[WB1] By the time many Houstonians are reading this, Harris County will again be under a mask order, albeit a very different one from the overreaching edict initially issued by the county judge that was almost immediately nullified by Gov. Greg Abbott. The order will require businesses to require patrons to wear a mask in most circumstances when they are indoors.
This is a sensible precautionary measure that many of us have been practicing for months (see WB4) – until the issue became politicized, guidance grew ever more confusing for the public, and a good number of citizens seem largely to have said to hell with it (especially after seeing protestors not exactly observing the best distancing or masking practices).
Here’s the deal: The virus is still deadly (though thankfully, perhaps not quite as deadly as we originally thought). And it doesn’t care about your cause, whether that cause is George Floyd, Juneteenth, MAGA, or freedom from masks. Cases and hospitalizations continue to tick up in Houston.
We do know a lot more about COVID-19 now, especially about how to cut down transmission. It need not involve lockdowns – that genie is out of the bottle (see WB3). It would be nice if we had more government testing/tracing/isolating capacity (the City of Houston and Harris County have failed citizens to date on this front). So we are left with masking/hygiene and social distancing as our main tools. Please use those tools, for yourself and others.
[WB2] Chronicle reporter Zack Despart has posted a chart that illustrates the Houston area’s recent uptick in COVID-19-related hospitalizations, with key dates added to the timeline.
While adding timelines is useful, one problem with the original chart is the lag for both Memorial Day Weekend and for the George Floyd demonstrations. Memorial Day weekend effectively got underway on 23 May (Saturday), not Memorial Day proper (Monday). Likewise, the first George Floyd protest downtown took place on 29 May (and built to the march and funeral four days later).
We’ve added markers to the timeline to illustrate better how these events might relate to hospitalizations (with one week intervals marked as well). If we assume coronavirus-related hospitalizations come 2-3 weeks (or longer) after key events, then perhaps the best conclusion we can draw about these events (which took place only a few days apart) is that both have probably contributed to a relaxation of social distancing, now being reflected in hospitalizations as well as case counts. Unfortunately, in the absence of better contact tracing and better reporting of such data (inadequate in the Houston area), we are left to guess from charts like these.
Note: The chart and analysis in this bullet have been updated since publication.
[WB3] KRIV-26 reports that Houston protestors began to test positive for COVID-19 this week, which is not surprising. Again, the virus does not care about the righteousness of your cause.
[WB4] Houstonian Don Hooper, who lives downtown above Discovery Green, noticed that troublemakers appeared to be practicing to make trouble in the days leading up to the 29 May protests downtown (the most destructive of the gatherings that took place in Houston).
[WB5] The Floyd protests cost HPD (read: Houston taxpayers) some $21 million in overtime, if we are to believe numbers released to journalists.
[WB6] The HPD sergeant who got himself in trouble on social media retired this week, ahead of a disciplinary hearing.
[WB7] HPD Chief Art Acevedo, who preened for national media on the topics of police transparency and accountability for a week or so during the Floyd demonstrations, should release the audit into HPD’s scandalous narcotics division. The public deserves to see this information, and releasing it to select lawmakers is inadequate.
[WB8] For that matter, Nicolas Chavez’s family would like some answers about Chavez’s death at the hands of HPD.
[WB9] The Chronicle’s editorial page editor should, but won’t, consider that it may just be that government incompetence is also systemic (she favors lots more government, so that is unlikely to come to mind).
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