As the number of COVID-19 cases grows in Texas, local officials across the state are trying to help their cities and counties weather the pandemic. They’re also preparing for its aftereffects.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler says beyond containing the spread of the virus itself, the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are “top of mind.” He says the city of Austin is trying to make things easier on residents by keeping utilities going if someone can’t afford their bill, stopping evictions and pushing the state to make more low-interest loans available to business owners.
“We see the economic crisis as every bit as important and needing of attention, and severe, as the virus itself,” Adler says.
Local philanthropies are also raising money to help compensate artists for their losses after the canceling of the South by Southwest festivals.
Beyond that, he says the state and federal government will have to provide more financial relief to the unemployed and to stimulate the economy.
As of Tuesday evening, the city of Austin had reported 17 COVID-19 cases within Travis County. However, the Department of State Health Services reported just 3 cases in the county as of noon that same day. Adler says all of the Austin-Travis County cases are travel-related, but he expects community spread of the disease imminently, if it hasn’t happened already. His goal now is to keep that spread from happening rapidly, so that it doesn’t overwhelm the health care system.
Adler says personal decisions not to go out or to gather in large groups, especially if you’re feeling unwell, have broader, beneficial effects on public health.
“Collectively, that really decides how severe this spike is going to be,” he says.
Written by Caroline Covington.