County health authority issues emergency COVID-19 rules, blocks schools from in-person classes before September 7

Sports, extracurricular activities blocked until in-person classes begin

Talk 1370 Newsroom
July 14, 2020 - 9:02 pm
Dr. Mark Escott

City of Austin / ATXN

AUSTIN (Talk1370.com) -- Hours after saying resuming in-person schooling could result in anywhere between 40 and 1,300 deaths this fall, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott has issued an order preventing Travis County public and private schools from resuming in-person classes before September 7.

Escott issued emergency rules, which go into effect immediately and will remain in effect until November 12. The rules line up with previous coronavirus orders issued by Austin Mayor Steve Adler and are in line with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's statewide orders. Violations of the health authority rules, under an ordinance passed by the council last week, could result in a fine of up to $2,000.

In a separate order, all public and private schools and independent school districts in Travis County are prohibited from opening for on-campus, in-person instruction until after September 7. The order also prohibits extracurricular sports and activities until school systems re-open for on-campus instruction, effectively eliminating the first two weeks of the high school football season for affected schools.

The order also requires schools or districts to develop and submit a plan for on-campus activities to the health authority at least two weeks prior to re-opening.

Under the order, schools can proceed with virtual instruction per their own plans.

"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," Escott said. "Imagine that COVID-19 is twice as contagious as the flu. There would be a large impact on the continuity in individual schools primarily providing in-class education."

Tuesday night, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott indicated the state would expand the ability for districts to offer 100% online learning this fall with new guidance later this week. Initial guidance from the Texas Education Agency indicated that schools would have to provide 100% in-person learning to students who requested it by the third week of the school year, or risk losing state funding.

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