Austin, Travis County issue new COVID-19 signage requirements for businesses

Austin Public Health COVID protections signage
Photo credit City of Austin

AUSTIN ( -- Businesses who provide goods and services directly to the public will soon be required to post signage detailing the protections they are requiring in relation to COVID-19, according to new orders issued by the City of Austin and Travis County on Thursday.

The new orders, entitled "Protecting Customers and Employees and Preserving Adequate Workforce Capacity", will go into effect at noon on Monday, Jan. 17.

Under the orders, businesses have the discretion to choose whether or not they will require face coverings, proof of a negative COVID-19 test result, or proof of vaccination status from employees. The business must then post a notice detailing those choices at each entrance, in order to comply with the order.

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The orders also require businesses to post general signage featuring health recommendations from Austin Public Health, including wearing masks, getting vaccinated against COVID-19, and the agency's risk-based guidelines for both those who are fully vaccinated and those who are not.

Properties maintained by governmental entities and that contain individual dwelling units are exempted from the new requirements.

The notice requirements apply as long as Austin Public Health remains in Stage 3 or higher of its COVID-19 risk-based guidelines.

The new orders are likely to draw scrutiny and a potential challenge from state officials, with a spokesperson for Gov. Greg Abbott saying the local orders are pre-empted by Abbott's previous executive orders. "Every Texan has a right to choose for themselves and their children whether they will wear masks, open their business, or get vaccinated," said Nan Tolson. "The Governor's executive orders, again having the full force and effect of law, are enforceable by state and local law enforcement, and our office continues working with the Office of the Attorney General to protect the rights and freedoms of all Texans."

“We appreciate every business that does their part to keep our community and their customers healthy and safe,” said Travis County Judge Andy Brown. “Today’s orders support local businesses by providing them tools and options to keep their doors open, customers safe, and our local economy growing.”

Violations of the new order are subject to a $1,000 fine under the City's code.

COVID-19 protections signage requirement
Photo credit City of Austin

"We are enabling businesses to better protect public health and to make sure they have enough healthy workers to stay open,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. “Today’s orders authorize businesses to choose for themselves whether they want to require masking or testing, or look at vaccinations, in their own facilities as a way to protect their customers and employees. This is an example of government getting out of the way of business. The orders also provide for a notice to be posted on the front door so potential customers can know whether or not a business is providing these protections."

City health officials say they're preparing to distribute 96,000 face masks to local small businesses to help bolster available PPE resources, with more details on that distribution effort set to be released in the coming days.