Austin health officials say it’s too early to open up Texas economy

In a special called city council meeting Tuesday, Austin City Council members and Austin Public Health discussed how they will institute the governor's reopening plan for the state.

“I’m concerned personally the governor has done this a little early. I am concerned that they have gone too far. The numbers will show if it's true,” said Mayor Steve Adler.

In a phased plan, beginning Friday, restaurants, retailers, movie theaters and malls can reopen if they want to, but operate at only 25 percent capacity.


Get breaking news alerts in the FOX 7 Austin News app. It is FREE!

Download for iOS or Android


“This is a bit too soon for us, as we are still preparing the contact tracing, as we are still ramping up testing, as we are working to protect the most vulnerable populations, as we are advancing our initiatives to reach out to those vulnerable populations. Now's not the time to flip on the light switch,” said Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority for the city of Austin.

The council was briefed from UT Austin professor Lauren Ancel-Meyers, who studies epidemiology. She said if things open up now, hospital capacity could be burdened.

“We would exceed hospital capacity somewhere around mid-summer and remain above capacity catastrophically in what looks like the end of June to mid-September, and then it would subside. Then there would be a catastrophic second wave,” she said.

RELATED: State stay-at-home order will expire on April 30, first phase of businesses reopening May 1

Meyers said right now with social distancing, we've reduced transmission by 90 percent. With relaxed rules, transmission would be reduced by about 40 percent, there would be a surge in hospitalizations and 2,900 deaths. This would be the worst-case scenario.

“We imagine perhaps because of the governor's order, changing policy, perhaps because of public weariness, we don't do as good a job at preventing transmission,” said Meyers.

She said it's not about stopping infection, but reopening when the city is ready and equipped to handle the caseload.

“Regardless of what the governor says, we have the ability as a community to establish our own norms,” said Adler.


FOX 7 Austin is working to keep you up to date with coronavirus, with both local and national developments. Every weekday we're live at 12 p.m. with a special show reporting the latest news, prevention tips and treatment information.

You can watch live in your FOX 7 Austin app or on the FOX 7 Austin Facebook page.

You can also get the latest COVID-19 news from around the country at