Dr. Rob Watson, Baylor Scott & White Health Chief Medical Officer for Austin/Round Rock and Cory Baker, President/CEO of The Long Center join the show with special performance by Mobley!
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Hello, Austin. Hello, Clawback Watchers. Hello, District 6 Welcome to another episode of the Clawback. We're gonna talk about some of the great stuff today. We've got some awesome guests. Cory Baker, from the Long Center, and we've got Dr. Robert Watson, and we have Mobley. We've got a hell of a show. But let's talk a little bit as we normally do at the very beginning - talk a little bit about this ongoing situation that we are all in – our pandemic situation. Here's the chart. Oh wait, it looked better that way. You're doing great, Austin. Look at that number of hospitalizations keeps going down. You're wearing your masks. You're avoiding unsafe situations. You're taking care of each other, great job. Everybody keep up the good work. Keep up the good work. Now, you're probably seeing some news stories about the governor reopening some businesses, and I think if we all stick to what we've learned over these months going through this and taking our precautions and wearing masks and avoiding those close-in indoor situations, I think we're gonna be good. And I think we can find a place to sustain our community and our economy while we get while the medicine and science finishes a vaccine and we can get it distributed. But it's gonna take months of this, and we've got to be ready for that cuz it's not just about developing a vaccine, but then testing it and ensuring that it's safe, and then rolling it out. It is not an overnight process. But still, keep up your support of our local businesses, especially our local restaurants. They need all the help they can get. And I certainly do quite a bit of take out and delivery to my own home, and I know a lot of us are doing that. And so it's helping our small businesses and our small restaurants survive. That leads me to some of the stuff that we did in the council meeting last night. Forgive me if I have some bags under my eyes, the council meeting went late as they sometimes do. We were, I think, almost to 11 o'clock at the council meeting last night. We passed an item, Item 62, which talked about finding additional moneys to help sustain our music venues, our bars and restaurants, child care industry. The types of things that - really the industries that were harmed first way back at the beginning of the pandemic. And the ones who are unfortunately, likely to recover last, because even as we feel more comfortable and more confident about how all of this works with masks and indoors, and all of that, those are really the industries that are are gonna have the hardest time coming back. So we passed a somewhat of an omnibus resolution, so we should see some of that come back in short order, hopefully within the next 4 weeks. When we'll start getting additional resources out into the community. This is on top of the resources that we're already created. But there is there's so much more need than there is money, and and that is often a problem when you don't have an even barely minimally functional state and federal government. But I'm proud of the work that we've done at the city so far, even though admittedly, it hasn't helped everyone that needs help. The work that I did creating the small business grant program, which has helped many businesses, but there's still a lot more that need help. And we're still working to get that help out there. Then the other thing we voted on - I mean there's a lot of stuff we voted on – but another thing that's kind of related to that, is the council took another step forward on the convention center expansion, which really… There's a lot of very interesting information out there about what convention centers are and do, but you all may recall that we even had an election about it back in 2018 or 2019. You know, in pandemic time, it could have been 10 years ago at this point, but we did have an election, and the public said that if it's a good idea, the council should do it, and it's up to the council. And we keep getting better and better information from our economists and from our city staff and the folks who are doing the deals, and you know we're able to take a corner of of downtown where the Red Line ends. This is really at the end of where District 6 gets on that train. This is a benefit for us too. And build it into a much better, more open engaged, and active space, funded with hotel taxes. This isn't coming from your property taxes or sales taxes you pay. This comes from hotel taxes. It helps generate more hotel taxes, which then funds more cultural arts and historic preservation that is allowed under state law. And then the majority of those hotel tax collected, under state law are basically restricted just to convention center expansion. So by doing it the right way in concert with the neighborhood and the city and the Waterloo Greenway, and the Palm School, and all of the really interesting assets… District 6 is gonna have a pretty great amenity right at the end of the Red Line. So I'm excited to see that take another step forward. There's more coming back to the council to talk about that as we work through more and more details as the details are develop. Even in a pandemic, we're doing some great work at the City Council. And it's just tough to follow along, cuz we're doing meetings from 10am to 10pm. And that's why it's a professional job and it's a full-time gig.
