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COVID-19 April 5 Updates: Austin-Travis County Recommend People Use Fabric Face Coverings

A Capital Metro bus displays a public health message during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
A Capital Metro bus displays a public health message during the coronavirus pandemic.

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Sunday, April 5. Read Monday's live updates here. If you'd like to go through a roundup of COVID-19 news from Friday, read it here. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Austin-Travis County recommend public use fabric face coverings

Austin and Travis County are now recommending people use fabric face coverings when they leave their homes to further slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Dr. Mark Escott, the interim health authority for Austin-Travis County, made the recommendation Sunday with support from Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made a similar recommendation on Friday. 

“This is another piece of a complex process to slow the spread and flatten the curve in our community,” Escott said in a press release. “While you might otherwise feel well and healthy, we need everyone’s help to prevent the potential asymptomatic spread to others who could face more severe symptoms.” 

The city and county urge that even when wearing a face covering, people should still maintain physical distance from one another and follow local stay-at-home orders. 

“Everybody should be using fabric face coverings as the next step in the fight against the spread of COVID-19,” Adler said in the release. “They’re really easy to make and everybody has everything they need to make one lying around the house. It’s important, though, to absolutely still follow the six foot rule.”

People can make fabric face coverings with household items like scarves and bandanas. The CDC and Austin Public Health provide guidance on how to make them. To be the most effective, the coverings should cover the nose and mouth and attach behind the ears. They should be washed after each use.

The city and county say medical-grade masks or N-95 respirators are in short supply and should be conserved for health care workers and first responders.

The face coverings shouldn’t be put on children younger than 2 or people who have trouble breathing or are unable to remove the covering without help, officials say.

City of Austin prohibits walking on golf courses

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department is restricting access to municipal golf courses starting Monday. Gates will be closed and people will not be allowed onto the courses. 

People had previously been allowed to walk on the closed courses, but now walking and any other activities are prohibited. Staff will continue golf course maintenance during the closures.

The city says the closures are intended to help ensure compliance with the city’s stay-at-home order. A list of closed parks and recreation facilities can be found here

Capital Metro employee with COVID-19 dies

A Capital Metro employee who tested positive for COVID-19 died on Saturday, the transit agency said Sunday. 

“While a cause of death has not been confirmed, we were made aware earlier this week that he tested positive for COVID-19,” the agency wrote in a statement.

The employee worked in bus maintenance and didn’t interact with the public. His last day at work was March 16.

“The Capital Metro family mourns the passing of our friend and colleague and our thoughts are with his family and loved ones during this time,” the agency said. “We ask our Central Texas community to honor our beloved colleague by staying home and using our service for essential trips only.”

Austin-Travis County creates social services branch 

The Austin-Travis County Emergency Operations Center has set up a specific branch to address social service needs. The branch consists of several task forces that will work on issues including homelessness, food access and behavioral health.

The Homelessness Task Force will work on strategies around hygiene, food access, shelter and quarantine space. 

The Food Access Task Force will coordinate with agencies in the community on immediate responses to food needs and on preparing for likely spikes in demand for food assistance. 

The Behavioral Task Force will coordinate with Integral Care and other organizations to provide mental health and substance abuse services.

“The ability for everyone to participate in the public health response is in the best interest of our community’s safety as a whole,” Vella Karman, the city’s Interim Homeless Services Officer, said in a statement.

Other local news from Saturday:

Austin creates interactive map to help homeless population during the pandemic

The City of Austin has posted an interactive map to help social service providers and people experiencing homelessness find the closest locations for services including showers, restrooms, hand-washing, charging stations and food. 

City outreach workers are sharing the information in person and via fliers for people who don’t have smartphones or internet access.

Read more from Andy Jechow

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