Year: 2020

It’s Smart Irrigation Month!

It’s that time of year again! Smart irrigation month promotes the social, economic, and environmental benefits of efficient irrigation technologies, products and services in landscape, turf, and agricultural irrigation. We are trying to get the word out to everyone this month to participate and do their part and conserve water this summer! Participating in Smart Irrigation Month will help you reduce your water bill, which everyone loves! Not only does participating reduce your bill, and it also helps conserve the most important natural resource- water!

As Texans, we take water conservation seriously. We experience drought quite often during the summer months. As you can see on the Texas drought map, Williamson County is already facing abnormally dry conditions. As temperatures rise and rainfall ceases to exist, July is typically the month that water consumption skyrockets due to irrigation. This is the time to make some smart changes to your irrigation practices if you haven’t already. Click on the picture for more drought info.

The smartest thing you can do to save water is to follow the tips on the smart irrigation page and schedule a FREE irrigation evaluation with us! Only direct water customers contact Jessica Woods via email or at 512-671-2872

If you are a direct Round Rock water customer, the Water Conservation staff can create an efficient watering schedule that is tailored to your unique landscape and environmental factors.

We take many factors that often go unnoticed into consideration when creating a great schedule for you. We determine how much time a certain zone needs to run according to plant material and shade. We determine how many start times you need according to the slope or soil in your landscape. We also determine how many times a week you should irrigate based many of these factors combined. We will also calculate the amount of water (in gallons) used in your current watering schedule. There might be a chance that we find something wrong with your system, like broken sprinkler heads or incorrect nozzles for a particular area, so we can recommend what to do in those situations. Many issues can go unnoticed for a long time since most irrigation schedules run in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep.              

 Please note staff will not make repairs

You can also participate in smart irrigation month by visiting us on each Wednesday for the next month to learn smart ways to help save water this summer—and year-round. We will have awesome free items that help you save water outdoors and indoors! (Staff will be practicing social distancing and wearing masks to be safe and help stop the spread of Covid-19)

Visit with us at the following locations:

  • Prete Plaza, Wednesday, July 8thfrom 2-4pm
  • Meadow Lake Park, Wednesday, July 15thfrom 9-11am
  • Chandler Creek Park, Wednesday, July 22ndfrom 9-11am

Remember, you do not have to have an irrigation system to participate in smart irrigation month! This includes people who water their lawns by hand or use garden hose sprinklers. There are always ways to reduce water!

Don’t forget to visit irrigation.org/swat for more tips!

Please read the blog post from last year’s Smart Irrigation Month! This blog goes in depth on ways to irrigate smart. It has great information about sunlight, sprinkler head type, and plant type.

Halley: Library’s statewide award shows dedication to service

Geeta Halley, our Round Rock Library Assistant Director, pens a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader. This is a repost of her most recent feature.


As Round Rock Public Library Director Michelle Cervantes mentioned in the last month’s column, I’m honored to take over this space.

My name is Geeta Halley, and I have been with the library for 12 years in the roles of cataloger, public services manager and now assistant director. I’ve already seen the library go through many changes and have been proud of the services we offer and the dedication of the staff.

I’m excited to announce that for the second year in a row, the Round Rock Public Library’s commitment to service earned us the 2019 Achievement of Library Excellence Award from the Texas Municipal Library Director’s Association, an affiliate of the Texas Municipal League. There are 571 public libraries in Texas. Of those libraries, only 53 received this year’s award, placing the Round Rock Public Library in the top 10% of libraries in the state in terms of excellence of services, programs, marketing and staff training during the 2019 calendar year.

To receive the Achievement of Library Excellence Award, a library must exhibit excellence in the following areas: providing services to underserved and special populations; enhancing current services; marketing programs and services in innovative ways; promoting cultural, topical and educational programming; providing literacy support; providing summer reading clubs; pursuing collaborative efforts; supporting workforce development; providing for digital inclusion and comprehensively training staff.

While this is not a competitive award, applying for it allows us to benchmark with other libraries in the state. Meeting the criteria in each of the 10 categories allows us to celebrate the hard work and success of our library staff.

