• November 27, 2020

TEXAS VIEW: COVID-19 will keep surging unless we act - Odessa American: Texas Opinion

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TEXAS VIEW: COVID-19 will keep surging unless we act

THE POINT: Let’s get through this winter together by wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings.

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Posted: Thursday, November 19, 2020 2:30 am

COVID-19 patients in El Paso are dying in such numbers that officials just brought in their fourth refrigerated morgue trailer to hold the bodies. Two Del Valle schools have closed to in-person classes until the end of the month, while officials say Austin-area hospitals could need about 130 additional ICU beds within the next three weeks to handle the spike in patients. Experts are begging Central Texans to celebrate Thanksgiving only with members of their own households.

This is where we are: The first state to top 1 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began. A COVID death toll of more than 19,000 Texans, enough people to fill the AT&T Center where the San Antonio Spurs play.

Turning things around is imperative. Experts have warned for months that this winter could bring the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, and still Texas is headed in the wrong direction. COVID fatigue runs thick, and our state leaders have failed for months to provide the clear, science-driven leadership this crisis demands.

But there are critical actions we can all take to help curb the spread. Wear a mask. Practice social distancing. Avoid group gatherings.

We recognize Texans are tiring of these measures and the strain of a sequestered existence. But your health, even your life or the life of a family member or someone you know, could depend on such efforts over the next few months, until a vaccine becomes widely available.

A CDC analysis last week confirmed that widespread use of masks leads to a “significant” drop of new COVID cases in a community. Keeping cases low allows schools and businesses to remain open, keeping our economy going. The CDC pointed to an economic analysis that found increased use of masks nationwide “could prevent the need for lockdowns and reduce associated losses of up to $1 trillion or about 5% of gross domestic product.”

To his credit, Gov. Greg Abbott has kept a statewide mask mandate in place since July — albeit after giving inscrutably mixed messages on this common-sense precaution that has become needlessly politicized.

Distressingly, our state and local governments remain at cross-purposes in confronting COVID-19. While Abbott continues to send medical personnel and equipment to help with the crush of coronavirus cases in El Paso, Attorney General Ken Paxton is in court fighting that county’s temporary shutdown of nonessential businesses — a local order signifying a desperate attempt to rein in this virus. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has warned that rising cases could lead to shutdowns elsewhere. “We’re stuck in a vicious cycle of wishful thinking and unsustainable reopenings,” she told reporters last week.

None of us wants another lockdown. That’s why we must step up our efforts to contain the virus in other ways — masks, social distancing, avoiding gatherings — to prevent the need for more extreme measures.

Keeping the economy open is important, but the costs of this pandemic go beyond lost revenue. Hospitals in Central Texas and communities across the state once again are filling up with people who are struggling to breathe, who may die if their bodies can’t get enough oxygen. Their pain, their medical bills, their lost time with their families, their lost time at work — all these costs could have been avoided if we all worked harder to contain the virus.

The pandemic is also taking a fierce toll on nurses, doctors and other health care workers who spend exhausting shifts caring for never-ending waves of COVID patients. They relay stories of extremely sick patients who say they wish they had taken better precautions. Some of them confess they’re reaching their breaking point. All of us have the power to ease their burden by taking steps to contain this virus.

Sounding the alarm on the nation’s ability to handle the pandemic through the fall and winter months, Dr. Anthony Fauci recently warned: “You could not possibly be positioned more poorly.” Certainly that’s the case today in Texas, which last week topped 10,000 new cases a day, the first time that’s happened since July.

A serious national strategy is a good two months away, with the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. The Texas path, marked by high hopes and half-measures, has failed to protect our state. It’s up to us, as individuals, to help prevent more outbreaks through our everyday actions.

Wear a mask. Use social distancing. Avoid large gatherings. Let’s get through this winter together.

Odessa, TX

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