Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Monday that, in consultation with doctors and data, he would issue an order tomorrow allowing the partial reopening of restaurants, many businesses and public areas. “Because of your efforts,” he said at a press conference in which he took no questions, “the Covid-19 infection rate has been on the decline for the past 17 days.”
I have been unable to confirm his above statement on the infection rate. But I have confirmed, via research from the Houston Chronicle, the following: Since noon, the statewide total of COVID-19 cases rose from 14,394 to 15,165. That’s an increase of 771 cases (5.36% increase). Thirty-nine new deaths makes a total of 353 statewide (12.4% increase). The Houston region’s count is 5,512, up 272 from yesterday (5.19% increase). Harris County added 160 new cases today (4.27% increase) and is now at 3,907 cases total. There have been 86 deaths in the Houston region, up 11 from yesterday.
Harris County, which includes Houston, has more coronovirus cases and fatalities than any other county in the state.
The second-highest number of Texas cases are in Dallas County. According to the Dallas Morning News: “A day after reporting its biggest daily increase in COVID-19 cases, Dallas County announced 112 additional positive tests for the coronavirus Wednesday. That was the fourth-most reported in a single day.”
“Unfortunately, halfway through the week, we are on pace to experience our highest average daily count of COVID-19 cases this week,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, noting that 18 deaths had already been reported this week.
And in Galveston County, (24 Covid-19 deaths to date) the Texas Land Commission, headed by Land Commissioner George P. Bush ordered all beaches to reopen tomorrow, and also “rescinded” the authority of the City of Galveston or Galveston County to close the beaches should a virus outbreak occur.
Galveston area beaches already had been partially reopened – from 6 to 9 a.m. to allow for a little walking on the beach.
According to the Galveston County Daily News, this was the scene last weekend: “Beach patrol had 3,490 contacts with people from Friday to Sunday, Police Chief Peter Davis said. About 2,500 of those contacts, which means beach patrol staff members ask people to move off the beach, happened Sunday alone, Davis said.
That’s a huge leap from the roughly 240 daily contacts beach patrol has been averaging on the weekends since beaches closed March 29, Davis said.
The line of cars to travel via the Bolivar Ferry to open beaches on the peninsula backed down Ferry Road to Seawall Boulevard, more than a mile. People flocked to the seawall, where visitors and locals set up chairs and walked on the sidewalk.
Said Davis, “I don’t think it was possible for anyone to maintain social distancing for parts of the day because they were so close together.”
So if you’re looking for a place to generate a case of Covid, I would imagine the Galveston beaches are your best bet this weekend, when they are fully opened, the temperatures hit 90 and Houstonians look for something fun to do.
Personally, I think Gov. Abbott has been pressured into removing statewide stay-at-home orders, and Covid-19 data does not appear to support his decision. Further, Abbott said he will consider further easing of restrictions on businesses as of May 18, depending on what data shows.
But he has not revealed to anyone in the public what data he is talking about. We so far have no idea how he is making his decisions.
Meanwhile, infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Hotez of Baylor College of Medicine says data shows tomorrow is too soon to open, and that Covid-19 cases likely will peak in May in Texas.
“We are doing it ahead of when the models say we can do it safely,” Hotez said in a recent interview, “which says, ‘Wait until June.'”
I really, really hope I’m wrong, but my best guess is that a lot of Texans, understandably fatigued from sheltering in place, are going to go out and socialize in crowded places. And in three weeks we’re going to have new large outbreaks of the virus, and a worse crisis on our hands than we have now.