It’s not time to reopen

Hannah Holliday | Cartoonist

We flattened the curve. Thanks to local government action and citizen activism, only around 50,000 people have died in the United States. That will all fall apart if we stop too early.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that the state would begin its reopening process Friday by allowing businesses such as malls, restaurants and movie theaters to get back to work at the end of the week. Stores will be allowed 25% capacity at first to test if cases go up, and venues like nail and hair salons, massage parlors and gyms will have to wait until mid-May.

However, most experts agree that reopening too early could have harsh ramifications. Minh Cuong Duong, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, said to Business Insider that the purpose of a quarantine is to prepare society for what comes afterward.

“Lockdown itself helps slow down the spread of COVID-19 and thus allows more time to prepare and set up other control measures to stop transmission and reduce new cases and mortality such as screening, contact tracing, quarantining of suspected cases, and managing infected cases,” Duong said.

If the government allows business to return to normal, it is likely a second wave will come crashing down on society even harder than the first. Without a vaccine, it would be hard to safeguard the public from the virus, and BBC News recently reported that “most experts think a vaccine is likely to become available by mid-2021,” but that accomplishment would be “a huge scientific feat and there are no guarantees it will work.”

It makes sense that people are getting antsy to get the economy back up and running. Oil futures have hit record lows and unemployment levels are nearing record highs. But it is the government’s job to protect its citizens from themselves, and that means placing measures to keep the public out of harm’s way.

Waco has had great success keeping infection numbers low. The shelter in place order that has been in place for over a month has prevented larger outbreaks, and the local government shouldn’t reward everyone’s good work by putting them back at risk.

But, if Waco follows suit with the rest of the state, residents need to be cautious. Social distancing doesn’t have to go out of the window just because there isn’t a government order to do so. Washing hands judiciously is still recommended, and large gatherings should still be avoided.

Please be careful. Yes, the economy is suffering. Yes, people’s mental health is suffering. We still have to think of people’s lives and well-being.