Do you remember “Fifteen days to slow the spread”?
Back in March, citizens were told to give in to government mandates, shutdowns, and stay-at-home orders in order to slow the spread of the Chinese coronavirus and avoid overburdening our healthcare systems.
That was 153 days ago.
Since then, Texans have been hit by rising unemployment, business closures, and bleak economic outlooks, all while Gov. Greg Abbott and state health officials continue to move the goalposts for when a return to normalcy can take place.
And people are getting tired.
In a press conference on Thursday in Lubbock, Abbott addressed those concerns, labeling it “COVID fatigue.”
“People have had an altered state of life for the past few months—one that requires wearing a mask, one that requires staying at home if at all possible, one that reduces your level of interactivity with others. And that’s a challenge,” said Abbott.
The acknowledgment that Texans are growing weary of the coronavirus mandates was soon followed with a familiar threat.
“If people do not continue in a very disciplined way to maintain the highest level of standards, what you will see is an acceleration of the expansion of COVID-19.”
Specifically, Abbott said one of the biggest ways the virus spreads is gatherings of friends and families.
“Sometimes it’s just gatherings of family members, sometimes it’s gatherings of friends,” said Abbott. “Sometimes it’s in a backyard, sometimes it’s at some other type of social event.”
“People need to understand that until we have better medications that can treat COVID-19, until we have the vaccines that will end COVID-19, people must maintain vigilance, even when just gathering with family members, to make sure you do continue to wear masks.”
In May, the liberal mayor of Los Angeles was widely mocked by Republicans for stating that the city would not fully reopen until there was a vaccine.
Now, the governor of Texas is saying that until a cure or vaccine is developed, even backyard family barbecues should be held with “vigilance” and masks.
It wasn’t always this way.
In the first weeks of the shutdowns, Texans demanded a plan from the governor. And after a month or so of pressing him, they got it. Abbott, along with his Strike Force to Open Texas, laid out a blueprint for a phased reopening of the state back in April. And though some could certainly take issue with the speed at which Abbott’s executive orders “allowed” Texans to return to work, there were some signs that an end to the restrictions was approaching.
Restaurants and retailers were allowed to open their doors again—first at 25 percent capacity, then 50 percent, and then 75 percent.
Bars, which were excluded from the first phase of reopening, were allowed to open their doors to patrons again.
And then, a sudden shift.
At the end of June, Abbott suddenly changed course in light of a predicted uptick in cases. He closed down bars and ratcheted back down available capacity at restaurants and retailers. He banned tube rental companies from operating on Texas rivers during their peak period of business. Shortly after, he even instituted a statewide mask mandate, complete with a fine for noncompliant citizens.
Though this “second shutdown” has not been as sweeping as the first round of closures in March, it is attached with a higher sense of uncertainty. At this point, the phased-approach playbook seems to have been completely discarded; instead, Texans have been given little indication as to when a return to normalcy can happen. Nor have Texans been given specific markers or guidelines as to what would trigger reopenings, even though hospitalizations due to the virus have decreased and recoveries soar.
Instead, Texans have been forced for months to take it one day at a time. Business owners across the state continue to face uncertainty over whether they will make it to the end of the year, all while the governor has extended his 30-day emergency declarations five times, without any input from the elected Legislature.
And as we approach the 154th day of “15 days to slow the spread,” Texans need to hear more than vague threats from their governor.