There has been much concern and maybe a little political gloating about rising COVID-19 cases since Texas’ decision to reopen its economy in early May.
“Seven weeks later, as the state once again closes businesses with virus cases skyrocketing and hospitals running out of intensive-care beds, Texas indeed appears to be a model: for how to squander a hopeful position through premature reopening, ignoring inconvenient data and fighting party-political turf wars,” The Guardian reported late last month.
There are several problems with the “we opened too soon” argument. For starters, too soon for what? COVID-19 never went away. Unless something miraculous happens, it will be here this month and the month after and the month after that. Most top health advisors caution a vaccine won’t be available until early next year, if we’re lucky.
Some health officials argued Texas should have waited to meet certain benchmarks — either a downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases over 14 days or a downward trajectory in the percentage of positive test results over 14 days.
Extracting all partisan sniping from the conversation, ask yourself this: Had Texas reopened its economy July 1 or Aug. 1 or Sept. 1, would a rise in new cases magically fail to appear? Would Harris County not face an ICU bed crisis? Probably not because it wasn’t allowing businesses to reopen and reemploy people that caused cases to spike — it was people operating under the notion we could all return to normal without safeguards and precautions.
The problem lies not with reopening the economy but in a disregard for protocols among people who either believe the COVID-19 threat has been overhyped and restrictions on civic and commercial life have been overreaching or were tuned out and thinking none of it applied to them.
People refused to wear masks, wash their hands and keep their distance as many — though not all — businesses worked to safely try to stay afloat under pandemic protocols. It could have worked had everyone worked it. It can still work.
The biggest danger to the economy and to freedom is to continue to behave under those beliefs and potentially spread COVID-19 by not wearing a mask, ignoring social distancing measures and behaving as if the virus doesn’t exist or isn’t a serious threat.
Also dangerous to the economy and freedom is to believe the government is the only thing that can save us, that we can’t act responsibly without edicts and mandates. We can save ourselves.
Hundreds of businesses are operating safely and cautiously across Galveston County. Thousands of residents are living as normally as possible, supporting those businesses, all while working to reduce spread of the virus.
We all must do our part to stop the spread and stop supplying ammunition to naysayers that Texas was wrong in trying to help its many thousands of businesses — big and small — survive this pandemic.
A vaccine is far away. The much hoped-for organized contact tracing likely won’t materialize soon enough. Asking businesses to close until it does is unreasonable and even absurd.
Do your part to keep the Texas economy and businesses open by slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Don’t make reopening the failed “Texas experiment” so many apparently hope it will be.
• Laura Elder