Dr. Mark Escott Has Been the Friendly Face of the City's Response to COVID-19
Mark Escott has a résumé (a curriculum vitae, actually) that's literally 16 pages long – you can see it for yourself at the city's website. He's an accomplished expert in emergency medicine; his "real" job is as the medical director for Austin-Travis County EMS (and also for Texas Department of Public Safety and the state's Office of Emergency Management). But you know him as Austin's favorite TV doctor, the interim health authority and calm, friendly face of the city and county's response to COVID-19. Being a public communicator is not really part of Dr. Escott's job description; nor is having to navigate a fraught political landscape in which basic public health guidance is dismissed as partisan rhetoric, or worse. But as the worst public health disaster in a century takes its toll on Austin, it's clearly to our benefit that the self-described Republican, who spent years as a firefighter and paramedic in Houston before leveling up with an M.D., is good at that part of the gig. You can tell he's frustrated by the obstinacy of state leaders, including some of his colleagues, and exhausted as the pandemic drags on, like so many in health care. But Escott has not wavered when advising decision-makers on courses of action that he knows are difficult, and his message to the public, delivered several times a week, remains optimistic: We can beat this. We can flatten the curve. Without minimizing how bad COVID-19 is and how much worse it can be, Escott has helped steer Austin and Travis County on a course where, largely by our own efforts, we've been able to avoid the worst of the pandemic's awful toll.