As the coronavirus has spread through the country and state this spring, Austinites have rallied to support each other despite significant losses.
By Courtney Runn, Illustrations by Jessica Wetterer
As of late May, Travis County has surpassed 3,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Mayor Steve Adler first declared a state of disaster “due to a public health emergency” on March 6 and Austinites continued to receive weekly—and, at times, daily— health updates including shelter-in-place orders and mandatory mask guidelines throughout the first few months of the pandemic.
Many women and local companies have stepped up to answer the call for masks. Jennifer Reyes, a director of clinical operations with Urgent Care and Family Practice Clinics, launched Make-A-Mask, a volunteer effort to provide cloth masks for medical workers. The cloth covers are worn over medical-grade masks and can be switched out after each patient with the hope of prolonging the viability of a single surgical mask. As of early May, her volunteer group had produced and donated 12,000 masks.
South by Southwest’s cancellation sent shockwaves through the community and was the first sign of the cancellations and shelter-in-place ordinances soon to come. In 2019, the festival had a $356 million impact on the Austin economy and its cancellation immediately resulted in the loss of thousands and millions of dollars for local small-business owners, creatives, restaurants and service- industry workers. According to I Lost My Gig, an online directory launched by Mary Kathryn Paynter, Luke Lashley and Shelly Lashley to let Austinites self-report their lost wages and ask for help, a total of $4,285,037 was individually lost because of SXSW’s cancellation.
According to Texas Monthly, H-E-B began preparing for COVID-19 in early January and first developed a “pandemic and influenza plan” in 2005. The grocery chain launched Texans Helping Texans and, as of late May, has donated more than 75,000 meals to health-care workers and $1.2 million to food banks.
Tso Delivery teamed up with Snap Kitchen, Richard’s Rainwater, Zhi Tea, Vital Farms and Alpha Paving Industries to launch #TsoGiving. Through its giving campaign, the restaurant donated more than $40,000 worth of food during the month of April to Austinites in need and, in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, donated $50,000 worth of meal credits to teachers across Central Texas throughout the month of May.