AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin is sharing new guidance that will serve as a “starting point” for its own departments and other businesses to begin safely holding events again during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Austin Center for Events launched a new website Friday, which provides a comprehensive list of information about COVID-19 health and safety recommendations for indoor venues as well as new outdoor special event permit requirements.
“Austin Public Health reviewed key indicators which have been moving in the right direction,” Dr. Mark Escott, the Austin-Travis County interim health authority, said. “We actually have a glimpse of normalcy as a reward of the hard work our community has done to protect each other with masking and hygiene practices but to make this a reality, we have to stay vigilant in the protection of ourselves and our community. If we see a surge in cases and hospitalizations, we have the flexibility to reconsider the scale of the event, modify the mitigation strategies, or cancel if needed.”
One notable change will require special event applicants to submit a COVID-19 health and safety plan as part of their application through a new online form. The city’s website states it recommends submitting that new form at least 30 days prior to Tier 1 and Tier 2 events and 60 days ahead of Tier 3 and Tier 4 events.
Starting April 1, the city announced the Austin Central Library will start hosting private events and facility rentals, though that will happen on a limited basis and at reduced capacity. All events will have to receive approval from local health authorities and follow the COVID-19 safety guidelines outlined by Austin-Travis County.
Austin Public Health also gave the Austin Convention Center Department permission to operate at 25% capacity, and it expects that to rise as vaccinations increase.
It’s unclear when the Austin Parks and Recreation Department will reopen places like picnic areas, facilities or special events. Local public health experts will keep working with the department to iron out those reopening plans based on the conditions, according to the city.
In a statement Friday, City Manager Spencer Cronk said, “We understand the pandemic has caused incredible economic impacts on venues and special events and affected consumer confidence. Releasing these guidelines now indicates cautious optimism for events based on the current COVID-19 health conditions.”
Leaders from Austin Public Health will likely address these new plans during their weekly coronavirus briefing on Friday morning. They’re also set to discuss a new drive-through COVID-19 vaccination site opening this weekend at Toney Burger Center in Sunset Valley.