April 18, 2020

Texas Might Be in Isolation Longer than Major States
that Didn't Hesitate and Have Funds for Containment

Governor Issues New Coronavirus Orders

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

Texas might not be able to ease social distancing requirements as quickly as most of the other major states that moved more swiftly with statewide restrictions on business and isolation mandates in the midst of the coronavirus march across America.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimates that Texans could have to wait until June 1 before they are allowed to move more freely than they have for the past five weeks in a milestone that's contingent on the implementation of a successful game plan to prevent another outbreak here.

Researchers at the state school in Seattle warn, however, that Texas could only begin to safely relax the standards that Governor Greg Abbott currently has in place by the first of June with an escalation in testing, monitoring pf residents who've been infected and the continuation of limits on the size of public gatherings around the state.

But states like California, Michigan and Ohio where governors ordered lockdowns more than a week before Abbott put a similar statewide policy here in effect early this month might find it safe enough to get returns to life as normal under way as early as May 18 in containment strategies are instituted in the next month and prove to be effective.

The tentative forecast for Texas won't sit well with conservatives who'd been touting the northwestern university's accleration of a key projected peak date for the pandemic here. The HME estimated at the start of the weekend that the demand for hospital resources in Texas by people who'd been diagnosed with the virus had reached an apex on Wednesday.

The revised analysis has the death rates from the contagion peaking on Sunday in Texas and Ohio. But a new study that the University of Texas conducted using a model that it developed indicates that the coronavirus death toll could continue to climb for the next two or three weeks.

The target dates for the initial relaxation of social distancing in Ohio and Michigan and California as well are two weeks earlier than UW projects it to be in the Lone Star State.

First-term Democratic Governors Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Gavin Newsom of California ordered statewide lockdowns on March 24. Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker of illinois and GOP Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio issued statewide shelter-in-place mandates on March 20 and March 22 respectively.

All four of those states might be in position as a result - based on the UW HME projections - to start relaxing isolation standards before the end of the third week in May.

The HME foresees longer waits in the three largest southern states that are led by Republican governors who'd hesitated on lockdown orders when President Donald Trump was still playing down the crisis. Florida - like Texas - would have to have successful containment efforts for the next six weeks before it would be safe to start easing social distancing requirements based on the UW timeline estimates. Georgia would have to wait until June 15 as the least restrictive of the major states during the pandemic.

Republican Governors Brian Kemp of Georgia and Ron DeSantis of Florida were on the same page with Abbott when they held back on statewide shelter-in-place restrictions that didn't go into effect until April 2. The price of the belated starts could be a longer period of isolation in the three states in the south if the HME projections pan out.

The projected date for the possible relaxing of social distancing in Texas is the same as it is for New York - the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S. with 13 times as many confirmed coronavirus cases than Texas and a death toll that's 36 times as high. UW researchers project June 1 to be the earliest date that Pennsylania will be able start easing social distance restrictions as well.

The target dates are based in part on the amount of public health funding that individual states can earmark for containment initiatives with the level of initial responses as a driving factor.

Protests have erupted this week in Texas and other major states where President Donald Trump loyalists have ignored coronavirus orders at demonstrations where they've stood shoulder-to-shoulder without masks or other personal protection equipment while demanding an end to all restrictions that the virus has prompted.

Hundreds of demonstrators turned out for a rally at the Texas Capitol on Saturday when they sought to draw attention to the fact that they were violating state directives on social distancing and large gatherings and a new local order that requires people to cover their faces in public places.

The social unrest that the coronavirus response is starting to fuel appears to be isolated to a small segment of the U.S. population based on polling that shows that the vast majority of Americans agree that the unprecedented state and local restrictions are needed to protect the public health and the economy in the long run.

But the University of Washington acceleration of peak dates and projections on kick-off dates for containment strategies suggests that social distancing has been even more effective weapon than experts who'd recommended it had initially anticipated. The major states that restricted movement first apparently will have the ability to relax the limitation sooner than Texas and other states like Florida and Georgia that hesitated in the early stages of the outbreak.


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