Mayor Steven Adler held a press conference to provide an update for the city’s COVID-19 response. The prohibition of dine-in services, prohibition of indoor/outdoor gatherings larger than 10 individuals, and the city’s current recommendations to mitigate COVID-19 are included in this report.
This report is intended to give you an overview and highlight of the discussions on the various topics the committee took up. It is not a verbatim transcript of the hearing, but is based upon what was audible or understandable to the observer and the desire to get details out as quickly as possible with few errors or omissions.
Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Health Authority for Austin Public Health
- Need to increase efforts to mitigate community-spread of COVID-19
- Need to limit person-to-person exposure
- No confirmation of community spread, need to act as if it was occurring
- Testing is limited and can base actions on the assumed belief that community spread is already occurring
- Effective noon March 17, dine-in services will be prohibited
- Prohibiting indoor/outdoor gatherings of groups larger than 10
- Essential services government buildings
- Schools and colleges
- Grocery stores and pharmacies (including markets)
- Hospitals and medical facilities
- For exempt locations, frequent cleaning and social distancing procedures are encouraged
- Encourages the public to routinely check their temperature
- Recommends bars close and serving alcohol be prohibited
- Compiling business owner resources
- All positive cases as of now as based upon travel
- Currently tracing origins from 10 initial cases, many have been exposed
- Estimation for further community spread is high
- Expecting an increase in testing capacity; will still prioritize those in hospitals, assistance care facilities and medical workers
- Expecting the arrival of 1,000 testing kits this week
- 80% are mild cases; testing is not critical for everyone
Sarah Eckhardt, Travis County Judge
- Now is the time to be proactive
- Individuals should reduce their circulation in the community
- Keeping critical infrastructure open such as grocery stores
- Grocery stores are starting queuing in order to maintain social distancing
- Wil start to see preferential queuing in grocery stores and pharmacies for the most vulnerable populations – like senior citizens
- Looking to mitigate economic impact of COVID-19
- Recommends buying gift certificates at local establishments
- Court system has put a moratorium on evictions
Steve Adler, Mayor of the city of Austin
- Order speaks to social distancing
- Discusses personal hygiene recommendations from the CDC
- Public health and safety are the number one priority
- Recognizes the economic harm of COVID-19 as a crisis as large as the virus itself
- Recognizes workers will need to replace income and businesses will need assistance
- Currently attempting to find solutions to these problems
- Mentions Workforce Solutions as a resource for workers and business owners
- Working with the governor to get special declaration to open SBA low loans spicket
- Working with local banks to find ways to speed up loans
- Calls upon landlords, lenders and noteholder to extend grace to individuals
- Working to figure out solutions for those who are losing out on income
- Carry out and drive thru options are still available
- Mentions individuals can contribute to the Stand with Austin Foundation
- Recommends those who don’t feel well should stay home
- Recommends individuals to avoid non-essential travel through Austin
- Recommends those who feel sick to not go to emergency room
- Recommends individuals who do not have a PCP to call community care
- Grocery stores and Pharmacies will stay open
- Urges citizens to not hoard
- Something the city and retailers should consider; the elderly having priority in the first hour of the business’ operation
Q: Why can’t restaurants self-police rather than a city-wide ban?
- This has been a continual conversation; were advised to completely shut down dine-in areas
Q: 10 days ago, city officials, including the mayor, encouraged people to go out and support local businesses as to help the economy after SXSW was cancelled, what do you have to say about that?
- Adler – If I knew what I know now, would not have said that
- Adler – Encourages millennials to stop going out to bars
Q: How will city mitigate negative effects of this ban for those in the workforce?
- Adler – Leadership in this region, state, and national level are working to minimize the burden for business owners and the workforce
- Adler – Have ensured no evictions will happen during this time and utilities will stay turned on
- Adler – Need state and federal support to ensure speedy unemployment insurance
- State could provide for greater medical insurance support
- Need state approval for Austin’s sickly ordinance to be adopted
- Eckhardt – Will work collaboratively to focus on solutions for the workforce on thin margins
- 10,000 by 2021 plan already in place; will be supercharged in response to COVID-19
Q: Is the city ensuring the safety for those preparing/delivering/consuming the food?
- Adler – In development right now
Q: Is the city considering increasing the number of inspectors?
- Adler – Yes
Q: How will restrictions on gatherings be enforced?
- Adler – Will enforce at current ability, may need to tweak
Q: If someone saw a violation, what should they do – call 311?
- Self-policing is needed; however, will be enforceable by fines
Q: Why is the Austin animal center closed?
- Adler – Unsure
Q: Are food trucks allowed to stay open?
- Adler – Assumes yes, but outside seating option should be taken away
Q: what number of Austin residents in service industry
- Adler – Food service industry workforce is 2nd largest in the city; economic relief is important
Q: What is city doing to protect first responders?
- Escott – Working to ensure adequate training and access to testing
- Part of protocol to test their temperatures before, during and after work
Q: This is not a recommendation, but an order?
- Adler – Correct, encourages other places in the state to follow suit
Q: It will be effective at noon today?
- Adler – Correct