One of the most frustrating things about the COVID-19 crisis is that it seems endless. We know it must end eventually, but we can’t put our finger on when.
Governor Abbot’s most restrictive closure order expired on April 30th. All retail stores, restaurants, bars, and movie theatres were allowed to open their doors on May 1st, limited to 25% occupancy and with social distancing requirements. However, many our local establishments have chosen not to open yet. Some because the owners don’t feel it’s safe yet. Others because the cost of adequate safety measures for their staff and patrons would be too great compared to the income they’d see from 25% occupancy.
Likewise, State parks are now open, and State restrictions on certain sports have been lifted. Specifically those that can be enjoyed by small groups and at a responsible distance, like golf and tennis. Still, some folks aren’t rushing to get back to these pastimes. They just aren’t quite willing to take the chance.
Churches have been allowed to meet in person for weeks now. Certainly, being apart from our church families has been one of the hardest parts of the crisis. Yet most churches I know of have chosen to wait, and continue broadcasting their services over the internet instead.
If this “Phase 1” goes well, without a new spike in COVID-19 cases, the Governor plans to lift more restrictions on May 18th. Even so, I expect that many people will still stay home, avoid groups, order carry-out, and take other precautions.
All of this is OK. There is no contradiction in the Governor lifting restrictions but individuals choosing to be careful. In Texas, we have reached the stage in the pandemic where we are shifting from government restrictions to personal responsibility. Not to mention corporate responsibility. It is appropriate to move forward cautiously and when the data tells us it is safe.
Even before the pandemic, we each had to make difficult choices to protect the health of others. Surely you’ve asked yourself, “I want to go visit Grandma, but I’m feeling flu-ish. Maybe I should wait?” Maybe, “Sally has a runny nose and just the slightest fever. Surely the day care won’t notice?” or, “I’ll just tell work it’s allergies.” We all know that the flu and other common viruses can be deadly for seniors, the very young, and other at-risk people. And yet we routinely take on this responsibility.
You have probably heard fears that if we fully “reopened” Texas tomorrow, we could face a “second wave” of COVID-19 cases. Some countries have already seen this, and data from the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic shows it’s possible. But we also know that a vaccine for the novel coronavirus will not be available for some time.
The goal of the stay-at-home orders was never to halt the spread of the virus, but to manage the rate of growth. It was called “flattening the curve,” because “stop it in its tracks” is medically impossible. Similarly, we can’t possibly avoid a second wave of some magnitude. Without a vaccine more people will surely get the virus. However, a gradual reopening, driven by data and medical expertise, can keep the second curve as flat as possible.
As we begin the slow return to normality, we do so with a sharpened perspective on caring for others, and caring for ourselves. As the Governor strikes a balance between a lockdown and economic survival, he is shifting the burden from the government’s shoulders to ours. The power to ultimately defeat the pandemic is in our hands now. But of course, that’s where it has been all along.
For up-to-date information on the City of Denton response to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, please visit this website: https://www.cityofdenton.com/government/health-safety/covid-19-information.