In the wake of the cancellation of the South by Southwest Music Festival and before the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic had fully set in, bar owners in the Red River Cultural District hustled to put together an alternative mini festival called We Can Do Magic.
To promote health safety, they planned to double down on cleaning efforts. They also planned to place hand washing and sanitizer stations throughout the district.
The party never happened.
One by one, venues made the difficult, but correct, decision to go dark during what is traditionally their busiest week of the year. And, obviously, they have not yet reopened.
On Monday, Dave Machinist, one of the principals of Heard Presents, the company that operates downtown music venues Empire Control Room and Garage and the Parish, delivered four boxes of hand sanitizer his group had stockpiled for shows to one of the company’s longtime bartenders who also works as a nurse for St. David's South Austin Medical Center.
"Based on our understanding of the current situation, we feel that providing and directing whatever aid we can to healthcare workers is the best way we can continue to support our community while we are unable to bring people together," Steve Sternschein, managing partner of Heard Presents, said on Tuesday.
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Sternschein’s family includes multiple doctors in Northeast America "who are experiencing shortages of everything they need to stay safe while treating COVID victims," he said.
"Most of us are sheltering in place and it's scary to think about going ‘out’ right now," he said. "Imagine not just going out to get food or essentials, but driving to a place you know is full of infection and that there's almost no chance you will not get the virus. Then imagine watching your coworkers get sick one at a time and some of them are dying. That's what is going on in hospitals around the country. I am not trying to be alarmist, that's just the reality right now. We are lucky it's not worse here."
Machinist "had the presence of mind" to figure out their staffer would be able to pass the hand sanitizer along to nurses who need it, "so that's what we are doing," Sternschein said.
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He said his company is looking into making masks.
"If we could convert our fog machines to ventilators, I would do that, too," he said.
As for the staff of his company, which is currently closed, Sternschein said, "We are all safe at home and doing everything we can to support one another during this difficult time."