Everything Bigger In Texas, Including Coronavirus
Texas is open for business! Screw you, COVID-19! Hair salons are free once more to give rubbish haircuts. Restaurants can force their employees to work the lunch rush without any pansy-ass masks. There's only one problem. The coronavirus is still a thing. It never really went away, much like racism after Martin Luther King's “I Have A Dream" speech.
For the past three days, Texas has reported a record number of new coronavirus cases. According to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, a total of 2,153 people were hospitalized on Wednesday. The total was 2,056 on Tuesday. It was 1,935 on Monday. May 5 was the previous high, at which point there were 1,888. If you care to explain the math to Jared Kushner, this is an upward trajectory. Those are also just people so ill they were hospitalized. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is probably devastated that he's not one of these brave soldiers, earning their purple hearts for the state's economic liberty.
Governor Greg Abbott lifted the stay-at-home order on May 1, and hospitalizations have increased by 42 percent since Memorial Day. But the governor is monitoring the situation, and his spokesman, John Wittman, assures us that "every Texan who needs access to a hospital bed will have access to a hospital bed."
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Whitman explained in an email that Texas hospitals have the "ability to surge capacity in regions," if necessary. He continued to boast about the state's COVID-19 readiness.
Since Texas opened on May 1, testing has increased by 210 percent, the doubling time has gone from 20 days to 36 days, and the state continues to have one of the lowest death rates in the nation.
Texas is averaging 282 cases per 100,000 residents. That's slightly better than California's 355 per 100,000. Texas's reported death rate is seven per 100,000, which is comparatively low, but Whitman doesn't address the risk from free-range coronavirus.
Abbott is “concerned but not alarmed." He's keeping his eye on the hospitalization rate and believes the surge response teams can manage any “hot zones." Some officials blame state prisons and meatpacking plants for the increased cases, but's not definitive because infections have increased in counties without either. (There are some!)
Right now, Texas has 1,500 open ICU beds and more than 5,900 available ventilators. No one really wants to be in the ICU or on a ventilator, especially if they were exposed to COVID while serving someone curly fries.
Rebecca Fischer, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health, said Texas is experiencing "a surge" in new infections "in part attributed to activities surrounding Memorial Day weekend, such as gatherings where protective behaviors may have been lax."
Yes, people took to the streets protesting police brutality after George Floyd's death, but while there's not a lot of social distancing at those events, most people are wearing masks until they police spray them with tear gas. However, even before the protests, Texas businesses were instituting “no mask" policies, which are medically dumb. Abbott only “strongly recommends" that people wear masks in public, and he won't stop businesses from banning masks for customers and staff.
In related news, Vice President (for the next seven months) Mike Pence tweeted and later deleted a photo of his dumb ass with a large group of unmasked buffoons working on Donald Trump's reelection campaign. They were all huddled together with their faces hanging out. We don't expect these patriots to model themselves after Joe Biden, but Pence leads the White House coronavirus task force that recommends social distancing and wearing face masks while in public.
If they were at the campaign's Arlington, Virginia, office, the assembled crowd also violated the state's phase one reopening guidelines, which limits gatherings to no more than 10 people or roughly double the expected turnout at Trump's funeral, whenever that day comes.
So, conservatives might blame any COVID-19 surges on protesters, but Mitt Romney had enough sense to wear a mask when he was marching for civil rights last week. The least you can do is wear a mask and social distance responsibly when preparing to lose a presidential election bigly.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."