As we strive to maintain the highest standard of service excellence during this uniquely difficult pandemic time, one challenge we face is how to adjust our hugely popular summer reading program in response to the new COVID-19 reality. Planning for this annual program normally begins in January. Little did we know that in mid-March, we would be required to innovate.

After several discussions and consultations with other libraries across the state, we have adapted our summer reading for this new socially distanced era.

The Round Rock Public Library’s Community Reading Challenge runs June 1 through Aug. 1. In lieu of big in-person events, we have scheduled virtual programs for all ages. Visit roundrocktexas.gov/summerreading for registration, events schedule and more information.

We will track the point total for our reading community, and if we achieve 1 million points, the Friends of Round Rock Public Library will donate $500 to be split between the Round Rock Area Serving Center and the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter.

The Friends of the Library will also purchase gift cards to be used for individual prizes from some of our local small businesses who have been long-time supporters of the Summer Reading Program. These gift cards will be distributed through a prize drawing. And readers who earn 1,000 points will receive a Book Nook Book Buck to purchase an item in the Friends’ ongoing book sale when the library is open.

It is a strange time to celebrate our 2019 Achievement of Library Excellence Award and we will not rest on our laurels. The award reminds us that our same innovative, service-oriented and motivated staff will continue to create safe solutions in response to the needs of our community. Our summer reading program, transformed for this new era of social distancing, supports efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Please join us in reading and safeguarding our community together.

Mayor Morgan: Planning puts Round Rock in solid financial position

Mayor Craig Morgan writes a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader.


Mayor Craig Morgan

Each year, the City of Round Rock puts together an annual budget that allows us to take care of our day-to-day needs — from library staffing to street maintenance — while also focusing on the road ahead with transportation projects, facility improvements and public safety. We develop long-term plans for major infrastructure like roads and water, as well as quality of life amenities like parks and recreation and library services.

This year’s budget discussions will no doubt include these same themes, but our conversation will be underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic. The past few months have felt like years at times, and some of our plans for the future have had unexpected obstacles placed in their path.

That said, let’s be honest — as City leaders, we are always dealing with change. Changing economic landscapes and new legislation are familiar territory for us. A pandemic is an unexpected challenge, to say the least, but we’ve created a solid foundation through many years of long-term planning and visioning.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Round Rock had seen recent business recruiting successes, an uptick in sales tax revenue overall and from Dell as well as healthy fund reserves. Round Rock has historically used sales tax to fund the largest portion of our General Fund, which pays for basic services like public safety and parks. Knowing that sales tax is a volatile funding source, we have for years been working toward a more balanced approach to funding these basic services. Currently, the General Fund is comprised of 43 percent sales tax revenue, 35 percent property tax revenue, 22 percent other taxes and fees. By 2023, we project a balance of sales tax and property tax at 40 percent.

Although our past financial planning puts us in a solid position, we have already sharpened our pencils to brace for the impacts of the past few months on our budget. Sales tax, hotel/motel occupancy tax and other revenues are expected to take a significant hit this year due to the actions taken by local and state officials to limit interaction among people to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our revised total sales tax projected for FY 2020 resulting from revenue losses from COVID-19 is $67.06 million, compared to the original adopted budget of $74.39 million. Our staff proactively worked to cut approximately $8.9 million out of department budgets for the current fiscal year in lieu of across the board reductions, and we made sweeping cuts to travel, training, non-essential overtime and other spending through a budget amendment passed by City Council last month. This gives us a balanced budget through the end of the year that tightens the purse strings while still allowing us to focus on our priorities, without having to dip into our contingency and debt reserves.

We know our local businesses need us more than ever, and it’s important to keep in mind that “Shopping the Rock” helps us fund improvements to our community that make this city such a great place to call home. The sales tax rate in Round Rock is 8.25 percent, with the state of Texas collecting 6.25 percent and the City 2 percent. Of the City’s share, half of those funds go to basic local government services like police, fire protection, parks and the library, one quarter of the funds help reduce property taxes, and the remaining portion funds economic development, primarily construction of major transportation improvements. More than $582 million in transportation projects alone have come to fruition due to this important funding source.

