Local officials could soon force working Austinites into another crisis.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler is considering decreeing another citywide shutdown similar to the ones in March and April, when “nonessential” businesses were forced to close and citizens were ordered to stay home, among other restrictions. Adler’s past orders forced at least 132,000 Austinites out of work and into a potential new crisis of struggling to afford food and a place to live for their families.

In a Facebook Live broadcast this week, Adler said if the community doesn’t change their behaviors—to do things such as social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, and wearing masks—he could likely enact a new stay-at-home order.

“If we don’t change behaviors, then [shutting down] is something the city’s going to have to seriously consider doing,” he said.

Additionally, Travis County Interim Public Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said this week that the county is “at the verge of having that recommendation come from me to the mayor and [Travis County] Judge Biscoe that we close things down again.”

Ironically, though Adler admonished citizens to social distance and avoid large gatherings, he was photographed by local news in the middle of a sprawling crowd at a recent anti-police protest downtown. The mayor was surrounded by a mass of thousands of people.

Meanwhile, the officials’ reasoning for the potential re-shutdown? A recent local and statewide spike in confirmed coronavirus cases, which local officials have blamed on the gradual reopening of Texas.

However, new data suggests a drastically different understanding of the virus.

According to a recent Penn State study, “the number of early COVID-19 cases in the U.S. may have been more than 80 times greater and doubled nearly twice as fast as originally believed,” meaning not only has the virus already spread to far more people than originally thought ( making the death rate far lower than originally thought) but that it had already spread regardless of the gradual reopenings.

Conservative Review Senior Editor Daniel Horowitz notes that fact in a recent commentary:

“Given that there were 87 times more cases than what had been unidentified through testing in March, imagine how many tens of millions have gotten the virus since then?”

He adds that the recent “spike” in confirmed cases was our healthcare system just now discovering “what already was spreading for a while.”

“What this study shows is that the virus spreads like the flu, unlike SARS-CoV-1 in 2003, which was rare and deadly. This is the context the media fails to provide when trumpeting more cases in the southern states. Now that we have universal testing in hospitals and anyone can obtain a test anywhere else, we are discovering more of what already was spreading for a while. It’s not surprising, now that hospitals are back up to capacity with typical patients, that a large percentage of them are testing positive for the virus, even though they don’t have serious cases.”

Since March, Adler and local officials have used faulty and wildly inaccurate projections to justify enacting livelihood-killing shutdowns on Austinites. Adler even used data from a University of Texas report that had 70 to 100 percent uncertainty.

Meanwhile, the current reality of how coronavirus has affected the local area: 124 out of 1.27 million Travis County citizens have tragically died from a coronavirus-related illness.

Across the state, there are 2,424 coronavirus-related deaths. This flu season, 6,737 Texans died from influenza and pneumonia.

Nationally, 2.7 million Americans have confirmed coronavirus cases. According to the CDC, as many as 56 million Americans had the flu this season.

Austinites who are concerned about a potential new shutdown—where they will again not be allowed to provide for their families—can contact Mayor Adler or the city council.

Jacob Asmussen

Jacob Asmussen is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard. He attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and in 2017 earned a double major in public relations and piano performance.


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