created a new set of categories for calls to 311, said Sam Haynes, city public information specialist.

Two days after the categories were created, Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced that SXSW would be canceled—a move he now calls "one of the most significant" in the city's effort to slow the spread of the virus.

As of March 17, bars were ordered closed, restaurants limited to curbside, drive-through or delivery only, and gatherings were restricted to 10 people or fewer.

A week later, on March 24, public health orders shuttered all nonessential businesses in the city and attached penalties for violating these and other orders.

Austinites responded with some 1,330 virus-related calls on the first full day of the order, city officials said—about 170 of them were violations.

The total of virus-related calls to 311 from March 4 through March 31 came to 10,840, Haynes said.

Earlier this week, Adler urged Austinites to help police and city officials enforce the protocols.

"Now is when we need to hold each other responsible and in check," he said.

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