Though McLennan County still pales in active COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations alongside similar-sized counties in Texas, the somber faces of Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver, County Judge Scott Felton and Dr. Mike Hardin during Wednesday’s press briefing on worsening local and state COVID-19 statistics conjures in our mind the reflections of a young Florida woman who recently joined 15 friends at a crowded bar. They and seven of the bar staff became “super-sick” within days.
“At the time it was more ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ because we hadn’t known anybody who had [COVID-19] personally and the governor, the mayor, everybody [in Florida] says it’s fine,” the woman told CNN. “We go out, it’s a friend’s birthday. It was a mistake. I feel foolish.”
Dr. Hardin’s news of McLennan County suggests that some of the discipline and selfless regard for others that kept viral infections enviably low the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic are flagging amid the summer sunshine: Twenty-six more people tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday afternoon, the third straight day with a record high number of new confirmed infections. Conclusion: Our community is entering “a new phase of active community spread,” which Dr. Hardin says is cause for concern but not panic. Not yet.
The majority of recent cases involve those under age 50. These individuals run a lower risk for hospitalization and death, but they’re also more mobile and, Dr. Hardin says, “tend to spread things a lot faster.” Consequence: They can wind up infecting those in more vulnerable populations, including but not limited to those over age 60. While medical officials don’t attribute the spike in local cases to any “hot spot,” statistics warrant greater vigilance by all. Mayor Deaver says he receives daily emails pressing him and the judge to order the wearing of face masks locally, an option at least partially blocked by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
And all the naysayers, so emboldened by talk radio, politicians and a sense of invincibility, who belittle the physical distancing and the wearing of face masks that kept local statistics so low early on? We get it. Most who become infected with SARS-CoV-2 will recover, likely without landing in the hospital or experiencing the horrible effects that COVID-19 exacts on some patients’ lungs, hearts and kidneys. Sure, we get that this isn’t some biblical plague ordained to wipe the world clean of saints and sinners alike. We get the Darwinian notion of herd immunity, costly though it is in precious lives.
But the insidious truth about SARS-CoV-2 is that it manifests itself differently in each person, possibly based on factors as innocuous as blood type. It can flatten someone in his or her 40s, merely sicken someone in his or her 60s or 70s, then kill a 55-year-old who has an underlying condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure. As Mayor Deaver and other community leaders quite likely ponder whether to join mayors across Texas in pressing Gov. Abbott to at least allow them to mandate the wearing of masks in certain venues as COVID-19 statistics worsen statewide, the question arises: Why in a society that cherishes life would there even need to be such a request?