Gov. Greg Abbott recently announced an executive order outlining plans to reopen Texas in phases starting May 1. The proposed phase one allows certain businesses to open at limited capacity. However, reopening the economy too soon is an irresponsible move that disregards any progress made toward flattening the curve.
In the April 27 announcement, Abbott claimed he made the decision to reopen because there was a consistent decrease in infections for 17 days and the number of recovered cases would soon exceed the number of people infected.
But the daily increase in infection rates since the press conference makes it obvious that the previous data meant nothing. April 30, the day before the stay-at-home order expired, saw the highest reporting of single-day deaths in Texas since mid-March.
Moreover, Texas ranks 48th in testing among states per capita. Medical professionals say that in order for society to carefully reopen, there needs to be more testing available, along with efficient resources to accurately track the spread of the virus.
Hospital and medical care systems are still not fully equipped to deal with the pandemic. Due to an influx of COVID-19 patients, medical procedures are being halted and medical professionals are forced to work in harsher environments without the necessary resources to ensure safety.
Texas was already experiencing a shortage of nurses before the pandemic. If more medical professionals get the virus, a shortage of health care workers could prove to be a long-term problem with slowing the spread of the virus.
Over 1.3 million Texans have filed for unemployment and some have received checks from the Texas Workforce Commission. But opening up the economy means some people will be forced to work or risk losing unemployment benefits.
Unemployment eligibility requires one to lose his or her job due to outside factors. So, if a restaurant opens but a person decides not to return or quits over safety concerns, he or she is no longer eligible for unemployment. Going back to work, even at 25% capacity, still poses a risk of contracting the virus.
Rather than ensuring unemployment pays out and hospitals receive proper equipment, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s outlandish statements made it clear the Texas government would rather have more people exposed and lose benefits.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention experts also warn a second wave of COVID-19 could be more devastating because it might coincide with the flu season. Furthermore, the World Health Organization has found no evidence yet suggesting recovered COVID-19 patients are immune to reinfection.
If a second wave hits, those once infected with the virus could become sick again and continue the cycle of having to quarantine and isolate or risk infecting others. As economies prematurely open up, people should remain cautious and practice social distancing measures.
Reopening the economy right now might have dire consequences on our health system that is already overwhelmed by the virus. The death toll could inevitably rise due to the irresponsibility of the state government.
– Delilah Alvarado is a journalism senior