Dr. Rob Watson, Baylor Scott & White Health Chief Medical Officer for Austin/Round Rock
So I wanna bring on my first guest. This is- We've had a few medical experts joining the show over the course of the pandemic, and I'm really fortunate that the chief medical officer for the Austin/Round Rock region Baylor, Scott + White Dr. Rob Watson is joining the show. Doctor Watson, thank you for coming on the Clawback today. Sure, thank you, Jimmy. It's great to be here. Before we get into the details on what you're experiencing, are you safe and healthy? How is your family doing? First I appreciate you asking. Yes. we've managed to get through this and everybody's been great. It's like others probably, it's been a great time to enjoy your family in a setting where you didn't have them - your normal activities. My two children and my wife, we really had a great time spending time together. But I can tell you when the school year started and things started to reform in a way that we thought safely our kids could start to go back and do things they've done that. But everybody's healthy. So thank you. I'm really glad, I'm really glad to hear that. You're in a very important role. The medical community is made up of some pretty big players. Baylor Scott and White is one of them and as Chief medical officer for Austin/Round Rock- I'm interested in your thoughts on how we've been handling this, and how you've been engaged with the cities and the counties in this area to help us navigate this really complex and challenging time. Yeah. Well, I think it's a great question. I think one of the things I'm most proud of is the way that the different health systems have come together, the way that the city and county and municipalities, Austin Public Health, have all come together basically to tackle something that's just unprecedented for our time. The other thing I'm proud of is just our communities. I mean we - Once we start started to understand the- one, the limitations in terms of treating this disease that we had on the medical side and the steps that we needed to take in our communities - both with ourselves as health care workers, but also out in our communities. Once we understood those things and started to communicate those, I think the communities responded tremendously. And I tell people we've we've sort of run this experiment twice. We thought we knew what we were doing with social distancing and hand-washing. Then we tried to relax those things a little bit and sort of test the waters, and we saw that the cases started to increase again. So we said we need a social distance. We need to wash our hands, and we need to wear a mask, and we did that. And thankfully, we saw the numbers come back down. So we on the health care side are extremely thankful for the work that's being done by City and County governments and by our communities, frankly, to keep our hospitals and clinics and health care workers from being overwhelmed with what could have happened if we decided not to do those things. Thank you. Thank you. It's been a really challenging place for government and we've taken a lot of really difficult risks in terms of shutting things down and slowing the spread, and it seems like those decisions have worked. And it hasn't really been a good relationship with the governor, who forced our hand some of those kind of reopening test scenarios. But I think Austin, probably more so than most communities has really stepped up, and it's a credit to medical professionals like yourself, but but mostly our community members who really took the lead and wear their masks and and do a good job protecting themselves and protecting their family and their and their neighbors. Tell me - what I'm interested also is - the pandemic didn't stop all of the other ailments that lead people to seek health care. How have you integrated telehealth into this kind of remote provision of health into the care that Baylor Scott + White does? Yeah, I think that that's a critical point. If the pandemic had occurred two decades ago, we would not have had the technological tools that we have today to keep in touch with our patients. Our system had been working, thankfully pre-pandemic, obviously not having any idea that this was coming on how do we connect with patients. And we had some tools in place where patients could connect with us virtually, certainly they could send us messages. We could send them messages to communicate. They could schedule appointments online, so we had the makings of - Or sort of the base of our digital platform in place, but almost overnight, we had to ramp that up to full force and and that included taking our ambulatory providers, our clinic based physicians and workforce, and trying to keep them safe and put them at home, and also trying to keep our patients safe by not having them come in for visits that historically they would have. And so telehealth has taken a huge role, and in fact, you saw at the mid- to early-March or late- March and almost all through April our virtual visits surpassed our in-person visits. One of the other tools that we use that we just- I mean, just critical was an online screening tool that allow people to go online and enter in their symptoms and then determine that they need to have an electronic visit with the provider to determine whether or not they need to be tested. And we ended up testing, I mean screening over 600,000 people, and you just can't stress enough the importance of that because if we hadn't had those tools in a way to communicate with patients and try to guide them through this process, I really believe our emergency departments and our hospitals would have been overrun with people trying to get care and trying to understand if they needed to be tested, when in reality, thankfully, most people didn't need to be tested. Or if they did, and they even