Travis County judge emphasizes need to further decrease public interaction as county seeks FEMA aid for coronavirus

A screen shot of Sarah Eckhardt at a meeting
Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt speaks at an April 7 meeting of the Travis County Commissioners Court. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt speaks at an April 7 meeting of the Travis County Commissioners Court. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)

With a unanimous consent motion, the Travis County Commissioners Court voted April 7 to submit a Request for Public Assistance to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, seeking reimbursement for an estimated $1.2 million in county personnel and operating expenses resulting from the coronavirus.

During the vote, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt sat at the near-empty Commissioners Court dais with a homemade cloth mask hanging around her neck.

“I am asking everyone in Travis County, please do, when you go outside, wear a mask when you leave the house,” Eckhardt said, noting the role masks could play in preventing the spread of coronavirus from asymptomatic individuals, which she said could account for 17% of cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Save for Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, who sat at the opposite end of the dais, her colleagues listened to her via a video conference call, and viewers observed video of the meeting’s proceedings.

Eckhardt’s attire set the tone for her address to the body on the county’s status regarding coronavirus, in which she emphasized the need for Travis County residents to step up their efforts to flatten to the coronavirus curve—in heeding Austin Public Health’s advice to wear cloth masks in public, but especially in avoiding public places and unnecessary gatherings altogether.

Based on recent statistical modeling by The University of Texas and other independent surveys, Eckhardt said Travis County has reached something of a plateau in decreasing social interactions, hovering around a 50% decrease in outings and gatherings from usual activity.

“For a relatively small amount of effort by the community, we can reduce exponentially the number of deaths,” Eckhardt said, pointing to a UT study that projected a 90% reduction in activity could bring the area from a projected 90,000 hospitalizations to around 17,000.

In the meantime, Travis County moves forward with efforts to respond to the pandemic locally as Eckhardt prepares a new shelter-in-place order to take effect April 14, after the current shelter-in-place order expires April 13. The new order will likely address best practices for construction companies and workers, who have been given statewide allowance to proceed as essential businesses by Gov. Greg Abbott, despite Travis County’s initial order not designating most construction as essential.
By Olivia Aldridge
Olivia is the reporter for Community Impact's Southwest Austin edition. She graduated from Presbyterian College with a bachelor's degree in English and creative writing in 2017. Olivia was a reporter and producer at South Carolina Public Radio in Columbia, South Carolina before joining Community Impact in Austin.


COVID-19 hospitalizations also increased to 97 in the Austin metro. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
88 new coronavirus cases in Travis County on June 1 set single-day high

COVID-19 hospitalizations also increased to 97 in the Austin metro.

Director of Elementary Schools Monica Gonzalez said June 1 that the district is looking into training teachers this summer to prepare for partial or full-time virtual learning. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
Austin ISD planning for blended teaching approach for school year beginning Aug. 18

A blended approach would allow the district to switch from in-person learning to virtual learning when needed.

Protesters and Texas Rangers stood face to face during demonstrations at the Texas Capitol on May 31. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
National, state, local officials continue to blame outside agitators for turning protests violent over the weekend

As violence erupted in Austin and cities across the country over the weekend, leaders from all ranks said outside groups usurped the demonstrations and turned them chaotic.

A photo of SH 45 SW
SH 45 SW toll has been open in South Austin for a year

A long-planned toll road connected southwest Travis County and north Hays county clebrates its first anniversary.

Richard Rhodes, the president and CEO of Austin Community College, said June 1 that the district is prioritizing the hiring of a new chief equity, diversity and inclusion officer. (Courtesy Austin Community College)
Austin Community College prioritizing hiring equity officer despite ongoing hiring freeze

The district brought up the hiring during a discussion about protests and demonstrations that have taken place over the past weekend.

Businesses shuttering their doors due to coronavirus restrictions lowered the sales tax revenue collected by cities in May compared to May 2019. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas comptroller reports 13.2% year-over-year state sales tax revenue drop in May

Tax collection revenue fell significantly in several sectors from May 2019 to May 2020, according to the comptroller's office.

Demonstrators gathered at the Texas Capitol on May 31 to protest police brutality. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas officials respond to demonstrations, unrest in wake of George Floyd killing

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a state of disaster in Texas on May 31, while various city officials and law enforcment responded to protests and violence over the weekend.

A group of 16 mayors from municipalities within Travis County have signed a letter to County Judge Sam Biscoe requesting a per capita approach to the issue of COVID-19 relief funding. (Screenshot courtesy Kara King)
Group of 16 Travis County mayors signs letter requesting $23M in county COVID-19 relief funds

City leaders in Travis County, from Bee Cave to manor, have signed a letter to County Judge Sam Biscoe requesting more than $23 million in federal coronavirus relief funds be released to 21 municipalities as soon as possible.

Austin City Hall was one of several downtown buildings to be vandalized during this past weekend's protests. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin leaders, representatives react to weekend protests

Local, state and federal representatives took to social media throughout the weekend to voice their opinions.

Blazier Elementary School students break ground on a new relief campus in Southeast Austin in June 2019. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin ISD accepting names for new Blazier Elementary relief campus through June 5

The new relief campus for Blazier Elementary School will open this August.

Protesters march toward the Texas Capitol. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
PHOTOS: Demonstrators gathered in front of the Texas Capitol as protests against police brutality continued nationwide

Protests against the killings of Goerge Floyd and Michael Ramos took place throughout the weekend in Austin.

Dripping Springs Healthcare rebrands to CARMApsychiatry

The facility offers psychotherapy, medication and alternative medicine treatments for mental health conditions.