Texas — the great experiment

Things have really been looking good of late concerning COVID-19. Deaths and new infections have dropped precipitously nationwide, and we now have three approved vaccines that are effective in preventing infections and remarkable in preventing hospitalizations and deaths from this awful disease.

Masks are gone in Texas!

Over the next 60 days it is estimated that a large portion of the entire adult population will be immunized and fully protected against COVID-19. By the end of June, most of the concerns in the adult population about this infection will be dissipated. This is a great accomplishment that should make everyone proud!

But there is just one problem. We have a couple of months to go before the vaccine program is finished. It will likely be the summer before we reach a state where immunity reduces infections to a point that the disease is truly contained. (It will never go away!) New daily infections yesterday in the U.S. were still over 50,000 — about the peak seen in the second wave last summer. We are not done yet.

New COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents. Texas has one of the highest levels in the country.

Into this situation comes the news that the state of Texas has done away with their mandatory mask policy and is allowing all of their businesses to open up to full capacity.  The reasons given for this are the presence of the vaccines and the wide availability of personal protective equipment (PPE, although now there is no longer a mandate to use the PPE). It is strange timing since the state is still reeling from the cold snap that left them without power and in many cases water and food. 

Texas is also one of the few states actually seeing a rise in the number of COVID-19 infections. It has the highest number of new infections per 100,000 in the country, and most of the counties in the state are actually seeing an uptick in the number of new infections per capita over the past week. 

New cases and positive COVID-19 screening tests are both up in Texas this past week.

Despite these new infections, the leadership in Texas believes that with many of the nursing home and elderly individuals vaccinated, the ongoing infections will not adversely impact the state. I wasn’t able to look at hospital admissions so I can’t really comment on that at this point. However, it is clear that the decision was made to ignore the current trends and numbers of infections and do away with the most rudimentary public health measures such as wearing masks in public.  

There have been so many twists and turns in the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year that I’m not going to venture a guess what will happen in Texas as a result of this decision. Whether a success or a failure, the state will serve as an experiment that will be very instructive for the rest of the country as other states look at decisions of when and how to reduce public health restrictions. 

Published by jbakerjrblog

Immunologist, former Army MD, former head of allergy and clinical immunology at University of Michigan, vaccine developer and opinionated guy.

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