had the disease, we could manage that as an outpatient, so it was very crucial. Well thanks for your quick action and innovation and really the collaboration across health providers that I know has been going on and the city and the county have been convening folks, and it's been really important work to ensure that we're all doing our best to provide the same care to folks across this community, no matter their background, no matter their socio- economic status, something that I know is important to the medical profession, and to yourself, and certainly to elect officials. The last question I have for you really is what is your advice for the community moving forward? We've got a flu season coming up. There's still obviously that we're dealing with. We're waiting on vaccine development. What are your words of wisdom as the chief medical officer for Austin/Round Rock Baylor Scott + White? Yeah well. We'll start with flu. I mean we need to treat the flu like we do every year, right? Annually we can lose up to- We can have up to 50,000 to 80,000 US deaths from flu. We have a vaccine unlike COVID, that works. It doesn't work 100% of the time, but it's certainly decreases the incidence of flu, and it's incredibly important in our vulnerable populations. So I would tell people get your vaccinations. Those are gonna start becoming available. We have our first drive-thru flu vaccination site that's gonna take place tomorrow. I think there's information about that on our website, but there's a lot of places to get a flu vaccine, and certainly you need to do that. I think the other thing I would stress is that we we believe that the things that we're doing to prevent COVID: Hand-washing, masking, social distancing, should have some impact on the flu. So we're hopeful that we'll see a decrease in the incidence of flu for the same reasons that we're seeing a decrease in COVID. Then the last thing, and I can't stress this enough, is that we can't have folks avoiding their health care, basically. There's already data starting to come out showing the number of deaths that are probably attributable to patients to delaying or avoiding care related to COVID, and again, so these are folks who are sort of collateral damage from the pandemic. They don't have COVID, but they've got other chronic health conditions. I could go into a lot of statistics that would sort of stagger you about what we're seeing. but people have to to continue to stay in touch with their physicians, with their health care systems, and seek care, because we can't have a second wave of folks who are much more sick and debilitated from not seeking care at a time when we can provide the care safely. And we know we can do that because we've been doing it since the pandemic started. Well. Thank you, Dr. Watson for all the work that you've done in leadership through this pandemic and for your own provider and for your own patients. I know you have a busy day that you need to get back to. thanks again for everything and thanks for taking time to share your thoughts and your wisdom with the community. Well, thank you. and thank you to your constituents for all they're doing. It really has made a big impact. So we really appreciate it. All right. Thank you so much. Really great to hear - There's nothing great about a pandemic. There are real folks who's lives are being impacted. There have been deaths in the community, but it's great to hear from medical professionals that we really are taking every precaution that we can – that we can do certainly at the local level. It would be great if our state and federal partners really stepped up and provided better testing or more rapid testing and had certainly in the early portion of the pandemic, done more to produce PPE at a faster rate, but thanks again to Dr. Watson for shining a light on all of the great work that we've been doing here at the local level.
Well I wanna bring on our musical guest. Part of the challenge of the pandemic is how do we maintain our status as the Live Music capital of the world, and one small way that I do it is bringing on some of our really talented Austin local musicians and having them be live for you right here on the Clawback. so I wanna welcome Mobley to the show! Hello, Mobley! Hey, how's it going? It's such a challenging time for everybody. Before we get into that. I wanna ask how are you doing? How's your family? Is everybody safe and healthy? Yeah. We're doing Al right. Oh, I'm glad to hear that. You make your living as a musician, right? That's right. What was the impact to you and your work right at the beginning when we were canceling South By and we were- What has been the impact now, here we are in September? It's been pretty colossal. Obviously South By was the first domino to fall and that that was projected to be a pretty big part of our income for the year. So that was, I think it was the right decision obviously, but it was devastating from a business standpoint, and then all my touring this summer was cancelled. I put out a single a couple of weeks before everything started shutting down, and so the roll out of the record I was putting out got pushed back by- at this point, by about a year. And obviously now we're at the point where I think most reasonable people don't think it's safe for us to be playing live shows. So yeah it's a very destabilizing moment. But I do think it's important for us to to really keep our eye on the ball of preventing preventable deaths here, and that's way more important to me than my career or income for a year. Thanks for sticking with it and making your living as a musician takes a lot of hustle, and even more so during this time. You're making it work as much as you can. All of Austin and as a council member, appreciate everything that you and musicians do to to maintain our live music ecosystem. You know, something