Amid COVID Surge, City of Austin to Close City Parks, Barton Springs Pool

Officials fear holiday weekend will give virus a transmission boost

Barton Springs Pool in 2018 (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

The City of Austin announced today it would scale back park and pool access due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, including closing Barton Springs Pool and Deep Eddy Pool.

In advance of the holiday weekend, all city parks and recreational facilities – such as golf courses, tennis courts, boat ramps, recreation/cultural centers, museums, the Austin Nature & Science Center, and the Zilker Botanical Garden – will close from Friday, July 3 through Sunday, July 5. All pre-paid park admission passes will be credited to the park patron’s account or refunded.

Additionally, Barton Springs Pool and Deep Eddy Pool will close tomorrow, Tuesday, June 30, until further notice. Chlorinated pool facilities will continue to operate according to their posted schedules.

Travis County Parks also announced the closure of all parks in its system starting Thursday, July 2 at 8pm, with reopening set for Tuesday, July 7, at 8am, but leaving open the possibility of further closure based on COVID-19 conditions.

Earlier today, Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe sent a letter to Austin metropolitan area officials urging “all local governments cancel publicly sponsored events and close public spaces in advance of the 4th of July weekend in order to discourage social gatherings and therefore discourage spread of COVID-19.”

Biscoe cited the already intense stress on the regional hospital system – currently at 70% capacity – and labs struggling to swiftly meet testing demand as reasons to halt 4th of July celebrations and other public gatherings. See full letter below.

Dear Judges/Dear Mayors and City Managers/Superintendents,

Allow me this opportunity to update you on our current situation. We are now approaching or have surpassed 70% capacity in our regional hospital system. Austin Travis County Public Health is preparing an Alternative Care Site. Because of rapidly increasing demand for testing, our Public Health and Community Care testing are now being rationed to only those with symptoms (not the asymptomatic or those who have come in contact with confirmed COVID + patients). The increased numbers of tests have caused a commensurate increase in demand for analysis. CPL (our largest lab) has rationed analysis to only those tests coming from the hospitals for severely ill patients in order to reduce turn-around time. Our numbers of confirmed positives and the lag time between the testing and the test results have either outstripped both our ability to contact trace and the utility in contact tracing. In summary, the rapid increase in cases has outstripped our ability to track, measure, and mitigate the spread of disease.

For these reasons, I suggest all local governments cancel publicly sponsored events and close public spaces in advance of the 4th of July weekend in order to discourage social gatherings and therefore discourage spread of COVID-19. We simply cannot afford missteps at this stage which could exacerbate the risk of overwhelming our healthcare system.

My deepest regret in bringing this news to our partnership. Please share what adaptations you may be making to find new ways to serve and celebrate with your constituents.

Sincerely,

Samuel T. Biscoe
Travis County Judge

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

COVID-19, Barton Springs Pool, Austin Public Health, Sam Biscoe

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