If anything proves some folks among us just don’t get it about the dangers of a viral contagion spreading like wildfire across the United States, a virus for which no vaccine exists, it’s evident in a private post we received Tuesday evening questioning an area dancehall’s decision to go ahead with a St. Patrick’s Day celebration, just hours after Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver somberly reinforced President Trump’s message to the public: Avoid at all cost gatherings of more than 10 people and maintain distances of six feet from one another.
Unfortunately, some of us are willing to bet on just one more gathering, one more event, one more day of flouting experts’ advice. And when we make that bet, we bet not only our lives and wellbeing but the lives and wellbeing of our loved ones, neighbors and co-workers. We bet on Waco’s inland remoteness keeping us safe another day from having to get serious about this novel coronavirus — “novel” in the sense we know little about it beyond its ability to spread more readily than many viruses, “novel” in its ability to more readily kill those over age 60 and those suffering chronic health conditions.
Given that warnings from the governor, mayor and president don’t fully resonate, fate now provides the foolish and the insensitive more justification for taking serious the precautions listed: Wednesday the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District announced six confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus in McLennan County. At least five involved people who have recently traveled, district director Brenda Gray said at a news conference.
That’s the thing about gatherings: Maybe you know your co-worker or neighbor hasn’t been out of Waco lately, but what of the people with whom he or she has been in contact lately? What if he or she sat in a restaurant or church pew with someone who traveled abroad recently and is a carrier? Among the first confirmed local cases of COVID-19: a married couple, ages 56 and 52, who recently traveled to New York; a 64-year-old man who recently returned from Israel with a person in Bell County who was infected; and a 59-year-old man with a “travel history to Wyoming.”
Government officials at all levels are taking dramatic steps to reduce viral spread to not only ensure our individual safety but also prevent medical providers and hospitals from being overwhelmed by numbers of the sick they cannot accommodate. Here in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott said home quarantine and home health-care services would be best for those “who don’t test with any particular critical needs.” For those who need advanced care, options include using medical tents; opening recently closed hospitals or other health-care facilities; and using medical rehabilitation centers. And for people who test positive and need to be in isolation but don’t need critical care, “we are looking at the possibility of using hotels and motels in various regions across the entire state of Texas.”
After weeks of hesitance, denial and political gamesmanship, leadership is finally moving heaven and earth to get up to speed. But if the rest of us don’t get with the program, we will consign our country to the sad fate of Italy. And there’s nothing worth celebrating about that.