TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — To cancel or move forward with spring festivals and events? That’s the question City of Austin and Travis County Officials face this week.
Tuesday, Travis County Commissioners voted to extend the local disaster declaration. They also took a closer look at some of the county’s upcoming events.
One event is just days away — Rodeo Austin. CEO Rob Golding said with the go-ahead from the County Commissioners, the event is still proceeding as scheduled.
“We take public health and safety very seriously at Rodeo Austin, that is of the utmost importance,” Golding said. “But… we are a not for profit, charitable organization and frankly I’m very pleased we get to continue.”
Rodeo Austin also says they’ve taken precautionary measures ahead of this weekend’s kickoff.
“We’ve taken steps to increase our public sanitation oportunities, handwashing stations, porta potties, signage and graphics,” said Golding.
The same goes for outside vendors. The Thinkery Children’s Museum sets up a venue at the rodeo, which showcases its new exhibit to come in May.
“We’re a children’s museum and science center. Our protocols are industry standard,” said Thinkery CEO Patricia Young Brown. “Of course we’ve upped our cleaning protocols. We’re here to help our littles in the community develop to their best potential.”
Providing for the Kids of Texas is also in line with Rodeo Austin’s Mission. The non-profit helps support the youth of Texas by giving over $2M in scholarships and awards every year.
“I hope that if the public does feel comfortable,” said Golding. “I hope they’ll come visit Rodeo Austin over the next 17 days, and realize that we have taken extra steps.”
County officials confirmed the music event Luck Reunion at Willie Nelson’s Luck Texas Ranch is on, as well. This comes after Travis County officials reevaluated the event’s permit request, and felt it met the county’s new terms.
Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said a big consideration was the amount of national or international travel associated with each event.
“An event like Rodeo, which is a predominately a Texas or even local draw, doesn’t have the same risk factors as SXSW or if we were having Formula One, for instance,” Eckhardt said.
On the SXSW cancellation, she said, “It’s a large gathering of people drawing from an international audience, including states where we have already seen person-to-person transmission. It had a risk of bringing COVID-19 to us sooner.”
On Tuesday, the county also went over its mitigation plan, which includes a permit review process similar to the City of Austin’s plan.
Officials will look at every event with 2,500 or more people. They’ll look at things like crowd density and review how close will be people be to each other at the event. They will also make sure there are ample hand washing and sanitizing stations, and they’ll take a look at where attendees are coming from. That is part of the criteria that’ll determine what events can continue.
“We’re not trying to pick on anybody, we’re not trying to prevent anybody from holding an event, we just want to make certain that public safety is at the highest priority,” Hector Nieto, the county’s spokesperson said.
There is a special voting session scheduled for Thursday at 1:30 pm, where these events are set to be reviewed again.
The agenda reads, “Determine further action, including but not limited to cancellation or additional mitigation measures for any large special events or mass gatherings currently scheduled in Travis County such as Rodeo Austin and Luck Reunion.”
Executive Producer and partner at Luck Reunion Matt Bizer said the uncertainty is definitely concerning for them.
“The public safety portion of this is our priority, but as an organization, you know, if we move forward past this week into the end of the week and into next week, we’re too far past the place of no return,” Bizer said.