Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott ordered all public and private schools within Austin and Travis County not to reopen for on-campus, face-to-face instruction until after Sept. 7. Virtual instruction is allowed.
"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," Dr. Escott said in a press release issued Tuesday.
Schools are also required to develop and submit reopening plans to Dr. Escott—and make them public—at least two weeks before resuming any in-person activities.
Dr. Escott said continuity will be a challenge for schools as faculty and staff get sick with COVID-19, "as we see every year with influenza."
Austin City Council approved an ordinance last week granting the health authority the right to adopt rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through Nov. 12.
The order arrived shortly after Austin ISD announced it would suspend in-person education for the first three weeks of the upcoming school year—or until Sept. 7—due to the pandemic.
Other school districts, including Round Rock ISD and San Antonio ISD, did the same.
Even though the case fatality rate among children is very low, there still is a risk of death, Dr. Escott told Travis County commissioners on Tuesday. He estimated between 40 and 1,370 children aged 10 to 19 could die from COVID-19 across Travis County's five public school districts.
Additionally, teachers and staff are at a much higher risk of contracting and dying from the virus.
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