City Council approves new enforcement powers for COVID-19 requirements

Violators could face up to a $2,000 fine

Talk 1370 Newsroom
July 09, 2020 - 1:58 pm
Austin City Hall

AUSTIN (Talk1370.com) -- The Austin City Council gave unanimous approval Thursday to two new ordinances aimed at furthering enforcement of the state and city COVID-19 orders.

Council held a special called meeting Thursday to receive a briefing from local health officials as well as to discuss the two new ordinances.

The first ordinance creates the framework to declare a site a nuisance if it doesn’t meet criteria to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Under the ordinance, the city would be able to file a civil suit to require compliance.

The second ordinance allows the health authority to adopt certain rules to protect people from COVID-19. As proposed, violations of the ordinance would be punishable by a civil fine of up to $2,000, and the ordinance would remain in effect until December 31.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott weighed in on Austin's proposals Wednesday, sending a letter to Austin Mayor Steve Adler showing his support for them. "Taking steps to ensure compliance with these Orders, as the City is contemplating, is necessary to protect public health and safety and will reduce the spread of COVID-19," Abbott wrote. The letter made no mention of any additional business shutdown, including a 35-day shutdown that Adler has proposed, and Abbott has rejected that idea in past television interviews.

So far, officials are holding off on moving the city into Stage 5 of Austin Public Health's risk-based guidelines. One trigger was reached earlier this week when the 7-day moving average of new hospitalizations in the area climbed above 70, but officials are cautiously optimistic that recent behavior changes and the statewide face covering mandate may be enough to start changing the trend of new cases and hospitalizations.

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