We are still waiting to see exactly how hard our local economy has been hit these last few months, but we maintain a focus on our strategic planning to make decisions that will continue to move us forward in the direction we need to go. The City will continue to focus on community needs and our strategic goals while working within the confines of our current financial conditions. We will do everything we can to ensure that our community continues to be one of the best places to live in the country, and by working together, we will get through this.

PLAN and PREPARE for Summer

Beach trips ✓ BBQs ✓pool days ✓ mulch? Irrigation evaluation? Sprinkler inspection? You might be ready to embrace the summer heat but is your landscape ready? As warmer weather rolls in, we go out to the garage to turn on the sprinklers and go on about our day. Before switching your system on for the season, there are a few important things to check and do!

Is your landscape prepared?

  • Check your irrigation system for flaws or broken parts.
  • Sign up for a FREE irrigation system evaluation!
  • Adjust the amount of water needed for your landscape.
  • Make your landscape independent by adding native drought-tolerant plants and use tools to enrich your landscape.

Irrigation system check up

Inspect your system for broken or missing sprinkler heads. Adjust sprinkler heads that are facing the wrong direction or watering concrete. You can also find an irrigation professional licensed by the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to do the work for you. This is an important step for your summer preparation because problems can go unnoticed since most irrigation happens in the middle of the night. This can lead to costly leaks and broken sprinkler heads which can waste water and money.

 

 

Schedule a Free Irrigation System Evaluation

Irrigation evaluations are a great way to learn how to reduce your outdoor water usage! You will receive great advice and recommendations tailored to your unique landscape and environmental factors.

If you’re a direct City water customer, schedule a free irrigation system evaluation by contacting Jessica Woods via email or at 512-671-2872.  During the evaluation, staff will:

  • Determine how many gallons are used with your current watering schedule.
  • Provide a recommended watering schedule.
  • Make recommendations if any system upgrades are needed.

Please note staff will not make repairs

Adjust the amount of water needed for your landscape

Not all parts of your yard are the same, they might differ in water needs! An area with shade should be watered less than an area with full sun. Change your watering times to accommodate for the differences in sunlight, plant and turf types.

Some might think all grass types require the same conditions. In fact, some drought tolerant grasses like Bermuda are often over watered.  Use this chart from the Texas ArgiLife Extension to determine what conditions your turf-grass thrives in. If you have no idea where to start, sigh up for an irrigation evaluation and we can help you identify your grass and recommend a watering schedule for it.

∗Click on the chart for in depth info about grasses∗

Is your landscape independent?

Add native plants to your landscape! These types of plants require much less water and are adapted to our climate. Imagine having an entire garden bed dedicated to native plants! You may be able to turn off that entire zone and save so much water!

Don’t forget to add mulch to garden beds, trees, and yes grass! As you may know, mulch helps reduce water loss due to evaporation, adds nutrients, and prevents weeds. It’s possible to reduce watering times on areas that are mulched since they will retain water longer. Mulch is one of the most important steps to prepare for the heat! As a Round Rock water customer, you can get FREE hardwood mulch at our brush recycling center!

Headed over to the billing office? Don’t forget to pick up a free native plant guide at the front desk or just click on the picture to view it virtually!

 

More information

Native Plant Resources

 

Don’t forget to add these steps to your summer checklist!

Lawn & Garden Tax Holiday

This holiday weekend, you can save money on products to help you reduce your water use at your home or business.  This is the 4th annual Lawn and Garden Water Smart Tax Holiday!

This Memorial Day Weekend, May 23rd-25th, consumers can purchase water saving items without paying sales tax.  Water saving items, as defined by the Texas Comptroller, can include any plant product, any product with a WaterSense label, mulch, rainwater collection systems, and much more!  There is no limit to how many items you can purchase.

