Weekend brunch for 5 July 2020

News and views from around the web

Image credit: Marcho Verch/flickr (CC BY 2.0)

[WB1] After an extended period of resisting media and other requests to release the internal audit of HPD’s embattled narcotics department after the Harding Street Massacre, Chief Art Acevedo unexpectedly announced that it had been released this week (conveniently, just before the big holiday weekend).

[WB2] The Harris County DA’s office also announced charges against additional narcotics officers who worked with former officer Gerald Goines, the ringleader behind the Harding Street Massacre.

[WB3] Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continued a climb in the Houston/Harris County area, and the Chron’s sensational coverage of the problem continues to result in basic errors being reported as fact, such as the following:

And testing continued to lag far behind Abbott’s goal of 30,000 daily viral tests, averaging fewer than 20,000 for the first half of May

Actually, if you pull the data from the Texas DSHS website and do some simple calculations in Excel, you quickly discover that the state was exceeding 20,000 tests per day for the first half of May (when the Chron was also hysterically reporting “spikes” in positives that did not exist at the time).

Daily COVID-19 tests in Texas, early May 2020 (source: Texas DSHS)

It’s still short of 30,000 tests per day, but it’s not under 20,000 tests per day. And for July 3 and July 4, Texas reported over 50,000 tests per day.

Many political leaders, public health “experts,” and media outlets continue to squander their credibility on almost a daily basis. We’ve noted before that too many journalists aren’t great with numbers, but even so, averages should not be THAT hard to get right. (Note: To be generous, the story reference was to “viral” tests, but the distinction in test reporting came later, so this retrospective reporting almost seems designed to purposely exaggerate, when the larger point — fewer tests than the governor’s original stated goal — could have been made more cleanly)

[WB4] There’s also this story in which a Chron reporter managed to embed in a hospital to watch the goings on (that certainly couldn’t have been that helpful to the beleaguered medical professionals trying to save people – although perhaps not as bad as when the newspaper had a reporter impersonate a Katrina refugee at a shelter). Here is the young reporter’s assessment of the cause of the increase in hospital load:

Models predict the disease will peak in mid-to-late July, almost two months after cases began to surge with the reopening of the Texas economy and a busy Memorial Day weekend.

There is, inexplicably, no mention of the George Floyd demonstrations in Houston, which began on May 29 and built into the 60,000-strong march in June, or the endorsement of so many local leaders of these massive gatherings during a pandemic.

How big a role did those play in this increase? Almost certainly some, even if it was just to signal that everything is fine and everyone should go on about their business (exactly the wrong signals to send during a pandemic).

[WB5] Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has banned gatherings of 10 or more people (with some exceptions) through August, and Mayor Turner (who encouraged the Floyd protests and whose police chief participated without a mask much of the time) urged Gov. Greg Abbott to give him more power to order citizens around. Meanwhile, thousands marched downtown this weekend, with no apparent discouragement from anyone.

Local leaders have squandered their credibility, so it’s hard to blame citizens for tuning them out. We are largely going to have to figure this out on our own.

[WB6] Unconcerned Texas GOP leaders decided their in-person convention in Houston that is scheduled to begin on 16 July will go on as planned. What could possibly go wrong?

[WB7] The Houston Fire Department is very much in a bind, with staffing numbers that were already declining as a result of Mayor Sylvester Turner’s policies and now with a record number of firefighters in quarantine.

[WB8] City Council this past week revoked the City Hall credentials of Councilmember Leticia Plummer’s brother after his recent bad behavior. Plummer’s recent grandstanding has resulted in her nearly complete alienation from other councilmembers, who also showed their displeasure by refusing even to second her motions during the recent budget debate.

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Kevin Whited
About Kevin Whited 4241 Articles
Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX