Austin leaders unveil task force to help revive local economy amid COVID-19
Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt joined Laura Huffman, Austin Chamber of Commerce's newly minted CEO, on April 23 to announce the next step in the fight against COVID-19. During a Zoom press conference, the trio announced the creation of a task force focused on reopening the local economy.
Opening Central Texas for Business Task Force will be comprised of representatives from local institutions such as Kerbey Lane Cafe and P. Terry's, as well as major regional employers like Dell and Samsung. Together, the force will work to "honor public health priorities and focus on how to thoughtfully and safely reopen the regional economy."
Though no timeline was given, Huffman said they hope to have a plan outlined by May 8, the day the current stay home/work safe order is set to expire. That is of course contingent on the current local infection rates of COVID-19 remaining where they are — or dropping off.
Eckhardt also noted that today's announcement did not mean the threat of COVID-19 has subsided, but rather this is a necessary next step in reviving Austin's economy.
"Unemployment rate is secondary to infection rate" said Eckhardt, "but we have to balance that with the economic well-being of Travis County residents."
The trio also stressed the importance of testing, adding that the current goal is to administer 2,000 COVID-19 tests per day. The mayor then added that while Austin's current testing rates are better than most of Texas' big cities, the city's current testing capabilities "are nowhere near" the 2,000 test goal.
Last week, Governor Greg Abbott announced a similar statewide endeavor. The Strike Force to Open Texas includes medical professionals, as well as public and private leaders, such as Austin's Kendra Scott and Michael Dell.
The governor also announced the reopening of retail stores for pickup and delivery sales, which will begin Friday, April 24.