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Austin and Provo mayors speak on challenges of reopening during a pandemic

As governors are tasked with reopening their state's economies safely, mayors of large cities across the country face a battle between balancing the health of their citizens and preventing a larger coronavirus outbreak — with abiding orders issued by governors to open up the state's economy. 

Austin Mayor Steve Adler, a Democrat, and Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi, a Republican, must overcome significant local obstacles as their states begin to reopen.


Listen to this episode on ART19

Highlights:

Austin Mayor Steve Adler: 
On GOP Texas Governor Greg Abbott's reopening of barber shops and nail salons: "If I was governor, I wouldn't have opened those things because intuitively they seem to me like they'd be a big leak in the system [for a potential increase in cases]"

The disconnect in policy to reopen Texas between Abbott and the Austin city government: "It's confusing when wearing face coverings makes it more likely that the governor's plan to reopen our businesses will be successful, but when we're not given enforcement powers, it's confusing to people in the public because they think, 'Well they're not really serious about it.'" 

Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi:
Decision to not announce a stay-at-home order in Provo: "I believe the citizens of Provo. I trust them, and I feel like they trust me. And I believe they have the ability to self-regulate."

The possibility that Brigham Young University and other colleges in Provo do not resume in-person classes for the fall semester: "We're a college town and it will hit us. We're going to take a hit on this and it will be an impact...I'm going to supplement some of the loss that we're getting from not having Brigham Young University open and the different businesses who are struggling in one capacity or another."


Adler sparred in recent days with the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, and his administration over his city's regulations, including enforcing criminal or civil penalties for not wearing face masks in public and the extension of its stay-at-home order. 

This week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote a letter to Adler attacking the policies as "[having] confused recommendations with requirements" and said that the city's decisions "impose their own will on private citizens and businesses." 

Abbott last week advocated for the release of a Dallas salon owner who had been jailed for violating the state's stay-at-home orders. Abbott later rewrote his executive order to stop local authorities from enforcing penalties for those in violation of his order.

On this week's episode of "The Takeout," with chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett, Adler said that "it's confusing when wearing face coverings makes it more likely that the governor's plan to reopen our businesses will be successful, but when we're not given enforcement powers, it's confusing to people in the public because they think, 'Well they're not really serious about it.'"

Adler's recent order also included an optional provision that Austin restaurants keep a running log of their patrons as the city begins to reopen, so that contact tracers can track down those who potentially have been exposed to the coronavirus should there be further cases of the virus. Paxton called the contact tracing suggestion "Orwellian," but Adler pushed back.

"I did that because if we are going to be able to contain this virus in a way that enables businesses to reopen, one of the things that we need to do is contact tracing." Adler said. "It's going to be impossible for our contact tracers to get to everybody someone has been around unless we have help."

For Kaufusi, in Provo, the situation could not be more different. Unlike most local officials, Kaufusi has not instated any stay-at-home orders, only recommendations to the residents of the city. She said she trusts Provo residents to listen to her guidance and look out for one another. 

"I believe the citizens of Provo. I trust them, and I feel like they trust me. And I believe they have the ability to self-regulate," Kaufusi told Garrett. Kaufusi recently launched a PSA campaign of her own family, which includes two of her sons who are NFL players, to keep Provo residents aware of social distancing guidelines. 

She also never ordered retail stores in Provo to close, but encouraged takeout orders from Provo restaurants until two weeks ago, when restaurants were allowed to open back up in a limited capacity. 

"There are tight [restaurant] guidelines, gloves, face masks, menus have to be disposable, you can only pay with a credit card," Kaufusi said, adding that Provo had opened up its recreational centers while abiding by social distancing guidelines. 

Both mayors conceded that there is a realistic possibility there will not be in-person college classes in the fall at universities in Austin and Provo, but neither committed to say when a final decision would be made. 

For more of Major's conversations with Adler and Kaufusi, download "The Takeout" podcast on Art19, iTunesGooglePlaySpotify and Stitcher. New episodes are available every Friday morning. Also, you can watch "The Takeout" on CBSN Friday at 5pm, 9pm, and 12am ET and Saturday at 1pm, 9pm, and 12am ET. For a full archive of "The Takeout" episodes, visit www.takeoutpodcast.com. And you can listen to "The Takeout" on select CBS News Radio affiliates (check your local listings).  

Producers: Arden Farhi, Jamie Benson, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson
CBSN Production: Eric Soussanin, Julia Boccagno and Grace Segers
Show email: TakeoutPodcast@cbsnews.com
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