that I thought was funny: You wanna actually have something in common. Before we did our work that is our passion, right? I'm doing my passion in. That I'm in you are also a web developer. That's right, yeah. I spent 20 years building websites, and I was doing it for small businesses and got involved in the LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and I learned a lot about what challenges small businesses were facing. What type of web development were you doing? I was mostly doing front-end development. I was kind of - the peak of my involvement in that industry was around the time when people stopped calling themselves web designers and started calling themselves front-end devs. So that's - I did both the design side and the front-end coding side. My tenure in web development was so long, I started when people call themselves webmasters. That's how that's how early in the era I was doing it. Nice! A long time ago, but let's talk about your music. Your your work is known for tackling some tough, difficult topics but also having space for interpretation. It's a really challenging balance. How do you do it? I can't exactly say how I do it. I think what probably produces the whatever alchemy winds up giving it the balance that it has, is that I feel compelled to talk about important things if I'm gonna be giving any kind of platform or stage. So that feels a compulsory piece of it. And then the rest of it is just putting those messages with music that I like, and a lot of times that means that there's kind of a tension or a kind of a level of subtlety or even subterfuge that the messaging has within the overall sound of the music. Because as much as I like talking about heavy serious things that need to be talked about, not every song I write is some minor key dirge. So you have to find some way of navigating that tension. I have at least some appreciation for that and in my work, too, and you can really get weighed down if if all you do is work on the most difficult issues. And so I'm really glad that you're spending some time on the show with us today and to share your music and your and your work with me and with the folks who are watching. So the song that you're going to perform for us was just released. Why don't you talk a little bit about the song, and then take it away? Sure. Yeah. The song is called James Crow, and we released it on Wednesday. And it's about it's about racism. It's about - The first line is 'I've been seeing the world through a dead man's eyes.' So it's about all the bad ideas that so many of us have inherited and the ways in which they've entrenched themselves in systems that oppress people, and the struggle to free yourself from those ideas, and and grab hold of better ones. So this song is called "James Crow." [guitar strum] I've been seeing the world through A dead man's eyes. And when I laid me down laid me down I dared not rise, but then I noticed that I'd been watching myself from The car outside. And so to bring me round, I took me down a long dark ride. That's where I found you at James Crow come and tell me what you know. James Crow you're a devil in a daydream. James Crow will you walk it for me slow, Singing "take it all back now. Take it all back now!" James Crow come and tell me what you know. James Crow you're a devil in a daydream, James Crow will break it to me slow, Singing "take it all back now. Take it all back now!" You've been selling the world on dead man's lies. The kind that won't decay or fade away Or pass in time. I play the scientific, I can't tamed. You pray to a religion that can't named. But all I really want is to crawl back in my body and be Free James Crow come and tell me what you know. James Crow, you're a devil in a daydream. James Crow can you walk it for me slow? Singing "take it all back now! Take it all back now!" James Crow come and tell me what you know. James Crow you're a devil in a daydream. James Crow, will you break it to me, slow, Singing "take it all back now! Take it all back now! Is there a fever worse than faith? When you know what you've lost Cause it's gone from the beginning. And I can feel it in the way that you are when you're on. Ha. James Crow come and tell me what you know James Crow you're a devil in a daydream. James will you walk it for me slow Singing "take it all back now. Take it all back now!" James come and tell me what you know. James you're a devil in a daydream. James Crow will you break it to me slow Singing "take it all back now. Take it all back now." James Crow come and tell me what you know. James Crow you're a devil in a daydream. James Crow will you walk it for me slow Singing, "take it all back now. Take it all back now!" James Crow Come and tell me what you know James Crow you're a devil in a daydream. James Crow will you walk it for me slow Singing "take it all back now! Take it all back now!" Wow! That was amazing, that was amazing. Thank you. I mean both applause and chills - really powerful work, Mobley, and thank you so much for sharing it today and and for doing everything - for being so committed to your art that you're finding a way to survive in a pandemic. Tell the folks where they can find your music and where you're performing and how folks can support you. Yeah, you can find my music at MobleyWho.com MobleyWho.com and on social media at @MobleyWho there are links to everything. And you can find information about some upcoming live streams and I'm actually doing a contest associated with this, where I'm gonna be traveling around to around the city to play little curbside concerts from in front of people's houses. So you can enter and all that on the website. That sounds awesome, and good luck. Good luck, Mobley. Thanks again for spending some time with us today. Thank you for having me- appreciate it. Amazing music to be ssharing with us. Chills! Chills!
