'It’s going to be scary': Texas prepares for a ‘huge explosion’ of coronavirus cases days after reopening its economy

'It’s going to be scary': Texas prepares for a ‘huge explosion’ of coronavirus cases days after reopening its economy
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In Texas, far-right Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has been aggressively pushing for the state’s economy to reopen, and his lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, has essentially said that if reopening Texas means more deaths from coronavirus, so be it. But the reopening comes at a time when coronavirus-related deaths are surging in Texas, and a May 5 article by journalist Olivia Messer for the Daily Beast explains why the COVID-19 death count is likely to go from bad to worse in the Lone Star State.

“On March 4,” Messer notes, “the state health department reported Texas’ first positive case of COVID-19. One month later, on April 4, there were 6110 cases. As of Monday, May 4, approximately 32,332 Texans had tested positive for the coronavirus, with an overnight uptick of 784. About 7035 of those cases were confirmed in just one week, according to data analyzed by The Texas Tribune. And that’s despite having one of the lowest testing rates in the nation.”

Messer cites Harris County, Texas (which includes Houston) as a coronavirus hotspot, noting that on May 4, it had more than 130 coronavirus-related deaths and “6967 confirmed cases” — and Dallas County, as of May 4, had a “total case count of “4370, including 114 deaths.”

Diana Cervantes, who directs the epidemiology program at the University of North Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health, told the Daily Beast, “It’s going to be scary going into the fall. We’re going to see a huge explosion of cases.”

According to Cervantes, “For the state, the overall trend (of infections) is that the peaks are getting a little higher and a little wider. I think people get fatigued on doing these types of foundational public health measures to prevent transmission, like social distancing and wearing masks.”

The U.S. in general hasn’t had nearly enough coronavirus testing, but Texas has been especially deficient where testing is concerned. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who believes the state is reopening prematurely, told the Beast, “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.”

Another thing that makes Texas vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19, Messer reports, is its high incarceration rate. When jails and prisons are overcrowded, it’s easy to spread coronavirus — and when guards and others who work in them are infected, they can spread it on the outside.

Michele Deitch, a lecturer at the University of Texas Law School, told the Beast, “In prisons and jails, the spread is like wildfire. And almost certainly, the number of prisoners with the virus is much greater than they realize because they aren’t doing extensive testing.”

Deitch added, “What’s happening inside these prisons isn’t staying inside these prisons. Staff are going back home to their communities each night.”


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