AUSTIN — As Texans across the state suffer and struggle to provide food for their families under prolonged government-ordered shutdowns (even with the governor’s trickled reopening of businesses), one Central Texas county is continuing their lockdown into the summer.
On Friday, Democrats Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt extended their stay-at-home orders on citizens; Austin’s order will last until May 30, but the county’s order will drag on until June 15.
The order prohibits all public and private gatherings, tells “non-essential” businesses to cease operating, and says all citizens over the age of six “shall wear some form of face covering” when going out in public.
Violating the order “may be punishable through criminal enforcement,” with citizens potentially being fined up to $1,000 or even thrown in jail for six months.
It is questionable what effect the order will have because it largely conflicts with Gov. Greg Abbott’s recently updated statewide order that allows for limited reopening. According to Abbott, local officials like Adler and Eckhardt cannot impose more burdensome guidelines than his statewide executive order.
Despite including criminal punishments in the order, the officials admitted their limitation, stating in the order numerous times that “no civil or criminal penalty will be imposed for failure to wear a face covering,” and that their punishments could be “limited by state order.”
Still, the extension of the local order could be used to impose penalties for activities not expressly permitted by Gov. Abbott. Moreover, the order will continue to limit citizens’ behavior as they are unsure of what activities are authorized and what activities are prohibited.
“The governor’s order didn’t say we couldn’t make it mandatory. It said we couldn’t have a criminal or civil penalty,” Mayor Adler said on Monday.
The officials have vocally disagreed with the governor allowing some Texans to begin providing for their families again, with Adler saying he’d prefer to stay closed for another month and Eckhardt recently warning that over 10,000 Travis County citizens could die if businesses reopened too soon.
However, throughout the coronavirus situation, the local officials have used faulty and questionable projections to justify their livelihood-killing shutdowns. While national doomsday projections continue to be exposed as wildly inaccurate, Mayor Adler last month still used a report from the University of Texas with 70 to 100 percent uncertainty.
In Travis County, which has a population of 1.27 million people, there are currently 2,002 confirmed cases of coronavirus—a little over 0.1 percent of the population. Tragically, 59 have died.
From 2017 to 2018, 49 Travis County citizens died from the flu.
Of the state’s 29 million Texans, there have currently been 973 coronavirus deaths. This flu season, 6,737 Texans died from influenza and pneumonia.
Meanwhile, because of the government shutdowns, 261,000 Austinites could lose their jobs, and over 30 million Americans are now unemployed, potentially facing a new crisis in struggling to feed their family and provide a place to live.
The officials who enacted these shutdown crises and opposed Gov. Abbott’s reopening, however, are still collecting citizen-funded paychecks. Though the already wealthy Mayor Adler has long diverted his pay, Judge Eckhardt makes over $156,000 after she gave herself a $16,000 pay raise last year.