Lakeway Mayor Sandy Cox updates the community in live broadcast alongside Lake Travis Fire Rescue

Mayor Sandy Cox appeared in a Facebook Live event April 21. (Courtesy city of Lakeway)
Mayor Sandy Cox appeared in a Facebook Live event April 21. (Courtesy city of Lakeway)

Mayor Sandy Cox appeared in a Facebook Live event April 21. (Courtesy city of Lakeway)

As the city of Lakeway continues to shelter in place, Mayor Sandy Cox has been regularly updating the community through a weekly broadcast on Facebook. On April 21, Cox was joined by members of Lake Travis Fire Rescue, Chief Robert Abbott and Battalion Chief Scott Fernandes.

Cox began the broadcast with positive news for the community. In the past week, the Lake Travis area saw one additional confirmed case of COVID-19.

“The last time I was here a week ago we had 12 new cases in one week,” Cox said, thanking the community for social distancing efforts.

Residents are still encouraged to utilize the city’s website for assistance, resources and updated information related to the pandemic.

Cox took a moment to summarize a number of state orders and announcements made by Gov. Greg Abbott throughout the week, the first being the reopening of state parks, Cox said.

Congregating and overnight camping are still prohibited in these areas. The same guidelines apply for Lakeway’s public parks, which have remained open throughout the shelter-in-place orders.

While city officials are still awaiting greater detail on the order, Abbott announced plans to relax certain restrictions on medical procedures. Previously, nonessential medical procedures were halted in an effort to preserve protective equipment and available hospital beds, according to Cox.

Despite the potentially eased restrictions, Cox still encouraged residents to postpone their nonessential health care needs for the time being.

State orders are also in place to aid retail businesses currently closed due to the coronavirus.

Local retailers will soon be able to offer curbside orders as part of Abbott’s retail-to-go plan. According to Cox, more information will become available April 24.

“This came from a strike force that [Abbott] put together of 25 professionals in our central Texas area,” Cox said, adding a multiphase plan will be utilized to safely reopen Texas. Further announcements will be made the week of April 27.

Cox emphasized the importance of thoughtfulness during this reintegration process, avoiding a resurgence or second wave of COVID-19 cases.

“If we move too fast to reopen Texas, we may be right back where we are today, “ Cox said. “We’re being cautious but also mindful that we’ve got to get people back to work, and we’ve got to get the economy restarted.”

On a local level, Lakeway has been working with business owners to establish a three-phase plan to reopen the city. Included in that plan are methods for social distancing, disinfecting and other necessary precautions.

“We’re preparing here in Lakeway to make sure that as the governor is making his announcements we’re ready to go,” Cox said.

Cox also called upon local business owners who have applied for the Paycheck Protection Program, which according to Cox has been completely depleted.

Alongside the Lake Travis Chamber of Commerce, the city is looking for information on how many local businesses were successful in obtaining those funds. A survey on the subject will be launched shortly.

“We really want to know very specifically how people have been affected so that we’re feeding that information to our congressman and our senators,” Cox said.

Updates from Lake Travis Fire Rescue

Lake Travis Fire Rescue consists of six fire stations and 104 square miles, according to Robert Abbott, adding the department has partnerships in place with the city of Austin and other emergency service districts.

The department shared the local call volume, which experienced a small decrease in medical calls, he said. However, the department is continuing to perform fire and technical rescues.

In the last 48 hours, the department had two technical rescues involving the use of STAR Flight, which stands for shock-trauma air rescue. According to Robert Abbott, the department remains fully staffed.

Similar to any city government, LTFR is evaluating the potential economic effects of the pandemic, specifically on the department’s 10-year capital improvement plans.

“We are continuing to move forward with the plans that we’ve set forth and funded this year,” Robert Abbott said, one of those plans being the goal to bring in new firefighters.

The hiring process has been moved to a virtual platform, which the department has utilized in the past for candidates deployed for active duty overseas.

Robert Abbott noted LTFR has been extremely careful in its plan to serve the community during the outbreak.

“We don’t want to cut services and we’ve been very careful and cautious to develop mitigation plans to answer the calls while protecting our employees,” he said, adding if an uptick in confirmed cases does occur, LTFR is prepared.

He developed a task force early on in the situation to keep personnel safe, according to Fernandes.

“We developed an operating manual, one that addresses out responses," Fernandes said. “It addresses how we prepare ourselves and train for these unusual times.”

In accordance with these guidelines, LTFR may approach a residence in a different way when responding to an emergency call.

Cox concluded the broadcast by encouraging the community to reach out and support the struggling local businesses. Residents can purchase gift cards online to be used at a later date.

“Remember all these businesses that you went to for gift cards for your raffles and your silent auctions and so forth,” Cox said. “They gave and they gave, and this is the time to give back to them.”

By Amy Rae Dadamo
Amy Rae Dadamo is the reporter for Lake Travis-Westlake, where her work focuses on city government and education. Originally from New Jersey, Amy Rae relocated to Austin after graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey in May 2019.