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This is not the time to let guard down

Houston may have a problem, and it’s grabbed our attention. There, infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Hotez says if cases continue to accelerate, Houston could resemble COVID-19 hotspots like New York City or cities in Brazil.

“Some of the models coming out of the Policy Lab at the University of Pennsylvania are looking apocalyptic,” said Hotez.

Apocalyptic. That’s a word not to be taken lightly. Nor should anyone take lightly the threat that this coronavirus poses.

In the early stages, people took it seriously. They stayed home. They learned to social distance. They bought and made masks to wear out in public.

Unfortunately, some people resisted the prescribed mitigation efforts. Some even flaunted their decision to not wear a mask. This included people whom we expect to lead us through this dreaded pandemic — not back into the mess it has created.

And now we find that the number of cases of COVID-19 is up in at least 25 states, including Texas where Gov. Greg Abbott is considering drawing a harder line on social distancing and making masks mandatory.

It’s extremely unfortunate. A lot of effort went into flattening the curve, and then Memorial Day came and people could not resist the temptation to just behave as they did before the pandemic. They got together and had a good time, and now they are paying the price.

The number of COVID-positive hospital patients in the county surrounding Houston has tripled since May 31. A daily record was set Saturday with 4,430 new cases.

“We’re wiping away the success that we collectively achieved and the sacrifices that people made in March, April, and in May,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Any success achieved in the Houston area is being wiped out by massive beach crowds, large-scale protests and too many people who are unwilling to wear masks, according to Hotez.

“I knew things would get bad if we opened too soon, but I didn’t expect this level of acceleration, and I’m hoping it doesn’t continue at the same pace in the coming weeks,” he said.

This tells us that, even though we live in a rural region that has not had the big numbers of larger cities, we must still take the coronavirus seriously.

If every person did better at adhering to the mitigation efforts, the nation would not be seeing the rise in cases we are seeing now.

Let this be a warning for our region and our state as to what could happen if we discard our new social distancing and mask-wearing habits.

Yes, it is important that we get on with business and with life, but it may be even more important that we not let our guard down. Our health — our very lives — may depend on this.

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