Weekend brunch for 22 March 2020

News and views from around the web

Empty taproom. Image credit: Dan Keeney (CC BY 3.0)

[WB1] COVID-19 continues to dominate the news locally and globally, so that will be the focus here for a while.

Here in town, the big news was the closure of bars and restaurant dining rooms to diners, per the orders of Mayor Sylvester Turner and County Judge Lina Hidalgo last Monday effective for the next day. Restaurant takeout orders are still allowed, and restaurants/diners/workers are all trying to adapt to this new reality.

The orders make a great deal of sense, given the information we know (posted last weekend) about the spread of COVID-19 and the fact that Houstonians were not practicing contact reduction/social distancing on their own (indeed, one irresponsible state representative was still organizing Asiatown restaurant meetups as of last weekend).

The mayor continues to insist that the city will NOT be going on lockdown, hastily calling a news conference on Friday to tackle “social media” rumors that the city would be going on lockdown over the weekend (apparently the mayor meant text messages that have been circulating locally and nationally). The police chief went so far as to blame foreign governments, and both promised prosecutions (not likely to happen, because of constitutional issues). Interestingly, County Judge Hidalgo has refused to rule out the possibility of more stringent contact reduction measures, and Dallas DID announce a more stringent lockdown on Sunday.

The view here is that a more significant lockdown isn’t warranted at this time. Let’s ramp up our testing, monitor hospital activity and testing results, and continue to educate our citizens on the need to take contact reduction/social distancing seriously. If the data in a week’s time suggest we are clearly not up to the task, then let’s consider what more we might need to do.

[WB2] A Houston Chronicle columnist thinks it would be better to “focus on coronavirus solutions rather than blaming China.”

The good news is, adults are fully capable of multitasking, and should in this case! Clearly, China is in the midst of a disinformation campaign that has gone so far as to assert the US created the virus and China is the victim. While their government may feel the need to do this for various reasons, the fact is that the virus originated in Wuhan, the Chinese government did its best to suppress information about it (brutally), and did not do enough to stop the spread from Wuhan until they clearly realized they had an epidemic on their hands and it was too late. Moreover, their government’s hostile actions towards Taiwan further suppressed what could have been important contributions to understanding and stopping the spread of the virus.

We have generally used the technical name of the virus here and will continue to do so (even though many mainstream news outlets used “Wuhan virus” in their early reporting), but it would be naive and misguided to ignore the propaganda campaign being waged by the Chinese government.

[WB3] One advantage that the Houston area may have over others when it comes fighting COVID-19 is our suburban lifestyle, which should aid us in our social-distancing efforts. Tory Gattis argues much the same thing, citing one paper that suggests Houston’s high temperatures and humidity might also be an advantage.

[WB4] Some local density/transit advocates let the mask slip in revealing ways from time to time. This week’s case in point: Christof Spieler, who seems almost gleeful that Houston traffic is way down (never mind the economic and personal destruction wrought by this pandemic): “Often we talk about traffic as if it is inevitable,” Spieler said, “when this shows it is not.”

It is no exaggeration when we tell you that some anti-car, pro-density influencers – Spieler was appointed to the METRO board under Annise Parker – would be happy to get you out of your car in any way possible. For some, pandemics do have an apparent upside.

[WB5] METRO is running more buses to help riders maintain social distance, and has eliminated fare collection temporarily. Neal Meyer suggests if we’re serious about contact reduction, we should consider temporarily shutting down service.

[WB6] The Houston Chronicle reports that Harris County Judge DaSean Jones released murder suspect David Cruz on a small payment to pretrial services (rather than a bond) after he argued that being jailed might expose him to COVID-19.

[WB7] Harris County officials agreed this week to turn over records of foreign nationals who have voted in and registered for Texas elections, in response to a lawsuit brought by the Public Interest Legal Foundation.

[WB8] Houston Texans GM and Coach Bill O’Brien is not good at his job (the latest example being his trading away his best player, DeAndre Hopkins, for nothing). And until Houstonians get off that Texans season ticket waitlist and stop filling that stadium, fans are going to be stuck with him it seems.

[WB9] Country music legend and Houston native Kenny Rogers died this week. May he Rest in Peace.

Kevin Whited
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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX