Phase one of the reopening of Galveston County is in full swing. We’ve been handed the keys to the car, kids, and along with them comes the burden of personal responsibility.

Are we ready? We should be. We have no reason not to show up and show off right now.

How lucky are we, really, to live in an area that is home to some of the greatest scientific facilities in the world, including the University of Texas Medical Branch and the Galveston National Laboratory? And medical experts who speak calmly and rationally, from a place of science rather than conjecture or emotion? People such as Dr. Philip Keiser, the county’s local health authority, and Dr. Ben Raimer, interim president at the medical branch.

What does that mean to us? For one thing, it puts Galveston County at the forefront of coronavirus testing even at a time when the Texas Department of State Health Services ranked Texas at 49th in the country for tests conducted per capita.

When many states were still providing tests only for specific groups — those with preexisting conditions, obvious symptoms or suspected exposure — Galveston County hit a milestone in April when it started offering free tests to anyone over the age of 7.

Galveston County is in better shape than many other Texas locales, Keiser said.

“As best as anyone can tell, we’re positioned as well as anybody in the country,” he said. “UTMB continues to keep adding to the number of tests available.”

Whether you agree with all the regulations, some of them or none, our medical experts, mayors and other leaders have individually and collectively made recommendations to protect the public health. They’ve worked mostly in concert with Gov. Greg Abbott and President Donald Trump — not always seamlessly, not always in total agreement but with an eye toward the same prize: protecting the public and our first responders and health care workers and other essential employees, protecting the resources of our hospitals and stemming the spread of COVID-19.

Despite the 28 county COVID-19-related deaths that had been reported as of Monday and the 648 cases, on the whole the county has fared relatively well.

And why? Because of the folks and facilities listed above and others like them. Because our authorities acted quickly and in our best interest and because we listened.

We listened and we stayed home. We listened and we socially distanced. We listened and we stopped hugging and handshaking. Some of us donned masks. We listened to what our medical and political leaders said and we acted accordingly.

But the situation had to change. Economies around the world are collapsing and with such a deep dependence on tourism, Galveston and the county were on the brink, as well. So from a federal, state and local level, something had to give.

Restrictions are easing up, businesses are opening up, beaches are filling up. Some county residents think it’s too soon; others think it’s not soon enough. But right or wrong, it’s happening. We are free once again to enjoy our beaches, bistros and businesses, to a degree.

How we choose to respond to our restored freedoms will determine how quickly, or slowly, the push toward normalcy will progress. If we wash our hands and wear our masks and stay away from one another, more restrictions will lift in a week or two. If we don’t and COVID-19 cases shoot back up, the reopening will halt and maybe even regress.

It’s up to us, really.

So let’s not act like teenagers who are out joy-riding in the family car for the first time. We owe it to our leaders and the phenomenal medical minds in our backyard. We owe it to our health care workers, first responders and the essential workers who kept us up and running over the course of the stay-at-home orders. We owe it to our families, friends and neighbors. And to ourselves to not get sloppy and reverse the downward trend of coronavirus cases.

Left to our own devices after a long period of restriction, personal responsibility can be a burden and a double-edged sword: We want it, but can we be trusted with it?

Time will tell.

• Margaret Battistelli Gardner

Margaret Battistelli Gardner: 409.683.5227;

Deputy Managing Editor

Margaret joined The Daily New in December 2019, bringing more than 20 years of editorial experience to the team. A Philadelphia native, she lives in Galveston County with her husband, Steve, and their dog Nanook.

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(14) comments

Carlos Ponce

The opposite of "personal responsibility" is living in a "nanny state".

nanny state - A government perceived as having excessive interest in or control over the welfare of its citizens, especially in the enforcement of extensive public health and safety regulations.

Some seem to be believe in a "nanny state". Womb to the tomb control of the populace.

Others seem to believe in personal responsibilities and freedoms.

So if you are afraid of getting the coronavirus avoid large groups, wash your hands, wear a face mask. That's taking personal responsibility.