WaterSense Products

Retailers do not charge sales tax on any product that displays a WaterSense label or logo. These items can be bought for either personal or business purposes.

The categories of products are broad; you can buy items tax free during the holiday that are used or planted for:

  • conserving or retaining groundwater;
  • recharging water tables; or
  • decreasing ambient air temperature, and so limiting water evaporation

 

Examples of items that qualify for the exemption include:

  • a soaker or drip-irrigation hose
  • a moisture control for a sprinkler or irrigation system
  • mulch
  • a rain barrel or an alternative rain and moisture collection system
  • a permeable ground cover surface that allows water to reach underground basins, aquifers or water collection points
  • plants, trees and grasses
  • water-saving surfactants
  • soil and compost

If you’d like more information on the products and plants you can purchase tax-free this weekend, visit landscapetexas.org or the Texas Comptroller’s website.

Remember, the City’s Water Conservation program offers rebates on many water-saving and WaterSense labeled items.  And residents can always pick up free mulch from the brush recycling center.

 

UDPATED: What you can do to make Open Texas safe, successful

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday, April 27, released his report to Open Texas, a guide to gradually bring state businesses back to life in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Tuesday, May 6, Gov. Abbott announced his intention to expand openings of certain businesses and activities in upcoming phases of the plan. On May 18, Gov. Abbott announced new phases of business and activity openings. 

PROTOCOL CHECKLISTS: View protocol checklists for restaurants, theaters, churches, nail salons, cosmetology/hair salons, gyms and more.

While most of the early attention has been on what businesses can reopen — and which can’t — there is a lot of emphasis in the report about what we as individuals can do to slow the spread of the Coronavirus.

Flattening the curve isn’t about stopping the spread of the virus — that’s pretty much impossible with a virus like this one — it’s about slowing the spread so our healthcare facilities don’t get overwhelmed by those hardest hit by COVID-19. So far, so good on that strategy here in Williamson County. Of the 279 confirmed cases as of April 28, only 35 have ever been hospitalized, according to data from the Williamson County and Cities Health District, the public health authority.

It helps, no doubt, that we are generally healthier than most — Williamson County is ranked No. 6 in health outcomes and No. 4 in health factors in Texas — so residents here are less likely to have comorbidities like diabetes, heart disease and asthma.

So we need to keep ourselves healthy by following the protocols in the Open Texas report. Take a minute to familiarize yourself with the list below. We all need to be familiar with symptoms of COVID-19 so we are less likely catch or spread the virus as we begin to resume life in the new normal.

Health protocols for individuals

  • Maintain at least 6 feet separation from other individuals not within the same household. If such distancing is not feasible, other measures such as face covering, hand hygiene, cough etiquette, cleanliness and sanitation should be rigorously practiced.
  • Self-screen before going into a business for any of the following new or worsening signs or symptoms of possible COVID-19
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Chills
    • Repeated shaking with chills
    • Muscle pain
    • Headache
    • Sore throat
    • Loss of taste or smell
    • Diarrhea
    • Feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit
    • Known close contact with a person who is lab confirmed to have COVID-19
  • Wash or disinfect hands upon entering a business and after any interaction with employees, other customers, or items in the business
  • Consider wearing cloth face coverings over the nose and mouth when entering a business, or when within 6 feet of another person who is not a member of your household. If available, individuals should consider wearing non-medical grade face masks. 

Testing, contact tracing

It’s important to remember that as we adhere to these protocols, it is likely case counts will increase as more testing becomes available. Stepping up testing and contact tracing are integral parts of the Open Texas plan. Gov. Abbott said increased positive tests are less of a factor than healthcare system capacity and fatality rates in deciding whether to move on to Phase II of Open Texas, currently scheduled for May 18.

COVID 19 testing tracing graphic

The report emphasizes the need to protect the most vulnerable population to COVID-19: Texans over 65. They make up 76 percent of COVID-19 fatalities in Texas, through April 26. In fact, the first set of protocols listed in the report are to protect this segment of the population.

