AUSTIN — As health officials’ apocalyptic coronavirus projections continue to be proven wildly inaccurate, and after the Texas governor finally announced plans to begin safely reopening the state, one socialist city councilman is still insisting he would shut down citizens’ livelihoods “no matter what the governor has to say about it.”

On Monday, Austin City Councilman Greg Casar tweeted his reaction to Gov. Greg Abbott, who announced that some businesses will finally be allowed to partially reopen this week. Casar, a self-proclaimed socialist, said despite the governor’s statewide reopening directive, he and the city council “will not hesitate” to still enact their own shutdown orders on Austinites.

“If our hospital rooms fill up because of [Gov. Abbott], our health officials will likely recommend that we shut down businesses again– and we will not hesitate to do so, no matter what the Governor has to say about it,” Casar tweeted.

Democrats Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt also criticized the reopening, with Adler tweeting that “ultimately our community gets to set our community rules” and Eckhardt saying she believes “the governor opened up too much business too fast”—even though Abbott’s plan will only allow certain stores to open, and even those establishments can only reopen at 25 percent capacity.

The local officials, meanwhile, have over the last month used startling, apocalyptic-painting models to justify their various severe orders, even though those predictions have repeatedly been far from reality.

In March and April, Adler and Eckhardt enacted strict shutdown orders on Central Texas citizens, including a mandate that requires everyone above age 10 to wear a mask in public or face the “civil and criminal consequences” of a potential $1,000 fine and even six months in prison, a mandate Casar applauded. County health official Dr. Mark Escott also said citizens may have to continue wearing masks for “at least a year.” 

In a blanket claim, officials said over 10,000 Travis County citizens could die otherwise, echoing doomsday projections from longtime Washington bureaucrat Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top advisor to the president during the pandemic, who estimated in early April that as many as 240,000 Americans could die during the outbreak. Just a few days later, he downgraded the projection to 60,000.

The reality in Texas has unfolded quite differently, where numbers have been far lower than projected; overflow medical facilities have been delayed and hospitals across the state still haven’t seen the predicted surge of coronavirus patients.

Local officials have tried to explain the reality by praising their shutdowns as the reason for the success, but others have quickly argued the better-than-predicted reality is because the officials’ projections—which even factored in social distancing and other shutdown measures—were still grossly inflated and flawed in the first place.

Mayor Adler showcased for citizens another example of unreliable projections on Monday when he cited local shutdown-effectiveness data from the University of Texas that is self-admittedly 70 to 100 percent uncertain (in other words, they have no idea what’s actually happening).

So as the local officials continue using predictions that are questionable at best, forcing citizens to somehow survive under their suffocating shutdowns, and saying they’ll oppose efforts to safely restore citizens’ livelihoods, what is actually happening with the coronavirus in Central Texas?

In Travis County of 1.27 million people, where Austin is located, there are currently 1,464 confirmed cases of coronavirus—a little over 0.1 percent of the population. Tragically, 42 have died.

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

Of the state’s 29 million Texans, there are currently 641 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 26 million Americans are now unemployed, potentially facing a new crisis of feeding their family and providing a place to live.

However, the officials who enacted these shutdown crises and oppose Gov. Abbott’s reopening are still collecting citizen-funded paychecks. Though the already wealthy mayor has long diverted his pay, Councilmember Casar collects a salary of over $76,000, and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt makes over $156,000 after giving herself a $16,000 pay raise last year.

Thankfully, many Texans who’ve had to endure 10 weeks of little to no income for their families to live on will have a chance to begin providing again as of this Friday.

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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