Finally, Gov. Greg Abbott did something right.
After teasing last week that he wanted to reopen Texas ASAP, the governor changed his mind. On Sunday, he announced an extension of the state’s shelter-at-home order.
As much as I don’t want to admit it, we have to give some credit to Donald Trump. There’s no doubt that he is as much afraid of the spike in cases that’s been forecasted as we –– and Abbott –– are.
We are fearful of getting sick or watching our loved ones and neighbors become ill.
Trump is worried about pissing off rural America, a large swath of the country whose inhabitants love him and who have been spared from the virus so far –– but who won’t be soon. Experts believe rural communities will be hit much harder than urban areas have been. Not only are country folk not practicing social distancing (the virus is a liberal hoax to them, after all), but most of their towns lack the kind of healthcare infrastructure necessary to treat lots of terribly ill people in a reasonable amount of time. It’s going to get messy real fast.
Businesses will be extremely slow to start up in the Heartland. Businesses here might be back online in a couple of months if not sooner. Unlike the feds, Texas leaders have begun working on a plan. North Texas has been especially active. Local county judges and healthcare experts are trying to establish guidelines for travel and business after the coronavirus pandemic passes or the curve dips down considerably. Mike Eastland, director of the 16-county North Central Texas Council of Governments, said he hopes a unified approach will allow North Texans to return to normal all around the same time. One phase could be allowing bars and restaurants to open at half capacity. Another option could include requiring stores to screen customers for fever, and yet another could demand that employees wear masks and gloves.
Though the plan is nascent, it begs a lot of interesting questions, especially since the slowing of the pandemic for most places is at least a month away. If the state plan does not jibe with the federal one, who are travelers and businesses to trust, local or federal leaders? And if North Texas employees do not feel comfortable returning to work at bars and restaurants, even at half-capacity, do these employees have any legal protection from being fired?
Abbott, correctly, believes that social distancing is working. Though he recently said Texas hasn’t hit its peak number of cases, the number of days it takes for confirmed COVID-19 cases to increase or possibly even double has slowed. As of Monday, according to the state Department of Health Services, there are nearly 14,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 after more than 133,200 Texans have been tested. Nearly 300 people have died, and more than 2,200 have recovered. Much more testing needs to be done, nationally and here in our state. Even Greg Abbott knows this. His shelter-at-home order lasts through the end of the month. And it will probably linger until May. Or longer. –– Anthony Mariani
The Weekly welcomes editorial submissions from all political persuasions. Please email Editor Anthony Mariani at firstname.lastname@example.org.