Special guidance for Texans over 65

  1. Stay Home If You Can
  • Minimize face-to-face contact with others. Avoid young children.
  • If someone is assisting you, you and your family members or caretaker should wear cloth face masks. Remember a family member or caretaker can give you the virus even if they don’t appear to have symptoms.
  • Try grocery or restaurant delivery, mail order prescriptions, and phone appointments with your doctor. Call 2-1-1 if you need help with essentials.
  • Reach out to friends, family, or neighbors who can deliver essential items.
  1. Help Save Lives
  • If you must go out, wear a cloth face mask, and stay six feet away from others.
  • Wash your hands often and for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Disinfect surfaces, buttons, handles, knobs, and other places touched often
  • Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, or eating utensils with others
  • If you have mild symptoms (difficulty breathing, or a rapidly worsening cough or fever), call your healthcare provider. If symptoms are severe, call 9-1-1.
  1. Check In
  • Check in regularly with neighbors, friends, and family by calling, texting, emailing, video chatting, or even writing letters.
  • Walking, gardening, digital books, games, and online religious services are great ways to stay active and connected.

Protocol checklists

The Open Texas Plan features a series for checklists for individuals and organizations to follow to allow the state to open back up in phases and slow the spread of COVID-19.

New, In Effect May 31, 2020

New, In Effect May 22, 2020

New, Now in Effect as of May 18, 2020

Effective May 18, 2020

Effective May 8, 2020

Effective May 5, 2020

From the Texas Education Agency

DELAYED: Air Force Thunderbirds to fly over Round Rock, salute of frontline responders

UPDATE: The flight has been delayed until 3:40 p.m., Wednesday, May 13.


The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, will honor frontline COVID-19 responders and essential workers with formation flights over Austin and surrounding areas, including Round Rock, on Wednesday, May 13.

A formation of 6 F-16C/D Fighting Falcons will conduct these flyovers as a salute to healthcare workers, first responders, military, and other essential personnel on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Flyovers in Austin will start at 2:40 P.M. (CDT) and last approximately 25 minutes. The date and times are subject to change due to weather and operational requirements.

Residents along the flight path can expect a few moments of jet noise as the aircraft pass overhead and are asked to avoid gathering in large groups to view the salute. 

Mayor Morgan: In COVID-19, Round Rock finds the helpers

Mayor Craig Morgan writes a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader.


Mayor Craig Morgan

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” — Mr. Rogers

As Round Rock and other cities across Texas begin to ease into reopening the economy, many in our community are preparing our minds for a shift in life as we’ve known it for the past month.

You may be preparing for a return to working in person, reopening a business, ordering masks before leaving your home or planning a visit to see family or friends for the first time in a while. Even as we move forward, many in our community continue to face hardships caused by COVID-19. In true Round Rock fashion, several organizations and groups have come together to help those in need.

The Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD), made up of local non-profits in Williamson County, have set up drop-off donation sites for non-medical items to be delivered to vulnerable populations and elderly residents.

Round Rock Area Serving Center has been running a modified food pantry by delivering groceries curbside to families in need. In its first three weeks of the program, the Center served more than 3,000 people, 35 percent of whom had been personally impacted by COVID-19. Thousands of dollars have also been provided in direct relief to families in need. All of this has been with 12 to 15 volunteers and six staff members. Several in our community have stepped up to donate food, money and recycled grocery bags to assist.

Opportunities for Williamson and Burnet Counties, probably best known for running Meals on Wheels and Head Start, is working to provide basic items to their clients who are unable to visit the store for their needs, even in the best of times. Their work is not done as many of their program participants continue to shelter in place, and they are still seeking donations of money as well as basic needs, from food to toiletries.

Our local school districts have banded together to provide mental health support to students and families who have been facing difficulties as a result of COVID-19. Round Rock ISD has a plethora of resources on its website, roundrockisd.org, that could benefit all in our community, even if you don’t have a school-aged child.

