Earlier this month, Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbot defied health experts when he lifted his state’s mask mandate.
Now, Texas entrepreneurs are paying the price.
According to a report in Thursday’s Texas Tribune, at least four organizations cancelled conventions in Austin, the state capital, citing health concerns stemming from Abbot’s dismissal of CDC guidelines. The Austin Hilton has lost $350,000 in revenue because of the cancellations, according to Austin Convention Enterprises.
The hotel’s general manager drew a direct line between Abbot’s premature decision to drop safety measures and the latest blow to his bottom line:
“These were rooms that were already on the books, and largely what we saw was fallout, ironically, from the governor opening the economy,” said Joe Bolash, Hilton Austin general manager, during a March 16 Austin Convention Enterprises board meeting. “It was groups that were not comfortable returning to a fully opened economy where there was no mask mandate in place.”
On Thursday, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology cited the expiration of Texas’ Covid-19-related precautions when it announced that it would no longer be holding the in-person portion of its annual conference that was set to take place in Austin. It’s unclear if the organization is one of the four already reported on.
The CEO of the health organization told The Texas Tribune that the mask mandate ending “felt like the rug being pulled out from underneath us.”
“The policies that Gov. Abbott moved the state into just created a condition we couldn’t work around,” he said. “We think it was premature, and I would say that goes with a lot of other sentiment out there.”
Greg Casar, an Austin City Council, lambasted the governor. From The Texas Tribune:
“Greg Abbott didn’t help the economy when he lifted the mask rule, he only helped the virus,” [Casar] said. “That’s clearly bad for workers, but it’s bad for business, too. And you can see that clearly with the cancellation of these conferences.”
Ironically, Austin and Travis County, where the capital sits, still require masks, although the embattled Texas attorney general is suing to reverse that.