AUSTIN, Texas — More large gatherings of people are popping up in the Austin area as public health experts warn of the danger of COVID-19 fatigue.
The Commodore Perry Estate is a high-end resort and event space in Central Austin, near the Hancock neighborhood.
This weekend, AJ Lawrence and his girlfriend were walking at night when they saw a large gathering happening at the hotel.
“It's just a crowd of one- to two-hundred people dancing and singing, with not too many masks involved,” Lawrence said. “And it's in this funny outdoor space, but in a big, enclosed, temporary tent.”
Lawrence said the people inside were standing close together, and the space seemed to be enclosed in a plastic tent. He’s worried so many people refusing to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines could cause the virus to spread.
“We all have a duty to help our community right now and to prevent the spread for those less fortunate,” Lawrence said.
We asked the Commodore Perry Estate for an interview, which a spokesperson declined, but he sent us the following statement:
“The health and safety of our members, guests, community and employees have always been our most important priority. We do everything we can to ensure we meet all local guidelines and protocols, including when we host events. The events we have hosted have met these guidelines. At Commodore Perry Estate, we sincerely value our community and our neighborhood. We will continue to collaborate with local authorities so we are both in compliance and doing our utmost to protect guests, patrons and employees.”
“If we think about the moral and the ethical implications here, then it is certainly in the wrong,” Lawrence said.
A spokesperson for the City of Austin also provided us with a statement after seeing the video.
“We are in Stage 4 of our risk-based guidelines, which does not recommend gatherings above 10 people. Because we don’t know each person’s individual risk level, we recommend that individuals quarantine for five to seven days and pay close attention to possible symptoms, at which point they should take a COVID-19 test, and if they are positive, they should self-isolate until at least 10 days have passed since symptom onset, and at least one day has passed following the resolution of fever with improvement of other symptoms.
We know that pandemic fatigue is high, so in the case the risk-based guidelines are not followed, we ask for the sake of the community’s health that you follow CDC guidelines on gatherings as closely as possible.”
But the statewide orders from Gov. Abbott say wedding receptions and restaurants have the same reopening guidelines, which say outside venues “are not subject to an occupancy limit.”
Charles Lerner from the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 Task Force said outdoor venues that restrict any airflow can put people at risk.
“The only safe outdoor environment is one without obstructions to airflow,” Lerner said. “And if you're in a close crowd, you are still getting an increased dose of virus. The object being outdoors is to have the wind blow and blow the virus away from people.”
Now, Lawrence is hoping people continue to make smart decisions about gathering that can help keep his community safe.
“I hope people use this as a time for reflection, understanding what's important, understanding the sacrifice that other people are making in this time,” Lawrence said.
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