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City of Austin requiring enhanced COVID-19 mitigation efforts for special events permits

The additional measures build on the permitting process that has been in effect since April.

AUSTIN, Texas — In response to the continued COVID-19 surge, the Austin Center for Events (ACE) is updating its special events permit process to include enhanced mitigation efforts.

The City said starting on Monday, Aug. 30, ACE will require an enhanced version of the Health and Safety Form to be completed as part of the permitting process. The additional mitigation measures identified in the updated form build on the permitting process that has been in place since April.

Enhanced mitigation criteria for permitting include:

  • Screening at event entrances by requiring in-person attendees to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the event  

  • Developing strategies for maintaining at least six feet of social distancing 

  • Including “mask zones” in outdoor event areas where social distancing is not possible

The City said for indoor events with 1,000 or more attendees and outdoor events with 2,500 or more attendees, the submitted Health and Safety Form must be approved by Austin Public Health. An APH staff member will review the forms and either approve plans or work with the organizer on strengthening mitigation efforts.

“It goes without saying that we all recognize what incredibly challenging times we are in these days. Like many in our community, we are eager to plan and prepare for events,” said Beth Culver, assistant director of the Development Services Department. “The challenge is that we are in an ever-evolving situation."

   

The City said ACE and APH will continue to monitor the local COVID-19 situation and consider various factors in the permit decision-making process, including the applicant's ability to provide sufficient safety, health or portable sanitation equipment, services or facilities and whether or not the resources required to ensure public safety at the special event will prevent emergency services from providing reasonable protections to the rest of the city.

These permit changes only apply to events that are required to obtain a special events permit. They don't apply to events at Q2 Stadium, Circuit of the Americas or the Moody Amphitheater at Waterloo Greenway. Venues throughout town holding events also may not require special events permits through ACE due to annual sound permits that are already in place with those businesses.

During a Q&A with the media on Friday, APH Interim Director Adrienne Sturrup said that for events that aren't under the City's umbrella, APH is in constant communication with organizers about best safety practices.

When asked about why some events have been canceled – such as Bat Fest, which was scheduled for this weekend – Austin-Travis County's health authority indicated decisions are being made to prevent additional issues for local hospitals.

"We do not want to choose between having an event and having an ICU bed available," Dr. Desmar Walkes said.

When asked about the status of the Austin City Limits Music Festival, which is expected to bring hundreds of thousands of people to Zilker Park in October, Walkes didn't directly respond. But she said health leaders continue to work with community partners and many have voluntarily postponed events to ease the strain on health care workers and the hospital system.

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