AUSTIN—As government-ordered shutdowns amid the coronavirus drag on and spread economic crisis across the state, citizens are crying out for their elected officials to finally act and withdraw their harmful orders.
In the last week, citizens in Texas’ capital city have witnessed a growing list of iconic places being killed off permanently by the government quarantine. Magnolia Café, a landmark spot for 41 years, said, “In the face of such a huge hit with the reality of Covid-19 … we’ve had to confront the fact that this [Lake Austin] location will not survive.”
Magnolia falls alongside other recently shut down businesses such as brewery North By Northwest, eclectic 35-year-old retail store Vulcan Video, and restaurant Threadgill’s Old #1, which has been a local institution for nearly four decades.
On top of that, as more and more small businesses close, more citizens find themselves without a job. The Austin City Council recently estimated as many as 261,000 Austinites—a quarter of the entire city’s workers—could lose their jobs during the government’s shutdowns.
Meanwhile, of the 1.27 million people in Travis County, where Austin is located, there are currently 1,108 confirmed cases of coronavirus—0.08 percent of the population. Tragically, 25 have died.
From 2017 to 2018, 49 Travis County citizens died from the flu.
Of the state’s 29 million Texans, there are currently 477 coronavirus deaths. This flu season, 6,384 Texans died from influenza and pneumonia.
While hundreds of thousands of Austinites—and over a million unemployed Texans just in the past month—could face a crisis of not being able to feed their families or pay rent, government officials across the state continue to have no clear, data-driven plan to lead out of their lockdowns. Gov. Greg Abbott announced last week that he’ll be forming a task force to formulate some kind of phased reopening, but citizens won’t even hear a report until next Monday.
And as states across the nation are decisively acting and beginning to safely reopen, Texans are now calling for Abbott to do the same. Last week, over 200 grassroots leaders across the state, representing 198 different organizations, penned a letter to the governor demanding a data-driven plan for reopening, and a growing number of state lawmakers are also joining the calls for action.
“The most recent executive orders were a disappointment to small businesses stranded and struggling to stay afloat. Small businesses, formerly employing over 45% of Texans, are the ones most threatened to close permanently by the government mandated shut down,” wrote State Rep. Kyle Biedermann in a public letter to the governor. “More needs to be done to allow them to get back to work. This current economic freefall is aiming to rock Texas on an historic scale.”
Biedermann also commented on Abbott’s limited “retail to-go” plan, which allows businesses to reopen but only to fulfill online orders for curbside pickup. Biedermann said “very few” small businesses in his district, which includes the popular antique tourist town of Fredericksburg, are helped by the narrowly tailored idea.
“If shoppers can responsibly shop at grocery stores, Walmart, and places like my hardware store -then let them do it everywhere following CDC guidelines for social distancing and disinfecting,” he wrote. “The longer we wait, the more damage is being done to Texans livelihoods. […] By forcing the people of Texas into a recession, you are not allowing the people to take personal responsibility for their actions. Every job is essential in Texas.”