Five days after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a strike force to reopen the Texas economy, local elected officials and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce announced they would convene a business task force to reopen the regional economy, with recommendations expected by May 8, when area stay-at-home orders are set to expire.
"I know that we can't stay home forever," Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said during a press conference earlier today. "Adaption is our way forward."
The task force includes representatives from Samsung, Kerbey Lane Cafe, Capital Metro and the Austin Justice Coalition, according to a preliminary list.
Austin Chamber President and CEO Laura Huffman said members will balance public health with economic recovery at the same press conference, adding: "I think you can count on the task force to hold these two things as mutual and interlinked priorities."
Data indicates Austin is containing the spread of coronavirus through social distancing, stay-home orders and mask-wearing mandates. Hospitals in the five-county region—including Travis, Williamson, Bastrop, Caldwell and Hays—have not so far been overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases, and modeling out of the University of Texas-Austin suggests the peak may be behind us.
Early action by local elected officials has slowed the infection rate by 90%, Eckhardt said, but she added that reopening businesses will increase risk of infection.
"The threshold at which we can absorb our infection rate is at 80% or above," she said.
Both she and Austin Mayor Steve Adler stressed the importance of tracking what impact reopening business has on the number of COVID-19 cases and urged continued vigilance.
"We're going to be dealing with this virus for an extended period of time," Adler said. "It hasn't gone away. It's as infectious as ever."
Adler and Eckhardt stressed that increased testing capacity will be critical as people return to work so local officials can adapt guidelines and prevent a surge.
While Travis County is testing more residents per capita than any other major metro in the state—around 6 people are tested per every 1,000 residents, based on data from the Department of State Health Services—it still isn't enough.
"We actually need eight times that testing capacity according to experts to actually track and contain the virus," Eckhardt said.
Adler said the near-term goal is to test 2,000 to 3,000 Travis County residents per week. As of April 16, 8,386 tests had been administered in Travis County over the course of the pandemic, per DSHS.
Abbott is expected to announce recommendations from the state strike force next week. Its roster includes Austinites Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Technologies; Robert Smith, a venture capitalist; Kendra Scott, CEO of her eponymous jewelry company; and state Sen. Kirk Watson.
Eckhardt expressed concern that the governor may reopen the state economy "too broadly" and cause infection rates to rise. She added that the regional task force includes representatives from small businesses and local government entities, which she said are not represented in its state counterpart.
It remains unclear if the state's recommendations about how to reopen the economy will interfere with local ones. A similar issue emerged when the city and state had different interpretations of which businesses were deemed essential in their respective stay-home orders. Ultimately, the state's took precedence.
Whatever happens, continued adjustments will be necessary.
"We will be different," Eckhardt said. "There is no return to business as usual."
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Austin FC couldn't find the stamina to fight off a 2-0 loss against LAFC for their inaugural match on Saturday.
The match, which saw No. 21 Austin FC go head-to-head with No. 2 LAFC in Los Angeles, was broadcast nationally on FOX and FOX Deportes.
Eleven players took the stage as Austin FC players for the first time, with five starters making their MLS debut. "Ringleader" Alex Ring took the captain's armband and wore it well. The defensive midfielder could be seen leading his teammates through their first ever match, but it wasn't enough to stage an Austin takeover in LA.
As Austin FC took the stage for their first-ever match, they appeared more experienced than their track record. The club held LAFC to a scoreless first half, keeping about equal possession of the ball.
In the signature style of Head Coach Josh Wolff, the team played with quickness and intensity, nearly connecting on several fast breaks.
The club was given some generous breaks from No. 2 LAFC, who had one or both of their star DPs out for the half. While forward Diego Rossi is out for the entire match due to a hamstring injury, Carlos Vela was accidentally pulled too soon on what turned out to be a miscommunication.
"He gave us the sign that he needed to come off," LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley said on broadcast. "I can't say more than maybe it's my fault."
LA pulled some dramatics and slowly gained more possession throughout the half, but ATXFC's defense wasn't initially as shaky as it seemed in preseason. Jhohan Romana has pulled his weight in getting the ball out of goal, and a 34-year old Matt Besler held his own in center back.
As the second half commenced, however, it became clear that LAFC had the advantage over Austin's first major league team.
Goalkeeper Brad Stuver had his work cut out for him, fending off 24 shot attempts, 11 of which were on goal.
LAFC finally connected in the 61st minute of play as Corey Baird shot one into the bottom right corner. The team capitalized off their momentum and put one past Stuver a second time, drawing roars of approval from the LAFC crowd.
While some last-minute attempts from Jon Gallagher and others were made, Austin FC didn't have the endurance to bring a tie. After seven additional minutes of stoppage time, the club lost their first match 2-0.
It's matchday! Austin FC—Austin's first major league sport team—kicks off its debut season in Los Angeles today after years in the making. We know how much this means to our beloved city and are taking you along with us as we journey to LA!
Austin FC writer Claire Partain and I are excited to bring you game-day coverage straight from the City of Angels. Check back here for updates, and visit our socials: @austonianews for the latest.
5 p.m: Kickoff!
It's finally here! Claire will be updating Austonia's Twitter account live. And we'll post her game recap after the game. Best of luck Verdes!
4:40 p.m: Excitement radiates back home
Watch parties are in plenty supply back home. Austonia's Laura Figi visited Circle Brewing Co. and found a crowd of excited supporters.
4:20 p.m: Austin FC supporters are in the stadium
Although the Banc of California Stadium is hosting the match at limited capacity, we see some green in the stands ahead of kickoff. Just moments away from the Austin FC's debut!
~3:20 p.m: Austin FC's team bus enters the stadium grounds
With a warm welcome from Los Verdes, Austin FC players were welcomed into the Banc of California Stadium.
~1 p.m: Los Verdes in LA
(Rigo Rodriguez/Los Verdes)
Austin FC supporters are making their presence known in LA, including the Los Verdes group.
Los Verdes members started having match-day fun around the area this morning with brunch. We'll be joining them about an hour before the game outside the stadium to share some of their excitement. We'll post immediately to Austonia's Instagram.
11:45 a.m: We landed!
View from hotel room where we're staying; the stadium digital sign can be seen in the right corner. (Sonia Garcia/Austonia)
Switching over to pacific time, we're here and it's almost like no time went by. It's 9:45 a.m. here.
We've been in contact with Los Verdes, an Austin FC supporter group, who is also here in LA counting down to kickoff.
8:20 a.m: LA bound
Like many of you, we've been looking forward to this moment for, let's just say, a very long time. Today, we woke up bright and early, headed to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and hopped on a flight to LA.
A gloomy day in Austin with a very quiet airport, we're headed to sunny skies in California.
As we wait for the game to start at 4:30 p.m., check out Claire's preview of the game with a predicted lineup and timeline of the long journey to get here.