City of Austin, TX

08/14/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 08/14/2020 16:44

Austin-Travis County Health Authority Releases New COVID-19 Emergency Rules

Austin, Texas - Today, the Austin-Travis County Health Authority adopted new emergency rules that promote the health and safety of Austin-Travis County residents in the fight against COVID-19. These rules relate to reopening schools. Additionally, today Austin Public Health (APH) issued Interim Guidance on Reopening for Austin-Travis County Schools.

Health Authority Rules

The new Health Authority Emergency Rules can be found at austintexas.gov/department/covid-19-information/orders-rules. These rules take effect on August 14.

The emergency rules, which were adopted as authorized by City of Austin Ordinance No. 2020709-003, govern individuals and sites within the City of Austin and impose requirements reasonably necessary to protect public health related to COVID-19 transmission. 
Specifically included in the Health Authority Rules are requirements for school operations. The Health Authority Rules are supplemented by the Guidance on Reopening for Austin-Travis County Schools document. The guidance were created in collaboration with school district and community leaders and comply with Texas Education Agency (TEA) guidance.

'Austin Public Health has been working closely with local school districts to develop detailed guidance so they can feel confident about school restarting,' said Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden. 'We used existing resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Texas Education Association to form the new rules and guidance document.'

Also included is an update to the existing Health Authority rules that reflects new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on returning to work after COVID-19.

Guidance on Reopening for Austin-Travis County Schools

The Guidance on Reopenings for Austin-Travis County Schools document supplements the Health Authority Rules and guidance provided by TEA. It can also be found on the Austin-Travis County COVID-19 Rules and Orders page.

The practices described in the guidance document are essential baseline actions in order to minimize risk of exposure to COVID-19 for students, staff, and families. The recommendations include additional strategies that schools can use to minimize the spread of COVID-19. All recommended practices will not be possible in every setting and should be tailored to each school or district as appropriate.

The guidance in the document is based on the best available evidence at this time. APH guidance for schools may be updated throughout the school year as new information becomes available.

This guidance document was created to protect our community's health and safety, and it is in the best interest of students, staff, parents, and our entire community that all of the guidance is followed. It is strongly recommended that all schools within the Health Authority's jurisdiction which includes the City of Austin and Travis County, comply with the guidance in the document.

These recommendations will help improve the safety of our schools as much as possible, while ensuring the continuity of education for all students, which is important for their long-term development.

'We hope that these guidelines may be used as a potential state-wide model to continue to provide education to our students as the pandemic evolves,' said Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott. 'We are optimistic that the Governor's Office and the TEA will continue to review their position on school reopening and allow for more flexibility in terms of occupancy and school funding in order to ensure that we can maintain continuity of education.'

Additional Resources and Information

To help make COVID-19 and school safety more readily available for parents, students, the community, and school administrators and staff, APH has created a 'Schools and Education ' page on the COVID-19 website. School-related rules, guidance, resources, and information can be found on this page, which will be updated as needed. The direct link to that page is austintexas.gov/page-schools-and-education.

For more information about COVID-19, visit AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.