Cory Baker, President/CEO of The Long Center
Well, let's get to our final guest for the show today, someone who is a friend of mine, who I've gotten to know pretty well and does - works and leads in another area of art and music in our community, the president and CEO of the Long Center, Cory Baker. Hi! Oh, he was so good. It makes me miss shows and just, oh my gosh. He was amazing, but I don't know how I feel about going after that. I've been in the business long enough to know that it's like man, that's when you're like "End show!" "End scene!" That's it! I'm done! Have a nice day! I don't know what else I can say, it's like all that. Well, thank you. Thank you, Cory for spending some time with us on the show today. First off how are you doing? How's your family? Everybody's safe and healthy? Yes. Thank you so much for asking. I have two little boys at home and I think what Dr. Watson said is so true: Despite the challenges it's- they're three and five and so to have some extra time with them at this ages has been really special, and we've been lucky to stay healthy. Thank you and I hope you and your family are all doing well as hanging in there as best as possible, as well. We're doing our best. I'm fortunate that my job can still be done remotely from home. As most folks who watched the show know, my boyfriend works for HEB, and he's a checkout manager, and so his job does not, work from home. So we've been having the essential worker reality where you gotta come home and kinda almost HazMat yourself and you take a shower and change your clothes and get all that done and thankfully, we've been able to be safe. And of course, HEB has done some good work, making sure that folks are wearing masks and all that. But let's talk about the Long Center. I want you to start and just kind of explain - give the short elevator on what the Long Center is and what it means to this community. And I wanna talk about how the pandemic's impacted it. Absolutely. Well, the Long Center is - It's evolving. It's evolving just like Austin. It is a private nonprofit, but we are in a city-owned facility. So we very much think of ourselves as a community asset. So every year we ask ourselves the tough questions and make sure that we're serving the community. We are, many people know us as the home of the Opera, Symphony and Ballet. We are so lucky to have those three incredible organizations here in Austin. We are the permanent home for all three, but besides that the Long Center does a lot of education and outreach. We have free community programs actually at the venue, and then we are looking at how we can best serve the creative sector as a whole, as a nonprofit, so really help the ecology of arts and music in Austin, and how we can just long-term help individual artists, like Mobley. I'm so glad that you were able to kind of highlight. They're struggling, and sometimes we don't think of them as kind of a necessity, especially in times like these where there's a lot of needs. But art brings so much to our lives, and it's it's so critical in our quality of life in understanding and cultivating compassion. So the Long Center is really dedicated to make sure that artists can make a living. One of the things that you said that I think has been such an interesting, educational moment for the community, as a result of the pandemic is the role that venues play in supporting artists. And beyond the large artistic organizations or the larger ones like symphony and the ballet and opera, the Long Center also supports artists of all kinds. And you guys do some really fun - or you did and will at some point in the future - a lot of fun events, and you've got the beautiful vista of downtown and being able to do that. And at the same time we're trying to build systems to support our live music venues and other artists. We've got creative space bond programs and all manner of things the council is trying to do. But I think the Long Center is really interesting because of the nexus it can serve. So talk about how you all have been working through the pandemic, and how you're trying to pivot into what you think the future can hold. Absolutely, and first of all, I wanna say thank you for passing Item 62, and that's just a drop in the bucket. I know we've been in touch and pre-pandemic, you're you're such a supporter of the Long Center and the arts and we love you. We appreciate the long nights and the hard work. I mean I my colleagues across the country, I love that Austin really - we get it. We get that this is the soul of our community, and even if you're not a personal fan, that the creative sector really drives our economy here and it's part of our brand for tourism. And so I'm so proud of our council and our city and these kind of initiatives like the SAVES Act that you're working on right now. We're really at the forefront. So there's always as you said, I love it: There's always more we can do, but I so appreciate the hard work that we've done. And I think you make the point: It's kind of, sometimes people think of the Long Center either as the show, they've seen there or more kind of amorphous, or as a venue, but one of the things that we actually we're moving towards pre-pandemic and it's really fast track the need, and so therefore our response. Austin is filled with wonderful venues, incredible