“This story is being reprinted in Texas Metro News as part of a partnership with The Dallas Morning News.”
One clinical professor says she “strongly encourages” Texans to find other ways to patronize restaurants and bars besides going inside.
By Sarah Blaskovich
Dallas Morning News Writer
More than 10 weeks after Gov. Greg Abbott closed bars across Texas comes good news: Public health officials say the strict safety standards used to fight the spread of the new coronavirus are working.
“We have seen a decline in cases, and we’re starting to see a decline in deaths,” says Dr. Erin Carlson, associate clinical professor and director of graduate public health programs at UT-Arlington’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation. “We are officially in a better place, by public health standards.”
But—and with coronavirus, there always seems to be a “but”—the three experts interviewed for this story say it isn’t time to change our behavior. Even though Dallas County lowered its COVID-19 threat level on Sept. 2, the county guidelines do not recommend that Dallasites go inside bars right now. Our three experts agree.
“COVID has not changed. We have changed,” Carlson says: We’ve started wearing masks, we’ve limited our exposure to public places with crowds, and we’ve gotten more careful about washing our hands and disinfecting surfaces. “If we go back to our pre-COVID ways, of no masks and touching … we are going to see a massive spread. We must remain vigilant and consistent.”
That’s unwelcome news for the thousands of bar owners whose doors remain locked. Bar owners across the state have filed lawsuits, hosted protests and even purposefully disobeyed the rules, under the belief that bars were unfairly targeted in Gov. Abbott’s June 26 mandate that forced their closure. As of Sept. 8, just over 650 bars have been able to reopen after securing a special “food and beverage certificate” from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC).
“It’s great that we’re seeing fewer cases, but we have to be very careful,” says Dr. Rodrigo Hasbun, a professor of infectious diseases at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston. Hasbun has treated patients with COVID-19 since March.
“We cannot let our guard down,” says Dr. David Brehm, physician and owner of Brehm Medical Center in Dallas.
“We don’t know how this is ultimately going to play out. And I’m anticipating, with schools being back, maybe some sporting events [resuming], it’s going to spread.”