All around the country, states are preparing to partially reopen many non-essential services. This reopening comes as a result of President Donald Trump’s push to begin opening parts of the economy by May 1, as well as a small yet vocal contingent of the populace protesting stay-at-home orders with some peak Americana signs, saying things like, “Jesus is my vaccine” and “Social distancing = Communism.” Among the states taking Trump’s decision to heart is Texas. The Lone Star State is trying to jump to the head of the pack by resuming some operations and dropping its shelter-in-place orders statewide by April 30.
Gov. Greg Abbott has decided to push forward in returning to business as usual in Texas. It’s fair to say that this decision will likely be in a filing cabinet one day labeled “really bad moves.” In all seriousness, by most metrics reopening non-essential businesses and lifting the shelter-in-place order right now makes no sense. We should be very cautious moving forward and vocal about our hesitation to needlessly infect thousands more Texans.
Restaurants in some towns, like Colleyville, have already begun to reopen outdoor or patio dining areas amid Tarrant County’s highest number of infections per day. Unsurprisingly, this drew in customers from all over Dallas-Fort Worth. Throughout the day, many restaurants that had their patios open were flocked by people, some wearing masks, some not. Many more were not following guidelines to stay six feet apart, simply because it was so crowded that this was impossible. We are currently at our peak or its tail end, according to a University of Texas projection (I know, “hissss,” but hear them out on this one). To many, this is a relief that the worst of this is likely behind us.
What it doesn’t take into account is the chance of a second wave of infections. Soon, incidents like we saw in Colleyville will be commonplace. This has the potential to reignite coronavirus infections and undo so much of the progress made during our attempts at flattening the curve. This decision could be particularly dangerous in places like Texas A&M, which act as a constant hub for movement.
The decision to begin reopening at our infection peak is destined to lead to disaster. The decision falls in line with some of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s comments.
“There are more important things than living,” Patrick said. “We've got to take some risks and get back in the game and get this country back up and running.”
If Patrick is willing to sacrifice himself at the altar of the economy, then by all means he can go right ahead. However, the fact of the matter is that he’s not the human sacrifice, we are.
Patrick will not be the one serving customers with no concern for safety. He will likely continue to effectively shelter in place while encouraging the rest of the world to get busy working or get busy dying. And on the off-chance that Patrick becomes infected, he’s at little risk of facing these consequences, having access to some the best medical care and attention money can buy. Many of those that die from COVID-19 are people with preexisting conditions, the poor and minorities. Patrick, Abbott and other state leaders calling to reopen at our peak are well-aware of this. The United States has had 50,000 of the 200,000 COVID-19 deaths worldwide due to gross mismanagement, and I for one don’t want to see further damage done to our legacy and people.
COVID-19 has shown us that when disaster strikes, our leadership is less reliable than that of many third world countries. When it comes down to it, it’ll be more or less up to us to act responsibly to minimize unnecessary death. Abbott and others seem intent to release the hounds in a cruel sport to see which fills faster, their state coffers or our early graves. Call me crazy, but I don’t think the thousands of additional lives lost would be worth saving a marginal percentage of the GDP.