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Adler urges Austinites to stay at home despite state rollback

Wednesday, April 22, 2020 by Nina Hernandez

When Gov. Greg Abbott announced last week that he would gradually begin to reopen the state, confusion began to mount about what that means for daily life. Is the stay-at-home order lifted? Should we begin to go back to life as it was before?

Austin Mayor Steve Adler told the Austin Monitor on Monday night that the answer is: No.

“When you think about it, we’re in no different place right now than we were when we canceled South by Southwest,” said Adler. “We have a virus that has spread in our community, (and) we know that if people just go about their regular lives that hundreds of people, thousands of people, are going to get it, because it’s infectious.”

The sickest of those people will then begin to flood our emergency rooms.

“We’re going to overwhelm the emergency rooms and people that don’t need to die are going to die,” he said.

That’s because we haven’t yet done anything to actually fight the virus. A vaccine is perhaps a year away, and even then scientists have cautioned that the strain will mutate over time.

“All we’ve done is just to isolate people so that they spread it to as few people as they possibly can,” Adler said. “When we started this stuff, everything that we’ve done has been to first identify where it is, and then to isolate it everywhere we find it, and treat it.”

As we move forward, Adler said, we need to continue to do the same things. “We have to find it before it clusters and spreads and gets out of control like a big forest fire,” he said.

And so far, the only way to prevent that from happening is to keep people away from each other.

Adler used the example of a football game with 100,000 people in attendance. If 10 people from that crowd later exhibited symptoms and tested positive, medical staff would ask them how many people they’d come in contact with since the event.

“They would say, ‘Well, I was just in a crowd with 100,000 people. And I went and bought a Coke and went to the bathroom. Gosh, I probably passed 200 or 300 people. And I have no idea who those 300 people are,’” Adler said. “So we could never isolate it.”

So what happens next?

“If we’re going to increase the number of physical interactions, we know that by the very nature of doing that we’re taking an additional risk,” he said. “We are increasing the risk. If I keep people separated, and we don’t have physical interactions, then there’s no risk the virus can spread. But every time I let there be a physical interaction, I’m taking a risk.”

We do that right now when we pick up takeout, order delivery, or go to the grocery store or other essential business. “It’s not like we’re not taking any risks now,” he said. “But we’re taking risks that were not so great that they let the virus spread.

“We know that if the virus cannot spread, it will die,” he continued. “If someone gave me the virus and I don’t go anywhere else, that virus – after I’m healthy – dies. If I keep cutting off its head, the virus will die.”

When it comes to Abbott’s orders, Adler raised the issue of construction, an industry the city had initially shut down but which the governor reopened as essential. “But the governor didn’t say anything about us not being able to set rules for what has to happen on construction sites to minimize that risk,” he said.

The city could also impose similar rules if the governor reopens restaurants.

“OK restaurants, you can operate, so the governor says, but you have to take the temperature with a non-touch thermometer of everybody that comes into the restaurant, both employee and customer. We could say that everybody has to wear gloves and a face covering, except when you’re eating or drinking. We could say you have to keep a log.”

Video still courtesy of Facebook.

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