Weekend brunch for 29 March 2020

News and views from around the web

Image credit: Alexandra Koch/Pixabay

[WB1] On Tuesday morning this week, just days after Mayor Sylvester Turner hastily arranged a Friday press conference to inform citizens that Houston was not going on lockdown and to scold citizens for spreading rumors on social media about the same (he apparently meant text messages that were going around), Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo (with Mayor Turner present) announced a countywide lockdown. Area leaders prefer not to call it that, of course (Stay Home-Work Safe sounds nicer), and the number of exemptions suggest that Mayor Turner did have a real effect in curbing the young county judge’s zeal for a much more draconian lockdown. Despite the early morning press conference, the actual order was not available until late in the day.

[WB2] The county judge also seemed on a course to release significant numbers of prisoners next week over COVID-19 concerns, until Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton moved separately to quash the effort. The governor also expanded his quarantine involving travel to Texas from certain COVID-19 hotspots, adding vehicular traffic from Louisiana. Abbott critics who think the governor has not led strongly enough on COVID-19 are unlikely to give him credit for Sunday’s moves.

[WB3] Remember a few weeks ago when local leaders were insisting the rodeo was fine (until it wasn’t) since we had no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the area, and irresponsible political leaders and influencers were promoting restaurant meetups in Asiatown? Those early moves were really ill-advised in light of what we now know about asymptomatic transmission.

[WB4] After early advice from various authorities that wearing a mask would offer lay people no protection at all against COVID-19 – an assertion that easily fails any common-sense test – the emerging consensus is that masks are indeed helpful in preventing spread of the virus (or the flu). I wore a basic mask this weekend (not an N95 variety) during my weekly grocery shopping, and suggest that anyone reading this consider doing so when out in public if you can. Don’t ever let various nags and scolds override your own good sense!

[WB5] Don Hooper posts an interesting story about his friendly February wager with a Harris County GOP insider.

[WB6] Texas Monthly ran an interview with Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta this week. Fertitta’s main businesses are, of course, all shut down as part of the pandemic reponse – but he seems determined to weather the storm, and even had the patience to explain to the interviewer that when one’s wealth is completely tied up in assets, it’s not quite so simple as just writing a check for a billion dollars and solving a bunch of problems. Billionaires (at least ones who aren’t setting millions of dollars on fire in a vanity run for president) don’t tend to have a few billion just sitting in their ATM account.

[WB7] Texas Monthly also ran a fascinating story on H-E-B’s preparations for the pandemic.

[WB8] As if COVID-19 wasn’t already doing a number on Houston’s economy, Bloomberg News reported this week that the world is running out of places to store oil (given the current demand/supply disconnect because of the virus and the Saudi decision to flood the market). That means further weakness in oil prices, and tougher times for the world’s oil and gas capital.

[WB9] On a more positive note, Houston Methodist became the first hospital in the nation to infuse blood plasma from a successfully recovered COVID-19 patient to a critically ill patient. While such convalescent plasma therapy is experimental and research is limited, here’s hoping for success – go Methodist!

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Kevin Whited
About Kevin Whited 4232 Articles
Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX