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Few Virus Cases, but Austin Is Reeling ‘As If a Tornado Came Through’


“The focus had to be on keeping the community safe,” Mr. Adler said. On Friday morning, on what was to have been the first day of the festival, officials announced that two people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the area.

In the days before that, before any cases were found, some people had questioned the festival’s cancellation. Rob Hicks, general manager of the Dirty Dog, said the festival should not have been halted. “To shut the whole city and declare an emergency?” he said.

Mike Rawlings, the former mayor of Dallas who helped guide that city through an Ebola crisis in 2014, said the decision by Mr. Adler and other officials took leadership.

“I think it was the smart thing to do,” Mr. Rawlings said. “I know it wasn’t something he wanted to do. When I was focused on Ebola — and it’s a very different situation — I wasn’t worried so much about the economics. It’s a factor, because it’s there and you discuss it. But if it’s at all a close call, you got to go with safety.”

For the musicians in Austin, which bills itself as the live music capital of the world, the decision has hit hard.

A nonprofit group, Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, provides health insurance for low-income musicians, many of whom make less than $18,000 annually. After the festival was canceled, the group called off a fund-raiser next week that was expected to bring in up to $250,000 and would feature performances by the western swing band Asleep at the Wheel and others. The event has been rescheduled for a smaller venue, and is anticipated to bring in a smaller fund-raising total.

Reenie Collins, the chief executive of the health alliance, said, “We’ll take a hit, of course, just like everybody else in Austin will.”

David Montgomery reported from Austin and Manny Fernandez from Houston.

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