It has been 26 days since “C-day,” the day when the Texas governor began ordering the reopening of public places and businesses. It began on May 1 with the reopening of retail workplaces at 25% capacity (but not bars, salons, etc. – office workplaces). Seven days later, salons and similar shops were allowed to reopen at 25% capacity. About 10 days after that, gyms, offices, and manufacturing reopened at 25% capacity. About 5 days after that, bars were reopened at 25% capacity.

New cases per day in Collin County, TX. The purple-dashed line are the exact new confirmed or suspected cases per day. The magenta solid line is the running average over the past 7 days. The arrows indicate key moments in health policy or economic policy. The color bars correlate with earlier arrows. For example, 7 days after a blue arrow there will be a blue rectangle, indicating the 7-14 day window when effects might first show up as a result of the policy. The numbers indicate the case doubling rate (in days) as of that date using the prior 7 days of data.

Other things have also happened during this period. A portion of Americans see wearing a face mask – an act designed to protect others from you, and not the other way around – as a political litmus test. Extreme conservatives have eschewed mask-wearing, and view those who do as opponents of the person in the White House. People here in Texas are not taking social distancing seriously. Groups of people are out running and walking together, and not all clearly immediate family. People refuse to move off the sidewalk to make room, even when they have all the opportunity to do so. A woman brushed past Jodi while heading into the supermarket, failed to wipe down a cart, and just went in with no precautions of any kind. The governor has forbidden any municipality from having restrictions stronger than the state’s.

So much for local control in Texas.

Look at Collin County above. You can see the smoldering forest fire of COVID-19. As a county, we had made a lot of progress thanks to social distancing. That was reversed about 35 days ago, and we’ve never returned to that level of success. If what we saw on days 1-35 was the raging of a forest fire, what we’ve seen since day 50 is a slow burn. The underbrush, the dry leaves and the thin twigs are still crackling. 33 people are dead, likely an undercount based on national statistics and studies. Eventually, this low fire will find some dense pocket of fuel to ignite. At this point, it’s a matter of time and opportunity. COVID-19 is, for now, merely slow-burning its way through our county.

The 250 or so ICU beds in our county are not overrun. About 20 of them are occupied with COVID-19 patients. But it won’t take much burning to get there.

About half the dead are all from a senior memory care facility. I feel real pain when I think about this disease tearing through a population of people who cannot distance, cannot escape. The story of COVID-19 is the story of tragedy combined with opportunity and close proximity.

And time.

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