Southern Texas is experiencing a severe spike in COVID-19 cases. Rather than piece together previous events, data, and known information about how the disease spreads, news reports are merely puzzling over the increase and occasionally blaming Republican Governor, Greg Abbott, for reopening the state too early. That was May 1. But six weeks ago, protests and the funeral for George Floyd were both held in what is now a major coronavirus hotspot.
These facts are undisputed: Harris County, where Houston is located, has had the most cases in Texas—numbering nearly 56,000 so far. At first, local media reported this significant uptick like it was surprising. No one knew where this came from. Democrat politicians, like these San Antonio lawmakers, blamed Governor Abbott, a dedicated Republican, for being one of the first Governors to reopen his state slowly, around May 1. But these cases are only just now emerging, in July.
A piece in the Texas Tribune says, "Experts say instead of large clusters tied to specific, enclosed locations, like meatpacking plants or nursing homes, they are increasingly seeing smaller outbreaks out in the community. Small gatherings of families and friends and summer visitors to tourist destinations are spreading disease. That behavior, particularly among young people, may be responsible for dozens of new hot spots that will be more difficult to eradicate."
According to that piece, the severe outbreaks in South Texas have jammed hospitals and left severely ill patients in need of non-COVID-19 related medical care to seek help elsewhere.
Does the Texas Tribune really blame "small gatherings of families and friends" for a huge spike in COVID-19 cases that are filling hospitals?
Hardly any news outlet has reported with temerity one of the most obvious links to the spike because it simply wouldn’t be politically correct to do so. Still, the surge in cases in Houston makes perfect sense looking back just a few weeks. About six weeks ago, Houston was awash in Black Lives Matter protests and hosted one of George Floyd’s many funerals. Thousands of "mourners" attended, CNN reported on June 8.
Conservatives not only warned of a spike but they also speculated that since such protests and large gatherings were not condemned, perhaps the mandated lockdowns which closed businesses—some forever—and sent millions to apply for unemployment benefits were unwarranted.
They can’t both be true, we all said: either the protests, which ignored mask-wearing and social-distancing shouldn’t be happening, or we didn’t have to lockdown our country and stay home. Well, turns out, unmasked protesters gathering by the thousands did spread COVID-19. Still, few outlets are mentioning the likely correlation.
It’s one thing to discuss COVID-19 statistics and analyze data accurately. Every person with a shred of common sense, decency, and empathy is concerned about the effects of this disease. It’s another thing to report the so-called spread of COVID-19 in Harris County and blame benign factors like "small gatherings of families and friends" and another when the largest funeral and protest in the country this year occurred in Houston just six weeks ago. That’s either just plain ignorance or a conspiracy to ignore because it’s politically incorrect to do otherwise.
This isn’t about placing blame—that won’t eradicate this disease. But it is about understanding the purpose and political ramifications of mandated lockdowns that have crippled the economy, plunged millions into unemployment, and caused irreversible mental health issues across the country.
I’m not pleased this disease is spreading rampantly—I’m not experiencing an ounce of schadenfreude over this, but we will not learn the lessons of this disease, how it spreads, and how to prevent it, if we ignore the facts, however inconvenient to our politics they may appear.
The facts are: businesses were shut down because we thought doing so would slow the spread. Black Lives Matter protests and a massive funeral were allowed to go on without even a reprimand because it seemed like the politically expedient thing to do despite the blatant hypocrisy. Now Southern Texas is paying for it.