Put a pin in this story, and let’s see how things are in a week, and in two weeks.
Reports of COVID-19 cases might not be as prevalent outside of the metropolitan areas, and official actions have been slower and less restrictive.
In Midland, many residents have continued their normal routines, shopping in grocery stores and at busy retail locations. The city hasn’t issued restrictive orders but has been talking about it. There’s a striking parallel between the places restricting social gathering and the political map, but that’s not what some politicians see.
“I don’t know if it’s a red versus blue thing; it’s a human nature thing,” said Jack Ladd Jr., a member of the Midland City Council. “A lot of people want to see something like this before they react.”
That visibility is increasing as cases pop up in Midland. And the county recorded its first death attributed to COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, this week, which has prompted more discussion from public leaders.
Lubbock stopped short of telling residents to stay at home, but it did put restrictions in place. Lubbock’s emergency order, Mayor Dan Pope said, “is like the stay-at-home orders elsewhere, without the panic in it.”
“You know West Texas,” he said. “We have a little more common sense … and a healthy sense of skepticism.
“I would say people are in two camps — those who have bought in and understand and are really staying home, and another group that’s harder to reach,” he said.
He said Lubbock’s two hospitals are well situated at the moment — they can open another 40 ICU beds if needed — and added that “we don’t have any stress on our health care system” at this time. As of Thursday, the city had a drive-through testing center, and he said it plans to have a total of four by Monday. Lubbock County had 19 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, he said.
You know what else the city of Lubbock has? A population density that’s roughly the same as the city of Houston:
Lubbock, population 255,885, area 123.6 square miles = 2,070 people per square mile.
Houston, population 2,325,502, area 1,062 square miles = 2,189 people per square mile.
Now sure, Houston is an international travel and business hub, with multiple central business districts, and it is surrounded by millions of other people, in Harris and other counties, while Lubbock is mostly in the middle of empty space. But you know, those 19 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Lubbock County (population 307K) represents one case per 16K residents. In Harris County, with 4.7 million people and 135 confirmed cases as of Friday afternoon, that ratio is one per 35K residents. I’m just saying.
Now of course the real numbers are higher, and even if I knew the exact totals right now they’d be obsolete by the time you read this. My point is, they’re going in one direction at this time, and their ultimate trajectory depends entirely on our actions, not our attitudes or innate qualities. I hope, I really hope, that the people of Lubbock and Midland and anyplace else where people are mostly moving about without much care about coronavirus don’t come to regret their actions later.