35-day shutdown in Austin a ‘last resort,’ Mayor Adler says

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Mayor Steve Adler and other city leaders are calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to give local government the same control and authority they had at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic to help slow the rapid spread of the virus in the state.

On Sunday, Adler said one option, considered to be a last resort at this time, would be a 35-day shutdown in the city.

The 35-day shutdown would mean operating on a limited economy — similar to phase one of the city’s response to the pandemic during March and April. However, the authority to implement a shut down would require Gov. Abbott’s approval. KXAN has reached out to the governor’s office for comment and is waiting to hear back.

In the past, Abbott has maintained that shutting down the Texas economy to earlier levels of the coronavirus pandemic will “always be the last option.” On Sunday, the state set a new record for hospitalizations at 8,181 which is 291 more hospitalizations than Saturday.

Effective Friday at 12 p.m., Gov. Abbott’s latest order mandated face masks in most public spaces for residents in Texas counties with more than 20 positive COVID-19 cases.

“If we do not contain this measure right now, we will lose the last, best chance to slow the coronavirus for anything short of having to shut our economy back down,” Gov. Abbott said in an interview with Abilene TV station KTAB last week.

Adler says a shutdown coupled with a better job at contact tracing and testing along with social distancing and wearing masks could be enough to avoid additional shutdowns.

“If we were to do that for 35 days and come out with the discipline to make sure that’s how we open up the economy in a new innovative and adaptive way…we could open up schools in the fall,” Adler said to KXAN.

Mayor Adler says the current trajectory indicates that Austin could run out of hospital capacity in two weeks. Travis County health officials reported 548 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the total to 11,679 cases. There are 3,082 COVID-19 cases considered active in Travis County.

Last week, University of Texas researchers presented Austin City Council members with various policies the city could implement to avoid reaching and exceeding hospital capacity. One scenario presented was the 35-day shutdown strategy. The other option projected hospitalizations potentially declining in October with everyone wearing masks and limiting social interactions. However, hospitals would be in a cautious and precarious mode throughout the year to avoid exceeding capacity.

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