Why did Texas fail and Rhode Island succeed? It's pretty simple: Rhode Island had a plan to open up and Texas just had grit and toughness and brashness.
Plan one, Brawn nothing.
The other night we had Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo on and she has turned her state into one of the safest havens in this country even as it is the second most urban state in the nation. How did she do it? She put in a plan that was tough as nails: mandatory masks, social distancing, and a contact and trace system that covers 95% of the state. She did so using a combination of public and private companies in a practical non-political way. She's a former venture capitalist with a lot of business ties and she put them to work and figured out how to put this scourge at bay.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott. To me it looks like he just opened it and bet that we had somehow beaten this darned thing.
The surge in numbers to frightening levels shows that we haven't beaten anything.
Texas is fortunate. Covid-19 struck hard in the northeast and the medical community did its best, in a horrendous, overwhelming situation, to save lives. They did a great job considering. But the fact is we knew next to nothing about what this thing was. We thought it was a lung disease. It turned out to be a circulatory disease. We didn't know who was really at risk. We had politicians telling us not to worry about it as if we are superhuman and the people of Wuhan are somehow a frail lot immune to nothing. We didn't know that people with certain pre-existing conditions would need to be hospitalized no matter what and couldn't be sent home to self-quarantine. We didn't know you had to take special care of the elderly in nursing homes and not mix them with each other or with visitors including family members. We didn't know that certain drugs did better than others and we threw them all at people. We didn't know how infectious it was and that the worst time to mingle was when an individual was asymptomatic going to full blown so taking someone's temperature is a lame way to show you care. We didn't know that a blood oximeter reading of 95 or better is more important than knowing whether your body temperature is 98.6.
That's okay. I get that. Novel means we know nothing. Novel means we have no immunity.
But the one thing that was unforgivable, that will never be forgiven is that there was something our leaders did know and didn't tell the truth about: that masks work. If everyone wears a mask it dramatically cuts the ability to spread the disease. The scientists knew this but because there weren't enough masks to go around, and we needed every last one for front line hospital workers, our leaders killed a lot of people.
The good news? The authorities broke down and told us that masks were a good thing once we could get our hands on them. They told us what the Governor of Rhode Island knew: wearing masks can stop Covid-19, not kill it, but stop it.
Somehow, though, Texas didn't get the memo. Masks are suggested, not required. If you don't wear masks and you can't contact and trace, you are going to have what just happened in Texas. What did they expect with optional masks? That the disease was dead?
So now the reopening's been halted. For what? I don't know. I guess until the hospitals are less crowded given that we can treat it better courtesy the blunders made in the Northeast. But until masks become mandatory, Texas is going to have an awfully hard time trying to reopen unless they just want to accept the consequences and go for herd immunity where enough people get it that they don't have to worry.
Now I know there are plenty of places in this country where masks aren't needed. The spaces are wide. The population sparse. I am not talking about those areas. Those are canards. I am simply saying that the initial thrust from Washington that masks don't work and the parry by the President never to wear one has doomed the re-opening to have far more illness than necessary and certainly more deaths. The issues in the Northeast? No shame. We didn't know what we are doing. The huge outbreak in Texas? I pin it on the refusal to wear masks. Without them you can't flatten the darned thing unless you lock down your state. No mask, no success, period.