As lawmakers in Texas prepare to relax stay at home standards put in place due to the coronavirus health crisis, health experts in the state are warning Texans will likely face an avalanche of new COVID-19 cases in the fall that could overwhelm hospitals and medical professionals.
“On Sunday, Dallas County reported its highest new COVID-19 case total to date, with 234 additional positive results—just two days after Gov. Greg Abbott’s statewide shelter-in-place order expired. As of 10 a.m. Monday, the county had reported 237 additional positive cases overnight—another record—bringing the total case count there to 4,370, including 114 deaths,” the Beast’s Olivia Messer reported before pointing out, “Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has repeatedly cautioned residents to continue social distancing despite Abbott’s decision to reopen businesses on Friday. Abbott was just one in a laundry list of mostly Republican governors who recently launched aggressive efforts to reignite pandemic-ravaged economies—even as epidemiologists warn of possibly grave consequences.”
For their part, public health officials in the state expect to see an avalanche of cases in long term health care facilities and prisons that could spread outward.
According to Diana Cervantes, director of the epidemiology program at the University of North Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health, “It’s going to be scary going into the fall. We’re going to see a huge explosion of cases.”
“For the state, the overall trend [of infections] is that the peaks are getting a little higher and a little wider,” Cervantes elaborated. “I think people get fatigued on doing these types of foundational public health measures to prevent transmission, like social-distancing and wearing masks.”
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins agreed, stating, “They say that it’s too early to open, that we haven’t seen that two-week decline. In fact, in Texas we haven’t seen any decline. And we rank dead last in testing. So they’re telling us to brace for worse infections because we didn’t follow the science.”
Jenkins added, Dallas County was already “seeing a widespread outbreak in the general population,” before lamenting, ““The main concern would be that the citizens would hear what the governor is saying and act on that and begin to do things like go to large group meetings, go to theaters, go hang out in restaurants and then spread a lot more disease and make this worse. But at this point it’s up to each person in Texas to make good choices.”
According to a report in the Texas Tribune, “One of the worst known outbreaks in Texas stemmed from an assisted living facility in College Station, about 95 miles northwest of Houston. But there are approximately 1,200 nursing homes and 2,000 assisted living facilities in the state, and last week the Texas Health and Human Services Commission reported 242 resident deaths in nursing homes and 61 fatalities in assisted living facilities.”
According to Michele Deitch, a senior lecturer and prison conditions expert at the University of Texas law school, employees working in prisons and jails will likely help unleash the virus onto the general population.
“In prisons and jails, the spread is like wildfire,” Deitch stated. “And almost certainly the number of prisoners with the virus is much greater than they realize because they aren’t doing extensive testing. What’s happening inside these prisons isn’t staying inside these prisons. Staff are going back home to their communities each night.”
According to Dr. Umair Shah, a Harris County health official, he already fears the state is going backward when it comes from stemming the spread on COVID-19.
“Our concerns are obviously, now that we’re reopening, that we don’t want to go backward and see an uptick in cases and hospitalizations,” he explained, with the Beast’s Messer adding, “There will be a lag, he explained, between when those who venture out and possibly contract the virus develop symptoms or seek tests. That’s what health experts like him are bracing for.”
“As people continue to come back into their lives, we want to make sure they remember this is not normal life as we knew it prior to COVID-19,” explained Shah. “We just have to keep reminding people that we have to protect ourselves and each other. Otherwise we’re going to be in the same boat as we were before.”
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