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.
The University of Texas-Austin continued its march toward a new normal on Friday, as university President Gregory Fenves marked his last day of leadership after five years in office—the final two months of it dominated by sweeping pandemic-era changes on campus.
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Protests over police killings planned for Austin this weekend following widespread demonstrations across U.S.
At least two protests are planned in Austin this weekend over the recent killings of black men by police: Mike Ramos, who was fatally shot by an Austin Police Department officer on April 24 in Southeast Austin, and George Floyd, who died in police custody on Monday after a Minneapolis Police Department officer knelt on his neck. Both events were filmed.
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As Texas navigates reopening restaurants and bars safely, al fresco spots provide the perfect place for long-quarantined Austin residents. Some of these favorites are open only on the patio, others are allowing customers to eat to-go orders in the space, and a few are full service—the details are subject to change. This is not an all-inclusive list, but here they are, in no particular order:
Upscale seafood fare is served under striped umbrellas on the tree-lined porch, with dogs allowed and an unfettered view of South Congress foot traffic.
Address: 1400 S. Congress Ave.
- Reopening today: the zoo (masks required), water parks (advanced tickets required), driver's license offices (appointments required).
- As protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis spread to cities around the county, a demonstration drawing attention to both Floyd and Mike Ramos is planned for Austin this weekend.
- With local businesses concerned they can't make a profit at limited capacity, the city council may soon allow the use of sidewalks and parking lots to increase it, CBS Austin reports.
- KUT notes that, ultimately, it's up to voters to decide who votes by mail.
- Aaron Franklin will be inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame, writes Daniel Vaughn at Texas Monthly, just as his restaurant faces its biggest challenge yet.
'This has dwarfed anything else we've seen': Nonprofits adapt to soaring need, fewer volunteers and a fundraising slump
Since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Austin, the Central Texas Food Bank has seen a tenfold increase in food costs.
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