Austin Mayor Steve Adler closed bars and restaurants in the state’s capital – effective Tuesday lunchtime – on the heels of similar shutdowns in Dallas and Houston.
The partial shutdown is intended to stop the spread of the new corona virus. It is the latest blow to the state capital’s economy, which is still being hit by the aftershocks cancel South by Southwest, an annual weeklong festival and staple for Austin. The move also limits gatherings of more than 10 people.
Mark Escott, the city’s provisional health agency, said during a press conference Monday that restaurants will only be open for drive-through and pick-up services. Exceptions to the shutdown are “critical infrastructures” such as some government buildings, schools or colleges, grocery stores, pharmacies and hospitals.
“The actions we are taking today are not the result of a knee-jerk reaction and they are not the result of fear,” said Escott.
Adler said the city is working with local banks to offer credit to companies struggling to stay afloat, and urged landlords, sellers and moneylenders to “extend the grace.” Adler also asked Austinites to keep ordering from local restaurants – and tipping a little more.
“We acknowledge that this economic damage at this point is really a crisis that is just as big as the virus itself,” Adler said. “The overall goal is to help companies fill this gap. The old rules are out of the window. “
US representative Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, called the move “brave” and “painful” in a press release that also criticized the national leadership.
“With little national leadership, local governments have to act. The pain for small businesses and their employees will be great; the inconvenience to the rest of us is not negligible, ”Doggett wrote. “These drastic steps are necessary because the Trump administration repeatedly ignored warnings and failed to prepare.”
“Today’s action is the least of the worst – settle down, keep social distance, care for one another, and work to weather the storm,” added Doggett.
The move to limit gatherings to 10 people follows President Donald Trump’s announcement that similar recommendations Monday evening. Previously, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recommended that gatherings be limited to 50 people.
The response from officials in the state’s two most populous cities was quick. Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson ordered the closure of most municipal facilities, while in Harris County only bars ordered closings.
Disclosure: Steve Adler, a past chairman of the Texas Tribune, and South by Southwest were financial supporters of the Tribune, a nonprofit, non-partisan news organization funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the journalism of the Tribune. Find a full list of them Here.