One of the causes closest to my heart has been Round Rock Cares. We announced Round Rock Cares in conjunction with the Round Rock Chamber, Dell Technologies and the Greater Round Rock Community Foundation to help our small businesses in Round Rock by allocating financial resources as quickly and as directly as possible in their greatest time of need. In the first round of fundraising, we were able to raise nearly $400,000 as a community to help 160 small businesses in need. I have been so proud of our community coming together to lift up the entrepreneurs who make our city such a special place to live.

Although these are all established organizations in our community, several others have come together in less formal ways to provide for those in need. So many of our residents have helped by making masks, picking up necessary items and groceries for neighbors and coming up with creative ways to lift each other up.

There are other non-profits in our community who may not directly feed or provide money to those in need, but still do important work that we should support. Arts and culture is an area that has been especially hit hard as events have had to cancel. In Round Rock, we are missing events such as Sculptfest, Music on Main and Artist Pop-Up Shows that feed our own desire for entertainment while helping support local artists. Try not to forget the various groups around town who need to survive so we can look forward to creative experiences on the other side of this.

I am so proud of Round Rock staying true to ourselves in supporting each other. As we move forward, we will continue to face these challenges together. It’s important that we continue to lift up not only our residents and businesses, but the organizations that are supporting them. In the midst of these times, always look for the helpers, and ask if you could be one yourself. To learn more about giving or receiving assistance, visit roundrocktexas.gov/coronavirus.

Drinking Water Week

      Water education is crucial for water conservation

Drinking Water Week is a great time for everyone in our city to recognize and appreciate that water is always there when we need it. This is a perfect time to learn more about our drinking water!  Water conservation is frequently overlooked because water is a renewable resource. Although renewable, many communities around the world lack access to clean drinking water, and future projections show that more countries will face water scarcity. I will answer some questions that many people including myself had before gaining a better understanding of water conservation.

If Earth is covered in water, why do we face water scarcity around the world?

 It is easy to get confused about the amount of water humans and animals can drink. About 97% of Earths water is saltwater in the oceans. The 3% of water that is left is freshwater.  Most freshwater is frozen in glaciers or stored deep underground as groundwater. That leaves only about 1% of freshwater for us to drink and share with wildlife. Click on the picture for more info.

Why do we need to save water if it is renewable?

This small percentage of water is all 7.5 billion people have. This tiny amount of water is not evenly distributed around the world. This unequal distribution of water is due to population growth, geography, climate, political, and economic problems.

  • As population continues to grow, the demand on water increases.
  • Places with hot and dry climates, like deserts, do not have as much freshwater. Many southwestern states in the US face this problem.
  • As the average temperature of Earth’s climate rises, glaciers and ice caps melt. This is a huge percentage of Earths stored freshwater melting into the sea becoming saline.
  • Many countries fight over resources. Even in the United States, we are seeing a huge debate over the usage of the Colorado River between 7 states.
  • Many developing countries lack funds for infrastructure such as dams, reservoirs, treatment facilities and piping.

What is using all this water?

As you can see in the picture, irrigation is the largest consumer of water in the United States.  It not only waters the crops we eat; it must be used to irrigate the crops our livestock eat and graze on. This also includes the irrigation of commercial and residential properties. That means lawns all around cities. Click the picture for more info.

Well why can’t we just take the salt out of ocean water?

I always used to ask this question, and the answer I always got was that it was way too expensive. So how much does it really cost? According to the Texas Water Development Board, it would take $658 million to build a desalination plant in Texas. (El Paso, Texas has the only desalination plant in Texas, which is largest inland plant in the world! El Paso Water desalinates brackish groundwater from the Hueco Bolson aquifer and can produce up to 27.5 million gallons of fresh water daily.) Not only is it costly, but the process of pumping out large amounts of water from the ocean takes a toll on marine life. Pumps suck up millions of plankton and small fish which are the base of marine ecosystems.

Now that I have answered some common questions, do you see the importance of water conservation?

Making educated decisions

Once somebody has researched and learned more about water, they will be able to make educated decisions on how they use it. Water conservation education will also help people make smart political choices that benefit our natural resource. People with a “save water” mentality will also make educated decisions on what they purchase. It’s important for everyone to know why water conservation is important so we can make changes and decisions that will help our future generations.

