As Texas hospitals break records with regard to the number of new COVID-19 patients admitted, they’ve also grown uncomfortably close to nearing capacity. Last week hospitals in Dallas hit more than two-thirds capacity, and the trend continues to point upward.
Yet, despite this, reopening plans have continued. Restaurants are now permitted to function at three-quarters capacity. AMC, the world’s largest movie theater chain, is preparing to open in July in time for the highly anticipated spy film “Tenet,” and that follows Cinemark’s first phase of reopening this week.
We are simultaneously watching cases rise and Texas reopen, and there is no distinction as to how starkly contrasted those numbers need to be before we take a step back and re-evaluate.
It’s time for officials to draw that line for us.
The general public looks to the state to take initiative in trying times such as these; we expect its actions to reflect the extent of the precautions we must take, but right now these conflicting numbers undermine public confidence in government guidance. Many people are growing more wary, while many others seem to have discarded even basic safety precautions.
We need to know where the thresholds and guideposts are. We need a numerical threshold so that we can understand the virus in its context as we move forward, and we need a better understanding of how to apply what we have learned about the spread of this disease.
We suspect the numerical thresholds would reflect hospital capacity since the daily increase in cases also reflects how testing is becoming more widespread, but how exactly does that apply?
The White House guidelines to reopening suggest that states maintain a downward trajectory in coronavirus cases or a downward trajectory in the percentage of positive test results over a two-week period before moving forward. Neither has been the case in Texas. Yet we have continued with reopening plans. Why?
We’ve gotten too comfortable with the idea of the coronavirus being out among us, so much so that many people have let their guard down. Yes, treatment has gotten smarter as health care workers have grown more accustomed to working with the virus, but right now too many people consider these reopenings a sign that things have gone back to normal when, in reality, that is not true. As a community we don’t have an exact idea of what level of ease or severity we’ve reached.
We need a designated ceiling to indicate when we’ve hit the point where a re-evaluation is needed. We need the state to put forth a concrete point of comparison. If we approach that ceiling, Texans should then realize they need to increase their own precautions and that they’re based on more than a whim from Austin.
At the end of the day, without a reference point, numbers lose their meaning.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS