I feel like we’re currently in the calm before the storm. We’re hitting all sorts of record lows, or lowest-lows-in-months at least, and we’re getting people vaccinated as quickly as possible. But of course, all covid safety measures were removed by the state on March 10th, so by the end of the month, we’ll see increasing numbers again. These are the weeks that are still benefitting from the work that came before – like I said: calm before the storm. I’m trying to enjoy them while I can!
Week 52 – March 5 to 11
199,431 cases, 2,861 deaths, 186 seven-day rolling average, 2.6% positivity rate (down 3%, and now the lowest its been since this started being calculated!!). Hospital patients and admissions continue to decline as well. With things going so well, SA has moved down to a “low” risk level, woohoo! At our local high school, it’s spring break, so there have obviously been no reports.
Of course, it won’t last. Not only is it spring break this week – and people do stupid things on spring break – the state-wide mask mandate was rescinded on Wednesday as promised, and all occupancy limits on all businesses were lifted. In the next month, we’ll see what comes of bars opening up to full capacity with no masks, given that bars have historically been one of the biggest spreaders of covid nationwide. Many businesses have drawn their lines in the sand, and (thankfully) most are requiring masks, but for the most part, bars are treating this as a reason to party. Tons of stuff related to the new policy happened this week:
- Before the order even went into effect, the governor preemptively began to blame immigrants for the upcoming covid surge. He keeps talking about how the Biden administration is letting “hundreds and hundreds” of covid-positive illegal immigrants into the state and that those immigrants are then spreading the disease. None of this is true in any way, of course, but the rhetoric is working on people who already believe the crap Faux News shoves down their throats. (I know people who genuinely believe this fiction.)
- Across the state, people started planning mask-burning and “un-masking” parties.
- The city and county put out a new emergency order that says businesses must post visible signage stating their health/mask policies at entrances, so that no one can claim they don’t know the policy. Then, if someone refuses to follow the private business’s policy, they can call the police, and the troublemaker will be escorted off-premises and/or arrested for criminal trespass.
- Other cities, like Austin, have said that despite the governor’s order, businesses must continue to require masks due to a local order from the health authority, which supersedes governmental authority. This directive is already being challenged in court, and depending on how that legal action goes, we may consider doing something similar here in SA.
- Many school districts are continuing to require masks and not changing their current policies, like ours. Unfortunately, there are others that have said it’s now up to each individual parent. In one case, the decision was made without input from the school board or anything. Ugh.
- Originally, HEB said it would require masks for employees and “strongly recommend” them for customers because it would be too tough/dangerous to try to force a mandate on people contrary to government orders. However, the thousands of HEB employees fought back and demanded that the chain require masks in their stores, and hurrah, HEB reversed course and is doing just that!
In other news, the state announced that starting March 15th, people who qualify under Phase 1c (aged 50+) will now qualify for vaccines. Our local leaders are exasperated, because literally 75% of our population falls under Phases 1a-c, and we’re not getting nearly enough doses to vaccinate the over 2 million folks who qualify. They did get another 40K doses in for the next four weeks. Jason spent last Friday volunteering at the vaccination site and is waiting for another slot to open up – if he spends two shifts as a volunteer, he’ll be able to get his vaccine even though he doesn’t yet qualify. One of the perks of being a volunteer! Fingers crossed a slot opens soon! I was also really excited by the updated CDC guidelines for vaccinated folks, saying that those who have been fully vaccinated may now safely get together in small groups indoors and without masks. Hurrah!
Last but definitely not least, do y’all remember me talking about the strip club that kept getting citations for refusing to follow covid guidelines? Back in November or so, the city yanked their certificate of occupancy to shut them down, and they sued the city, and the city sued them back. I have no idea how those court cases came out, but the strip club is back in the news. Apparently, they began opening again in January without a license to operate. They received five citations for operating without an occupancy certificate. The city shut electricity off to the building. The strip club brought in a generator and opened up that way. The city cut off the water supply to the building. That was the last thing I heard, but MAN I’m so frickin’ amused by this ridiculous story and will continue to look for the strip club’s next zany move. Ha!
PS – It’s spring break this week in most of TX. Let’s just pray that no one does anything too stupid over spring break and causes even more outbreak/spread than removing the mask order…
Week 53 – March 12 to 18
201,273 cases, 2,295 deaths, 146 seven-day rolling average, 5.6% positivity rate (3% increase). Notably, there was a drastic decrease in testing for the week this rate was calculated (from ~60k to ~20k) due to spring break, as several of the school districts have been working with an independent lab to administer daily tests. The rise in rate could possibly be contributed to the decrease solely because many of the absent tests are proactive rather than symptomatic. I guess we’ll see what happens next week. No reports from the school this week. Hospitals are down to 202 patients which is marvelous!
So the virus has been in our community for a year now, and we hit a few milestones this week. We passed the 200k mark for cases over the weekend. At the same time, the number of vaccinated folks in our community surpassed our total case number for the first time, which is really awesome even if it’s only about 10% of the total community vaccinated. Hopefully vaccinations will continue to go smoothly – we did hear that some doctors’ offices have been reallocating designated second-dose shipments as first-dose vaccines, so that they run out and folks can’t get their second doses, which is eek.
Unfortunately, the removal of the mask order has led to another consequence that was easily foreseeable: mask-related conflict. While I’ve yet to hear about folks getting shot over masks like in the early days of the pandemic, one of my friends was attacked for wearing a mask. She kept walking away, and the (not-masked) offender kept pursuing her, shouting and getting up close in her face. Ugh!
We celebrated Laurence’s second covid birthday this week, the first of us to have a second birthday under a pandemic. What a milestone.
Hoping that vaccinations can keep up with the potential increases coming from bad government leadership and people being stupid over spring break…