Sign up for the Austonia daily newsletter

become a member

Local officials issue new order for businesses to help stop spread of COVID. (Austonia)

As the omicron COVID surge continues to affect businesses and schools, local leaders are implementing new orders for businesses to follow in the hopes of slowing the spread of the virus.

On Thursday morning, the city of Austin and Travis County announced the “Protecting Customers and Employees and Preserving Adequate Workforce Capacity” orders. The orders include:

The announcement states the orders are to allow businesses to stay open while prioritizing messaging that illustrates measures proven to help mitigate transmission. It goes into effect on Monday, Jan. 17, in which businesses can be fined $1,000 if they do not post the required signage.

The City of Austin is preparing to distribute 96,000 face masks to small businesses to help enforce the new orders. More details about the mask distribution will be announced in the coming days.

“We appreciate every business that does their part to keep our community and their customers healthy and safe,” Travis County Judge Andy Brown said. “Today’s orders support local businesses by providing them tools and options to keep their doors open, customers safe, and our local economy growing.”
The order comes as the omicron surge has disrupted business for many. Dozen's of businesses have had to adjust their hours or close their doors altogether as too many employees get sick.

Currently, the city is in Stage 5 of Austin Public Health's risk-based guidelines. In this stage, everyone is asked to mask indoors but it is not enforceable.

As of Wednesday, the positivity rate in the community is almost 33%—the highest it’s ever been. The area is seeing a community transmission rate of 1,254 and a seven-day moving average of hospitalizations of 110.

“From teachers, cashiers, and cooks to nurses, techs and EMS, there’s never been a greater risk for all of us in the community to catch COVID-19, and our way of life is in danger because of it,” Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said. “We must take as many precautions as possible to stop this spread. Wear well-fitting masks anytime you go out, get vaccinated and boosted and stay home if you feel sick.”


Many, like Austin blogger Jane Ko, are opting to build homes on empty lots instead of buying preexisting homes. (Jane Ko/A Taste of Koko)

Austin homebuyers have been through the wringer in the past year—tales of offers well over asking price, sales in under an hour, and months-long supply chain shortages have become commonplace in the city's cutthroat housing market. So it's perhaps no surprise that many homebuyers are looking for greener pastures as they stake out large empty lots along the city's outskirts.

Keep Reading Show less

As Californians were especially drawn to Austin in the pandemic, some may head back to the Bay Area. (CC)

In earlier phases of the pandemic, people took it as the perfect moment to uproot their lives to the newest boomtown. Many, particularly Californians, found a fit with Austin, enjoying the Texas weather and lower cost of living. But for some, it may only be a pitstop.

Keep Reading Show less