There are far more deaths in Texas from flu than COVID-19.

Pneumonia and influenza (P&I) deaths in Texas 7021.

COVID-19 deaths in Texas 782.

People aren't afraid of catching the flu but they're afraid of the Coronavirus. Is it because there's a flu and pneumonia vaccine available? There are COVID-19 vaccines but not available until they are tested and results peer reviewed.

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons have reported a 91.6% success rate of hydroxychloroquine but some don't accept it because it has not been properly "tested". Remdesivir has been tested and it does reduce the number of days from 15 down to 11 to recovery. On the other hand, Dr. Robin Armstrong and other physicians throughout the world have seen the viral loads diminished to ZERO in 6 days by using hydroxychloroquine in treatment. Side effects? Dr. Robin Armstrong and others throughout the world saw none. Under FDA guidelines, not to use hydroxychloroquine unless in a hospital, Dr Armstrong stated by the time hospitalization is needed "it is almost too late to treat them". He stated patients treated at the onset do well. "The FDA is not serving us well by issuing these orders in backtracking on the previous use authorization which allowed us to use the drug more freely." The Ingraham File

Bailey Jones

I knew you'd eventually come around on legalizing pot. No nanny state!

Carlos Ponce

No Bailey, no pot. Marijuana's effect on youth is devastating. To legalize it would do harm making pot more available to the young.

Bailey Jones

Others seem to believe in personal responsibilities and freedoms.

Carlos Ponce

Bailey seems to not care about our youth and the future of this country. Even with age restraints, legalizing marijuana would make it more available to our youth. Please re-read: "Into the weed "


"Marijuana use in teens is unhealthy"

Bailey Jones

So, what you're saying, Carlos, is that it's OK to compel society to behave in a certain way in order to protect a certain class of people (young people), but it's not OK to compel society to behave in a certain way in order to protect a certain class of people (old people).

And you can see nothing wrong with that argument.

Carlos Ponce

Old people are smart enough to avoid hot areas of infection. If not, they should be looked after. Young people on the other hand are risk takers, immature enough to do irrational acts like taking marijuana.

The articles provided are written by doctors. Is Bailey remiss to heed their warning?

Bailey Jones

Nope, Bailey let's his young neither drink alcohol, nor smoke tobacco, nor vape, nor smoke pot, because doctors agree these are all dangerous to youngsters. Only Carlos wants them all outlawed for adults as well.

Carlos Ponce

Not what I said, Bailey.

AJ LeBlanc

Good, accurate and sensible article. Thanks.

Chuck DiFalco

"Economies around the world are collapsing" --Margaret Battistelli Gardner

How true. And if we're not careful about them, the lockdowns will lead to Great Depression 2.0.

Wayne D Holt

A fair and balanced opinion piece on where we are and where we may go from here.

The importance of personal responsibility is much broader than just our choice in wearing a mask or social distancing. People seem to miss the point that any authority that can tell you that you may not worship with others, you may not go to work, you may not stand closer than six feet to someone, that you have an enforceable obligation to give up your business with no compensation from the government...that authority also may tell you a candidate is not allowed to run or an election is not allowed to take place. It can quite easily say your voice is not needed to govern you.

I am baffled that people believe emergency orders from one or just a few are legitimate. These powers are found nowhere in our founding documents but were interpreted into existence by the few (courts) later. Rule by the few was what we fought a revolution to avoid. Just because there is someone in a lab coat standing behind the authority does not, in any way, legitimize rule by the few.

The longer this travesty goes on, the more obvious it becomes the end goal is not public health but public control. If we buy into this bait and switch, we will have neither personal health nor personal autonomy.

Ted Gillis

Carlos, Who are the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons? Is this a peer group or a paid association? I seem to remember this as being the group that agreed with a study funded by Philip Morris claiming that nicotine in cigarettes was not harmful. Please tell me I’m wrong.

Carlos Ponce

"Who are the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons?"

Answer surgeons and physicians. DUH!

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