AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s Mayor Adler refused to rule out further restrictions on people in Travis County during the coronavirus outbreak, and indicated he would act decisively if a lockdown was necessary.

Restaurants and bars in the Austin area have been boarded up, local schools are closed and people have been told to avoid non-essential travel as part of drastic measures brought in to reduce the spread of the virus in Texas.

The number of cases of coronavirus in Travis County reached 58 on Friday. In Texas, only Dallas County has a larger number of cases.

In an interview with KXAN Saturday morning, Mayor Adler gave an update on the latest in the Austin area, and looked ahead to what might come next.

Further restrictions may be needed

Business owners boarded up their stores and bars on Sixth Street March 19, 2020 (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)
Business owners boarded up their stores and bars on Sixth Street March 19, 2020 (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)

The mayor pointed out that three states – New York, California and Illinois – have ordered all residents to stay at home unless it is vital to go out.

Although he did not use the word ‘lockdown’ during the interview, Mayor Adler indicated he would be open to it and would take decisive action if necessary.

“Whether we take additional steps is something that is being continually discussed over the course of every day,” he said.

“We have now seen three states that have asked people to stay at home even more than we are.

“At this point we haven’t gone to further restrictions, but I wouldn’t rule them out. If at any point I actually see it happening in our future, we’ll probably go ahead and do it because there’s no sense in waiting.

“This is a virus that spreads through social interaction, people being near to one another.”

Number of cases climbing

Mayor Adler and KXAN maintained social distancing for the interview Saturday (Picture: KXAN)

City leaders are having daily briefings and are constantly considering any further measures that may need to be taken, Adler said.

He warned that the number of cases, which reached 58 on Friday, will continue to go up.

Part of that, he said, is that Texas will be “getting better at testing than we were before,” so more people are being diagnosed, he said.

“It is hard to believe that South By was just cancelled a little over a week ago, it seems like forever ago now,” the mayor added.

Community spread

The most recent cases in Travis County included cases of community spread, rather than a diagnosis related to travel.

However, the mayor said that leaders were not particularly concerned about the development as it was “inevitable.”

“It is really not that big of an event for us, because we had already got to the highest level of action,” he said. “Anticipating that this would happen before it actually happened.”

What people need to do

Mayor Adler emphasized that anyone feeling sick should not go out under any circumstances, and that people should maintain social distancing.

He also said that how the community as a whole responds will determine the severity of COVID-19 in Texas.

“We need to recognize that we get to decide as a community how much of a spike we get or don’t get,” he said.

“We need everybody doing their part and most importantly, if you’re not feeling well or you have a temperature, don’t be around other people. We do have some measure of control here, and we need to exercise it.”

Although restaurants are closed, the mayor encouraged people to order food online to help keep them in business.

“Now more than ever we know that we are all in this together,” he added. “The decisions that we make individually determine collectively how we face this.”