People around the world, including Harris County residents are experiencing the biggest changes in their whole life, due to the incredible spread of the Coronavirus known as COVID-19.
School closings, businesses and restaurants closed due to the public orders to “Stay Home Work Safe,” financial markets in turmoil, and medical facilities overwhelmed with patients that are sick and dying are the signs of the path of destruction that this virus has wrought.
Starting in Wuhan, China, it seemed that the problems were far away, but modern lifestyles including worldwide travel, brought the deadly virus into hundreds of countries in just a few short weeks. Every country has fought the epidemic on their own terms, but with thousands sick and hundreds dying, the World Health Organization soon labelled this disease a Pandemic.
In this country, federal officials and the President at first tried to minimize the threat and say that they had control of the disease, but eventually had to admit that there was a lack of medicines and medical supplies to properly deal with the problem.
In only a short time, since last February, Houston has seen a total of 1995 confirmed positive cases and 14 deaths. Harris County outside Houston has recorded 1052 cases and 20 deaths. Although the common flu is more prevalent each year than Covid-19, the new virus spreads faster and is more virulent, therefore more dangerous, say the medical experts. The U.S. has experienced 475,485 cases of the virus, with 17,925 deaths. Experts at the Center for Disease Control in Washington have predicted that the toll might rise above 1,000,000 deaths, and the president conjectured that it might be 2,000,000. But in a strange viewpoint, he said that would be a victory, since the toll could be higher.
Without a vaccine to defeat the virus, medical professionals are telling the public that the only way to control the spread is to stay 6 feet away from others, wash hands thoroughly and often, clean surfaces and don’t touch them unless necessary, and control your cough and cover it with a clean tissue.
Since the development of an effective vaccine may be months or years away, hospitals are trying to ease the severity of the disease in those affected with ventilators for their lungs, and medicines made for other purposes but showing some success in treating this virus.
In addition most local and federal governments have severely restricted travel, whether it is a Stay Home order as such from Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, or a forced 14-day quarantine for travelers arriving from outside the U.S. borders.
Although most families and individuals are not used to this type of restriction and find it uncomfortable and abhorrent, nevertheless the guidelines are being followed by most of the population, and experts say it is having an affect on the rate of spread of the disease. The fact that essential services, such as groceries, fuel, and medical services are still available in some form have helped ease the minds of most people. However, experts have noted that stress and domestic violence have risen in situations such as this, and warn people to seek help, or find diversions such as physical exercise to help control the stress.
Authorities such as Pct. 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia have warned that East Harris County is especially vulnerable to the health problems related to the COVID-19 virus. This is because of the age of the population, the existing pollution in the environment, and the notorious lack of medical services in this area. He cautioned all residents to take extra care to follow CDC and County guidelines, such as “social distancing.” He asked anyone with a special problem to contact his office for more help.
Deadlines for elections, sports events, school and businesses re-openings, and social distancing have been pushed back several times, now extending through May in many cases, or longer. It remains to be seen how deadly this disease will be, and how soon life will return to normal. Citizens are filled with expectation and hope that it will all be over soon.