AUSTIN, Texas — Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the City and Travis County could adopt stricter social distancing measures as Central Texas tackles the spread of coronavirus.
He said City and County leaders, as well as public health experts, are meeting daily and looking at additional steps.
"Social distancing is really the most important thing we can do," Adler told KVUE on Wednesday.
Adler said it was disappointing to see people gathering at parks, the Barton Springs spillway and playing basketball despite stay-at-home orders.
"These kinds of things really should stop," he said.
But he said the decision to follow social distancing orders is up to members of the community.
“Ultimately, we’re not going to be able to enforce our way to where we need to be,” he said. "It's really got to be as a community, everybody doing their part and deciding that they're going to make it happen."
The mayor said Austin-Travis County saw a spike in numbers this week after a group of spring breakers from UT came back from a trip to Mexico and tested positive for COVID-19.
The West Campus area of Austin has been a "hot spot" for the spread of coronavirus, the mayor said.
While hospitals in the Austin area are not currently at capacity, Adler said models showed a shortage of hospital beds by the summer without social distancing measures, with as many as 4,000 to 6,000 deaths. He said new models from UT are expected to be available this week.
On April 1, KVUE's Bryan Mays, Yvonne Nava, Terri Gruca, Quita Culpepper and Mike Rush hosted a live coronavirus-related Q&A with the mayor on KVUE-TV, KVUE.com, KVUE's YouTube channel and KVUE's other social media pages.
Some of the topics covered in the hour-long interview included the "stay home" order the City recently issued, the status of Austin's healthcare facilities, the economic impact, the struggles facing schools and students and how the pandemic affects the city's elderly and homeless populations.
As the region prepares for a possible surge in cases, Adler said the City is setting up isolation facilities, including a 300-room hotel.
Those facilities include locations for those who test positive but cannot isolate at home, as well as other facilities for people who do not have the virus. Other isolation facilities will serve members of the homeless community who do not have a home where they can isolate.
Homeless shelters are screening all members and anyone with symptoms or who tests positive will be sent to an isolation facility, as well as those who have come into contact with that individual.
Gov. Greg Abbott issues essential services-only order until April 30; schools to remain closed until May 4
Adler told KVUE he supported Gov. Greg Abbott's statewide order issued on Tuesday that supersedes city and county orders across Texas. While Austin and Travis County have limited construction to only essential and critical projects, Abbott's order allows for residential construction to continue, he said.
That order also requires Texas schools to remain closed until at least May 4. Adler said any decisions about school closures, such as extending that date, are made by individual school districts.
Superintendents for the region's schools have been participating in the daily calls with city and county leaders and planning ways to maximize educational opportunities – and other needs such as providing food – as schools remain closed.
As Central Texas works through the crisis, city, county and state leaders are looking to provide aid to businesses that have been forced to shut, Adler said.
He said lawmakers are already looking at how the city recovers when the threat of the virus finally ends, including how restrictions are eventually reduced and lifted.
For those looking to help the community, Adler said the most important thing we can do right now is stay home. The mayor urged residents looking to help those impacted by COVID-19 to donate to community fundraisers such as All Together ATX.
On Friday KVUE and other local media organizations will be hosting All Together ATX, a digital telethon to benefit the Austin Community Foundation and United Way for Greater Austin.
Get the latest coronavirus updates by texting FACTS to 512-459-9442.
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