Last week, a member of my staff tested positive for COVID-19 and is, thankfully, recovering at home. Other staff members and I now find ourselves in an eerily similar situation to so many across Harris County — folks who are in self-quarantine after a friend, colleague, or family member tests positive for the Coronavirus. Yesterday, I received the results from my test — negative. I will stay in quarantine until 14 days after exposure, which is next Monday. We don’t all know if we ourselves have the virus, but we can’t risk exposing more people to this illness that is filling up our hospitals and has proven fatal for so many.
The national spotlight has moved away from New York as they have collectively recovered and is now hovering over Harris County. The world is watching to see how we as a community will handle this epidemic now that the wave has risen far out of our control. Every one of us plays a role in how this will play out — only collectively can we stop the Coronavirus from spreading. We each have to decide now if we want to ride this wave to still water or get pulled under and caught in the swell.
Though we have to make sacrifices in the short term, let’s play the long game. I desperately want our economy to reopen and recover as quickly as possible. I have always fought for everyone’s ability to support their families, but that cannot happen while our economy is being held hostage by this virus. The choice between our health and the economy is a false dichotomy.
On the contrary, if we truly want to get to the other side, we must be smarter about how and when we reopen. We must not only flatten our hospitalization rate, but also bring the curve down on the other side. We must observe how other communities have gone about reopening successfully and draw lessons from their experiences, reopening in a slow, smart and careful way.
For now, the only way to bring this virus under control and get our health and economy back on track is for everyone to stay home except for essential activities. Our hospitals are already activating their surge capacity and there is no evidence that the hospitalization curve will flatten itself with anything other than a stay home effort. That is why I have put our community COVID-19 Threat Level System at Level 1 (red): Severe and ask everyone to stay home except for essential activities.
It will not be easy, but the more united we are in this effort, the faster we will get through this. Let’s do this sustainably and responsibly, and show the world the smart, tough, and compassionate community Harris County really is.