organizations that actually produce work like the ballet, fabulous artists and musicians and other organizations. So the Long Center was really moving in the direction of what is our role as advocate? As catalyst? What kind of things can we be doing to raise the entire creative sector? And we are agnostic in many ways that we are not creating any specific art form, or we are not part of a larger system. We are a non-profit. So really we are we are beholden to the city of Austin and to Austinites and to their needs. So we've been really thinking about how can we create these platforms and create the infrastructure and the support system, so we're not just a venue, but we're also a service organization. And we quickly - when the pandemic hit, we had Harry Connick Jr. on Tuesday, and on Friday, campus closed on March 13th, and we've been out of the building since then. So we've really still remained very active. We're doing a lot of virtual program, create-in- place, where again we're really trying to elevate the work that's already happening in the community. So many artists just immediately went online on their own, independently, you know, blood, sweat, and tears to just kind of connect with their audiences. So we've been really trying to elevate those and create paid opportunities for artists along the way. And we're gonna continue to evolve and even look to where other industries, the tech industry. I was just talking to somebody about how sustainable farming does this really well, but how can we maybe create a coop kind of organization, where we can find economies of scale by helping the creative sector band together and do simple things, like buy health benefits together, or share office space, or things like that. So as much as it was certainly difficult to have, our businesses is in gathering people together, so that hurt us immediately with the pandemic. I'm really proud of the team that have pivoted, and I have to say the other angle that we rely on is fundraising. And our membership is incredible, and people- I mean we just did a survey and I was at home crying because some of the results are just- "we can't wait to be back" or "keep up the good work." "Keep hope alive" and people really care about it and are rooting for us. We've had a lot of corporate donors: you had Baylor, Scott + White, they're a major sponsor of ours, have been since the beginning, and continue to support us through this. So yeah, it's definitely been jarring, but it I think as a community is reminding us all who we are, and who we wanna be, and what's important to us as a community. So that rally has been fun to watch. And y'all have been doing some great work, Cory. I'm really glad that you took some time to be on the show today. And one of the things that I know you and I agree on, and I've been talking to more folks about is. there were challenges in the music industry and the arts industry. Sustainability issues and long term, planning challenges. And we have this moment where things are down, as an opportunity to build back better. We don't just have to go back to the status quo. We can we can build something and use this moment and be stronger, and more sustainable, and more fiscally solid, moving forward, and have the city and the Long Center, be better partners with the ecosystem, and be the nexus that can elevate everybody's work. And keep all of the beautiful art and music and culture that is created, literally created in our city and also performed in our city and keep it alive. Cory, thank you so much for all your work at the Long Center. Why don't you tell folks one more time? How can folks support the Long Center and find what you are up to? Absolutely. Website is the best place: long center.org or follow us on social media. Again, a lot of content virtually that you can see. And of course, we really appreciate support in the form of membership as well. But just yeah, get involved, and stay engaged, and we'll see you soon. We have some really incredible announcements coming up about some partnerships and some programming outdoors. So stay tuned! Wery exciting, Cory! Thank you so much, and good luck to the Long Center. Thank you so much, we appreciate it. Another great show today, thanks again to Dr. Watson and Cory Baker and Mobley for joining us on the show. We are doing so much important work at the city. And part of the reason we can do that work is because I get to represent and have the honor of representing District 6 on the city council. We are in campaign season. The election is in November. Here's where you can go to sign up and support, you can make donations, you can request a yard sign, if you live in the district. Be a part of this movement that is bringing innovation and fiscal responsibility to the city of Austin and ensuring that we build this community back better. That's the commitment I'm making to the public. And thanks again to Dr. Watson for showing that we are really doing everything we can possibly do. Austin is leading on pandemic support, and Austin is also leading on ensuring that as much of this community makes it through and is even better off once we get through it in the end. Thanks everybody for watching the show. Please sign up on the website to support the campaign, and we will see you next week.
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