COVID-19 March 29 Updates: Austin Closes Park Amenities, Capital Metro To Suspend Fares

Mar 29, 2020

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Sunday, March 29. 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.

Gov. Abbott expands travel restrictions, announces state’s first pop-up hospital

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott added more locations to his self-quarantine requirement Sunday. He said people traveling by air from Miami, Atlanta, Detroit and Chicago, as well as from anywhere in California and Washington, must self-quarantine for 14 days once they get to Texas. 

Additionally, anyone traveling here from Louisiana by road must self-quarantine for 14 days. Last week, he ordered passengers traveling by air from the New York tri-state area and New Orleans to self-quarantine. 

Abbott also announced Sunday the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas will serve as the state’s first pop-up hospital during the pandemic.

He said the Army Corps of Engineers is working to identify similar spaces — such as arenas, hotels or recently closed hospitals — that could serve as additional medical facilities in places like Austin, Houston, San Antonio, the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso.

Read more here.

There are now three confirmed cases in Burnet County

Burnet County confirmed its third case of COVID-19 on Sunday. 

County Judge James Oakley says “this virus is very much in our area.”

The county issued a “stay in place and stay safe” order on Wednesday, which limits activities, travel and business to only those that are essential. 

“While we have encouraged citizens to get outside, witnessing large groups of people on individual boats is clearly unacceptable,” Oakley wrote in a Facebook post. “If the rules that have been put in place are not respected, then I will be forced to enhance them and start clamping down on enforcement with fines and possible incarceration.”

Austin closes park amenities

The City of Austin has closed most park amenities — but not parks themselves — in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The closure affects all park features, except for restrooms and drinking fountains. Basketball and tennis courts, skate parks and pavilions are all closed as of Saturday. Playgrounds and exercise equipment were closed last week.

Other park spaces, like trails and golf courses, remain open — as long as users practice physical distancing from others.

Capital Metro to suspend fares starting Wednesday

Austin’s transit agency, Capital Metro, says it will stop charging passenger fares starting April 1. 

The move is an effort to reduce crowding at fareboxes and entrances as passengers scan their tickets or pay cash.

“Our goal is to protect our operators and customers from close physical proximity to reduce the spread of the virus,” the agency said in a news release. “We are currently serving customers that use our service to perform essential duties, and this is a way we can support them.”

Users of the MetroAccess service will still need to show an ID.

Cap Metro’s ridership has plummeted 65% during the coronavirus pandemic. People are discouraged from using the service unless absolutely necessary — and to practice physical distancing of at least 6 feet if they do have to ride the bus.