In a decision that has sparked a lot of skepticism, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has allowed businesses to partially reopen as of May 1. Many fear that a second wave of infections due to COVID-19 is coming due to the restrictions easing up. Businesses, movie theaters, retailers, and restaurants can only operate at 25 percent occupancy; none the less, the decision is seen by many as too soon— especially considering that Texas is starting to ease up on its stay-at-home order earlier than most states. According to The Texas Tribune, Abbott plans to have a second round of re-openings “that will include barbershops, hair salons, bars, and gyms … as early as May 18,” as long as there is no spike in infections in the upcoming two week period.
It is hard to imagine that the number of cases in Texas (and around the country) won’t increase due to more lax restrictions on what’s open, even with social distancing and the number of people in any given location being limited. While the number of cases is dwindling in some states, it is not the case nationally or in our state. According to Forbes.com, on Thursday, April 30, Texas reported fifty confirmed deaths due to coronavirus, the most in a single day since the epidemic reached the state. Beyond that, the state recently recorded its highest amount of deaths in a three day period yet, at 119. Those numbers came out when we were still under “stay at home” orders. A push for a partial reopening is hasty and dangerous.
Granted, many are still choosing to stay at home and are exercising caution regardless. That alone makes one wonder what the long-term effects are that we’ll see on society, even if we get to a point where the coronavirus is maintained. It’s not hard to imagine that there are some behaviors that will stick; perhaps that hug that we’re used to as a greeting from a friend or loved one will come far less often, as it already does now. Despite different types of establishments slowly reopening, it is not hard to envision that some establishments will struggle nonetheless since fewer people will be going out. That alone defeats the purpose of reopening too soon. People are eager to go out again and engage, but if done too prematurely, does that not just bring us back to square one and we’re in this position for even longer?
In the absence of an effective president, governors have been thrust into the limelight as they’ve largely had to implement policies on a state-by-state basis to combat COVID-19. Donald Trump has recently referred to himself as a wartime President, and it’s no surprise that that’s a total misrepresentation of reality. Part of why we’re facing this crisis is that we have someone in the White House who took far too long to see COVID-19 as a serious issue. We have someone in the White House who openly wondered if injecting disinfectants would help against the virus (I can’t believe this needs to even be said, but it does not).
If there’s one thing that Trump has mastered, it’s the art of distraction. With his poll numbers nationally and in key battleground states indicating that he’ll have something of an uphill battle in his campaign for reelection in November, it’s not hard to envision him becoming increasingly erratic and throwing everything but the kitchen sink out there to salvage his chances. We must still exercise caution and do our part, in the absence of strong leadership.