• July 9, 2020

TEXAS VIEW: Safety shouldn’t be optional as Texas reopens - Odessa American: Views

e-Edition Subscribe

TEXAS VIEW: Safety shouldn’t be optional as Texas reopens

THE POINT: We all need to take steps to protect each other. Our actions do not only affect ourselves.

Print
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Wednesday, May 13, 2020 2:30 am

Let’s drop the pretense that “data and doctors” are driving the plan to reopen the Texas economy. We can see Texans’ health is becoming an afterthought in the rush to get cash registers ringing again.

How else to explain Gov. Greg Abbott’s push to reopen even more businesses — barbershops and hair salons this past Friday, gyms on May 18 — while the state’s new coronavirus cases continue to rise? Yes, Texas has ample hospital capacity. But that doesn’t mean we should be cavalier about policies that could put more people into those beds.

The governor is allowing more businesses to reopen before we can see how the first phase of reopenings went. It can take up to two weeks for people to show symptoms and get tested for the coronavirus — meaning we won’t see the public health impact of the May 1 reopenings of restaurants and shops until at least mid-May.

Worse, Abbott has refused to require businesses and customers to take common-sense safety precautions to help prevent the spread of the virus. He has offered masks, sanitation guidelines and social distancing strategies as recommended protocols — good ideas for people to follow, but no penalties if they don’t.

Abbott noted last week that reopening hair and nail salons posed unique challenges because those services are delivered through close personal contact. “The only safe way that you can go about providing that service, while ensuring that we’re doing everything possible to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, would be for both the person providing the service and the customer (to be) wearing a face mask,” he said. And still: Face masks are only recommended, not required.

As if to drive home the point that business owners are really free to do as they please, Abbott last week dialed back his earlier stay-at-home order to ensure defiant Dallas salon owner Shelley Luther wouldn’t stay in jail for violating it. Why should any business owner take any of Abbott’s advisories seriously?

We recognize the local and state stay-at-home orders dramatically slowed the spread of the coronavirus at a tremendous cost. Many business owners can’t cover their bills. A staggering 1.8 million Texans have filed for unemployment benefits in the seven weeks since Abbott declared a statewide emergency. But the economy won’t turn around until workers and customers feel safe going back to businesses. We need real leadership, real standards to make that happen.

Unfortunately, instead of leadership, we get a systematic outsourcing of risk. The Trump administration has pointedly made coronavirus response a matter for the states. The Abbott administration has passed the buck to businesses, workers and customers: It’s up to them to decide how and when they feel comfortable engaging in commerce. Some will return to work even if they don’t feel safe because they can’t afford to go any longer without pay.

Remarkably, the governor suggested last week that Texans have sole control over whether they get this highly contagious respiratory disease. Praising residents for their hand-washing, mask-wearing, social-distancing habits, Abbott said, “every single Texan has the full capability themselves to make sure they do not contract COVID-19 by practicing these very simple strategies.”

Those are best practices, but they are not foolproof. And they are no substitute for a science-based, government-led effort to minimize the risks of exposure while allowing business to resume as safely as possible.

Making safety measures voluntary, and telling residents they have total control over whether they catch the virus, ignores a crucial truth about highly infectious diseases: We all need to take steps to protect each other. Our actions affect not only ourselves, but those with weakened immune systems, those working essential jobs, and legions of healthcare workers who are at risk for exposure if hospital beds fill up with COVID-19 patients.

We see many signs of people trying to do the right thing. Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt calling on everyone to wear masks. Restaurants sticking with safer to-go service instead of opening up their dining rooms. Movie theaters holding off on reopening altogether. Local business leaders working on safe operating guidelines.

Their efforts may be enough to stave off a spike in coronavirus cases. We hope so. But we’d stand a better chance if Abbott led the way with data-driven decisions and safety standards backed up by the true force of law, not optional advisories and mandates that are flexible when it’s convenient.

Odessa, TX

Current Conditions

Sunny
80°
Humidity: 58%
Winds: S at 16mph
Feels Like: 82°

Your Extended Forecast

Tomorrow

weather
High 105°/Low 77°
Sunshine. Highs 103 to 107F and lows in the upper 70s.

friday

weather
High 105°/Low 75°
Mainly sunny. Highs 103 to 107F and lows in the mid 70s.

saturday

weather
High 107°/Low 74°
Sunshine. Highs 105 to 109F and lows in the mid 70s.
Online Features

Pet Central

pets

Having a pet is a lot of responsibility, and we’ll help by giving you lots of tips and tricks! More >>

Fitness

Fitness

Our fitness articles will help teach you how to work out with gym- and home-based exercises. More >>

Crosswords

Crosswords

Enjoy the crosswords challenge in our free daily puzzles, from the harder Sunday crossword to the quicker daily. More >>

Sudoku

Sudoku

Every Sudoku has a unique solution that can be reached logically. Enter numbers into the blank spaces so that each row, column and 3x3 box contains the numbers 1 to 9. More >>




  • ALL-ACCESS: Subscribe to our e-edition and premium website at myoaoa.com.
    You can read your daily newspaper without taking a walk to the driveway.
    Look back at yesterday's newspaper, or issues from months ago with our archive feature.
    Call circulation at 432-337-7314 to sign up today.