AUSTIN — As Texans across the state suffer under prolonged government-ordered shutdowns amid the coronavirus, and as government and health officials’ doomsday predictions continue to be shown wildly inaccurate, one county health official now suggests Central Texas citizens may need to wear masks for “at least a year.”

This week, Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott advised county officials that even when they allow businesses to begin reopening, “we will be under substantial modifications for at least a year,” including measures such as social distancing and wearing masks. He also said failure to do so could mean enacting another quarantine.

“If we don’t continue to social distance, if we don’t continue to wear the face coverings in public, then we’re going to be back in a stay-at-home workspace order in a short amount of time,” Escott told the Austin City Council on Tuesday.

Currently in Travis County, citizens who do not wear a mask in public could be fined up to $1,000 or even thrown in jail for up to six months. The mandate was issued by County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and Austin Mayor Steve Adler as a part of their revised stay-at-home order, which lasts until May 8.

Judge Eckhardt said Tuesday there is “no return to normal” and discussed with Escott and county commissioners a potential disastrous projection of tens of thousands of Travis County deaths if society is reopened inappropriately.

However, throughout the virus outbreak, the startling, apocalyptic-painting models and predictions government officials have used to justify a variety of strict orders have repeatedly been far from reality.

Longtime Washington bureaucrat Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top advisor to the president during the pandemic, estimated in early April that as many as 240,000 Americans could die during the outbreak. He downgraded the projection to 60,000 just a few days later.

Meanwhile, in Texas, most cities have yet to see the surge in cases predicted by health officials, with Gov. Greg Abbott saying on Friday, “It turned out, in hindsight, that we have a great number of hospital beds that are vacant, that appear that will not be needed to treat COVID-19 patients.” Numerous planned overflow medical facilities have also been delayed because of a lack of coronavirus patients.

Though some credit the stay-at-home orders as the reason for the unexpectedly low numbers, others argue the government’s projections and models, which even factored in social distancing and other measures, were grossly inflated and flawed in the first place.

“There is no shortage of government spin, regurgitated by media commentators, assuring us that the drastic reductions in the projections over just a few days powerfully illustrate how well social distancing and the substantial shuttering of the economy is working,” wrote Andrew McCarthy of National Review. “Nonsense. As Alex Berenson points out on Twitter, with an accompanying screenshot data updated by [University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation] on April 1, the original April 2 model explicitly ‘assum[ed] full social distancing through May 2020.’

In Travis County of 1.27 million people, there are currently 1,263 confirmed cases of coronavirus—0.1 percent of the population. Tragically, 28 have died.

From 2017 to 2018, 49 Travis County citizens died from the flu.

Of the state’s 29 million Texans, there are currently 517 coronavirus deaths. This flu season, 6,384 Texans died from influenza and pneumonia.

Meanwhile, because of the government shutdowns, 261,000 Austinites could lose their jobs, and 26 million Americans are now unemployed, potentially facing a new crisis of feeding their family and providing a place to live.

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.