AUSTIN — Much like the old fable “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” someone in Texas’ capital city had to speak up and tell the mayor his public doomsday prediction was not actually true.
Recently revealed emails from June show Democrat Austin Mayor Steve Adler asking St. David’s CEO David Huffstutler for thoughts on his upcoming coronavirus warning to the public. Adler wanted to make sure Huffstutler, who runs the massive Central Texas healthcare company, was “comfortable” with the warning before he announced it, adding that “the media will be able to tell if we’re not on the same page.”
“David, I’d like to make sure you’re comfortable with this is the message for the Wednesday press conference that will be put on by doctors (not hospital administrators), because I think the media could be going to you and the hospitals for comment afterwards [sic],” Mayor Adler wrote.
Adler then detailed the “message” he was going to tell the public, which was that if citizens did not follow all of the local and state orders, hospitals “could be overwhelmed in four weeks” and that “there will be some preventable deaths.”
“Our community may well be nearing a point where we need to choose the path we pick to follow,” Adler added.
“I’d appreciate understanding any thoughts or concerns you might have,” Adler concluded. “The media will be able to tell if we’re not on the same page and I’d like to make sure we’re thinking the same if possible.”
Huffstutler replied and refuted Adler, saying the mayor’s doomsday story did not align with reality.
“Steve, I’m not comfortable stating that we’ll be ‘overwhelmed’ at this point, nor that ‘care will be compromised and that there will be some preventable deaths,’” Huffstutler began.
“Hospital care for non-COVID patients will remain safe, regardless of a near-term surge in COVID activity, because we have the [personal protective equipment], testing, and cohorting capabilities to keep patients safe,” he continued.
“I completely support the message to change behaviors. I’m not prepared to tell the community our hospitals are about to be overwhelmed, or that patients will die that otherwise would not have,” Huffstutler concluded.
Throughout the past several months, local officials including Adler have used wildly inaccurate projections to justify enacting harsh shutdown orders on the city, forcing at least 132,000 Austinites out of work.
On top of that, over the past month and a half as coronavirus hospital numbers have continued dwindling and supposed “spikes” of cases turned out to be false alarms due to a disastrous state reporting error, local officials including Adler have repeatedly changed their rules to keep the city shutdown and citizens blocked from earning money for food and rent.
Adler’s emails were posted to Twitter and received numerous citizen comments.
“Adler, [Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott], and others did not listen to the people who really knew what was going on,” the poster captioned. “Told multiple times in June that hospital capacity was fine [and] they still went out and built a 1.3 mil field hospital. It’s just sitting there doing nothing.”
“These people destroyed Austin businesses with draconian closures and tried to bully hospital administrators into playing their game,” another replied. “Good for St. David’s for standing their ground…All a political stunt.”