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Austin Could See Spike In Cases From Easter Weekend Socializing, Judge Eckhardt Says

Gabriel C. Pérez

Austin-Travis County will probably see a spike in COVID-19 cases two weeks after the Easter weekend, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said during a news conference Tuesday.

The spike would come from increased socializing during the weekend, she said, referencing data from cellphone GPS tracking company Unacast that showed a spike in activity and a lower social distancing score for Travis County.

"Where we had an A- before, we have a C now," Eckhardt said, "but I know we're going to get back to that A grade with regard to that social distancing."

Austin and Travis County — along with many other local governments in Central Texas — closed parks, greenbelts and trails over the weekend in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The city and county extended its stay-at-home ordersMonday, keeping them in effect until May 8. Under the orders, people are required to wear fabric face coverings when conducting essential work or activities. 

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said much of the new orders require the community to self-police.

"We're never going to have enough sheriffs or police officers to actually enforce this that way," he said.

If people aren't self-policing, the mayor said, the city and county will step up enforcement activity.

Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County's interim medical authority, said during the news conference that increasing evidence shows people may be most infectious early on in the disease – when people are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.

Escott sought to discourage people from wearing surgical masks or N95s, saying people do not need that level of coverage out walking a dog or going to the grocery store. 

"Remember that the purpose of these face coverings is not to protect you from other people, it’s to protect other people from you in the circumstance that you may be asymptomatic from the disease or mildly symptomatic," Escott said. 

If you see someone without a face covering on, he says, don't judge them. Instead, he says, suggest that they wear one. He said the order for face coverings will likely become a "long-standing requirement." 

"If we embrace that reinforcement model together, we will get through this together," Escott said. "We will reopen businesses together, we will return to a more normal state sooner, if we are all working together."

Watch the video of the news conference below.

This post has been updated. 

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Andy Jechow is the audience engagement editor for KUT News. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter at @AndyJechow.
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