Austin’s local disaster declaration extended to at least April in response to coronavirus as City Council calls for new measures to protect residents

Austin Mayor Steve Adler called the initial disaster declaration at a news conference on March 6. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Mayor Steve Adler called the initial disaster declaration at a news conference on March 6. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin Mayor Steve Adler called the initial disaster declaration at a news conference on March 6. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

The local disaster declaration called by Mayor Steve Adler on March 6 in response to the coronavirus, ahead of South by Southwest Conference & Festivals' cancellation, has been extended to at least April 5 following a unanimous March 12 City Council vote.

The move comes one day after the World Health Organization categorized the new coronavirus, and its rapidly spreading infectious respiratory illness COVID-19, a global pandemic to acknowledge its spread in countries across the world.

As of 1:47 p.m. March 12, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Travis County according to the city’s emergency management spokesperson; however, precautionary measures are being taken throughout the city. Several major events, from SXSW and the Moto Grand Prix, to large events at the Frank Erwin Center have been canceled or postponed. The University of Texas extended spring break for students by a week and some companies have asked employees to work from home.

“When, as a community, we stepped forward and pulled down SXSW, it was a really painful thing to do in so many ways, disruptive in so many ways,” Adler said. “But when you look at what’s happening around the country now, it puts into context what we did. It’s not an outlier at this point, and we need to continue our vigilance to keep the community safe.”

Leading up the vote to extend the local disaster declaration indefinitely, some City Council members called for additional measures to keep residents safe during uncertain times. District 4 City Council Member Greg Casar said, in the event that more people are sent home and cannot work, the city should prepare to halt all electricity and water utility shut offs. He also said the city, to the greatest extent possible, should discourage evictions and prevent the spread of the virus in hospitals, nursing homes and jails.


Echoing the recommendations from Austin/Travis County Medical Director Dr. Mark Escott, Casar said businesses throughout the city and region should provide paid sick days to employees and that the city should begin preparing to mitigate job loss.

“If we don’t have a law that guarantees everybody that right, we need to call on local employers to step up and do that, and call on landlords not to evict tenants impacted by the virus,” he said.

Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza said the city needs to potentially call a special meeting to put together an emergency fund in response to the virus’s economic impact.

“The people that will be most affected by this are the most vulnerable who don't have access to health care, who have jobs that do not provide time off for them who will go to work because they have no other choice because their utilities will be cut off and they will not be able to pay their rent,” Garza said. “We really need to pay attention to that and make sure we are mitigating.”

District 9 Council Member Kathie Tovo said the community should look to the example set by local soup shop, the Soup Peddler, which has offered unlimited paid sick days to employees impacted by the virus.


MOST RECENT

Austin's Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission certified its final City Council district map plan for the 2020s Oct. 27. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin's updated City Council district map certified; new boundaries will last through 2020s

The decadelong mapping plan was developed by a panel of city residents in a process designed to be independent and nonpartisan.

Aerial photo of Aldrich Street
Mueller district announces six new businesses, including a new Veracruz All Natural taco shop location

In addition to the acclaimed taco purveyor, a cookie shop and ramen restaurant are headed to Mueller's Aldrich Street.

The French Legation State Historical Site will reopen to the public Oct. 30. (Courtesy Texas Historical Commission)
French Legation Historic Site in Austin reopens after 2-year restoration

The Texas Historical Commission is inviting the public to the grand reopening of the Austin French Legation State Historic Site on Oct. 30.

The toll increases are higher this year, as a result of inflation increasing the consumer price index over the past year. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
Central Texas tolling agency moves forward with 5% toll increases for 2022

The increases range from $0.02 to $0.10 per toll and will take effect Jan. 1.

ExxonMobil has held office space at Hughes Landing in The Woodlands. (Courtesy The Howard Hughes Corp.)
CI NATION ROUNDUP: ExxonMobil to bring Hughes Landing employees back to Spring location; Dave's Hot Chicken to open in Plano and more top stories

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Oct. 27.

The second segment of the trail was split into two parts due to flood plain issues. The first part is expected to wrap up by the end of 2022.  (Courtesy Austin Public Works Department)
Austin begins work on second section of Northern Walnut Creek Trail

The city aims to have another 1.3 miles of the 19-mile trail complete by the end of 2022.

The Park and Recreation Board voted twice to deny a request to allow beer and wine to be sold in the area around Zilker Cafe. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Planning Commission turns down plan to sell beer, wine at Zilker Cafe

Eight commissioners voted in favor to deny the applicants request while two voted against the motion. Commissioner Awais Azhar abstained from voting.

Photo of Austin's skyline
Austin health authorities outline COVID-19 surge risks while eyeing possible shift to Stage 2

While Austin and Travis County remain under Stage 3 guidelines, hospitalizations have moved into possible Stage 2 territory.

Giselle Copa, an Austin Community College pharmacy student, prepares a COVID-19 vaccine for administration. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
At least 81% of Austin ISD staff are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, per district data

After the district had staff sign up for bonuses only available to fully vaccinated employees, the district can count its vaccinated employees at over 8,000.

"The Dude" is the signature burger at Lebowski's Grill. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI NATION ROUNDUP: Lebowski's Grill upends expectations in Austin; first Houston-area Costco Business Center opens in Stafford and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Oct. 26.

More than 35,000 passengers traveled through the airport on Oct. 25, the Monday following the 2021 F1 U.S. Grand Prix. (Benton Graham/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport sees busiest day ever following 2021 Formula One U.S. Grand Prix

The new record topped the previous busiest day by more than 3,000 passengers.