 

 

Resident concerns about Coronavirus shift in key areas

Round Rock residents remained concerned about the economic impact on the community of the COVID-19 pandemic, but fewer are worried about the impact to their households, according to a second online survey conducted by the City of Round Rock. 

More than 800 residents completed the survey April 10-13. The City’s first survey featuring similar questions was conducted March 23-25, just before a Stay Home order was issued for Williamson and Travis Counties.

As in the first survey, respondents frequently expressed their displeasure with those hoarding toilet paper, hand sanitizer and bleach wipes. While staying at home is the top answer to the question of how to help others, there are growing numbers saying the economy should be opened back up.

You can read the full survey results here.

While the local economy remains survey respondents’ primary concern, the ability of households to access goods and services is less worrisome than indicated in the first survey.

When asked, “What are your household’s concerns right now regarding COVID-19?” the No. 1 response at 72 percent was, “Economic impact on my community.” Respondents concerned about the economic impact on their households declined to 53 percent from 63 percent. Concerns about access to medical services, having enough supplies and having enough food also showed significant decreases from the first survey. “Emotional health of household,” cited by 52 percent, now ranks higher than concerns over supplies and medical treatment.

COVID 19 Household concerns chart

The increasing concern for the local economy may be reflected in the generosity of residents and businesses who have donated to Round Rock Cares, an initiative conceived by Mayor Craig Morgan and managed by the Greater Round Rock Community Foundation. More than $350,000 has been raised following the March 25 announcement by the City, Dell Technologies, the Round Rock Chamber and the Community Foundation, which donated a combined $100,000 to establish Round Rock Cares.

Concern that workplaces would be closed for an extended time decreased to 28 percent from 38 percent. Still, many expressed concerns about their financial situation.

“We only have $120.00 left,” wrote a respondent. “Last possible order for food made today. No more money to spend … It’s getting financially dicey now. Praying for our state of Texas. And TY for allowing me to stressfully whine. I am very aware that MANY have the same concerns. Thank you for what you do. We’re grateful but REALLY SCARED.”

A number of retirees also responded to this question, and expressed concern over a volatile stock market.

“As a retired senior, managing my 401k so it continues to grow is my job now,” one wrote.

The No. 1 response to the employment challenges question was “Not Applicable/Other,” so we created a tag cloud to give you a sense of what we heard in the comments.

employment tag cloud

When asked, “What kind of information would help your household most regarding COVID-19?” the top response remained, “The geographic areas that have higher outbreak rates,” at 52 percent. We’re pleased to report we are working to receive more specific location information on Round Rock positive cases from the Williamson County and Cities Health District (WCCHD).

Some respondents also wanted information on how people are catching COVID-19. The WCCHD is now including that information in its Coronavirus (COVID-19) dashboard. Below are the results from April 16. Note: Community Transmission is light orange, Contact with Case is yellow, and Travel Acquired is red.

Round Rock COVID-19 Dashboard

As in the first survey, respondents said they are taking multiple steps to be prepared for COVID-19. Here are the top responses:

  1. Washed my hands more frequently with soap or hand sanitizer, 95 percent
  2. Not shaking hands or touching people in public places, 93 percent
  3. Kept space between myself and others while out, 90 percent
  4. Avoided crowds, 90 percent
  5. Stayed home more frequently, 89 percent

Not included in the first survey was the step of wearing a mask. Since then, the CDC has recommended people wear masks in public. In this survey, 61 percent reported wearing a mask when leaving home.

When asked what steps they have taken to assist the community, 88 percent responded, “Stayed in my home except to take part in essential activities.” That step had not been included in the first survey, which concluded prior to the Stay Home orders.

There were nearly 1,000 responses to the question, “Do you have other ideas on how residents can help others in the community relating to COVID-19?” Here’s a tag cloud of the top comments:

 

We’d like to thank all who took the time to let us know how they are doing and feeling in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We, as your local government, can respond better to your changing needs when we have a clearer picture of what those are.