Austin Bans Public Gatherings Of More Than 250 People Until May 1 Because Of COVID-19

Mar 14, 2020

The City of Austin has banned events with more than 250 attendees in an effort to stave off the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The ban on gatherings, which lasts until May 1, includes religious services, weddings, conferences, parties and sports events, according to the joint declaration released Saturday from Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt. The ban also includes bars, restaurants, theaters and event spaces.

The ban wouldn't restrict workplaces, public transit or travel, but officials are urging people to maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet. Currently, there are three confirmed cases in Travis County and more than 60 cases statewide. Health officials say the three cases in Travis County involved people who had recently traveled to affected areas. There has not yet been a confirmed case of person-to-person spread in the Austin area.

The order does not explicitly ban schools from staying open, but does recommend using online classes and asks parents to prepare for the prospect of citywide closures.

Austin Public Health is also asking people hosting gatherings with more than 125 people to cancel in light of health concerns.

“Collectively and individually, our decisions will determine how our health infrastructure can handle this virus,” Adler said. “This community must do all we can to minimize person-to-person passage. This new order and the voluntary choices being made all over our city are positioning Austin for the best possible outcome."

The city and county ask that people over 60 and people with underlying health conditions – those who are at the highest risk of COVID-19 – avoid gatherings with more than 10 people. 

Violators of the ban could be charged with a misdemeanor and fined up to $1,000.

The ban comes in the wake of state and federal disaster declarations, both of which were announced Friday afternoon.