THE RESTAURANT – The line of cars is moving rapidly. I pull up, give the attendant my name and credit card, if it hasn’t been revoked, pick up my order and depart. If only the State of Texas ran so smoothly during this pandemic. Are you confused? I am. Take this restaurant, for example. First, Gov. Greg Abbott refused to close anything, then he closed all restaurants and bars, on May 1 the Guv opened them to 25 percent capacity, then 50 percent (or maybe it was the other way around), then closed them again, except in February, which has 28 days, except this is a Leap Year. Restaurant tables are to be 6 feet apart, but if you sit at a table you take up 2 feet and so does the person sitting at the table behind you, thus you are more like 2 feet apart. If that guy leans backyards and coughs into your gruel, hello ICU. I hope when the Guv says that restaurants can reopen (it’s early in the day), they will still use disposable paper menus, which is a good idea. In the olden days, you go to a restaurant, wash your hands, then are handed a permanent menu which has been handled by other customers, waiters, the maître d’ (or in my case, some guy in a tank top) and the bus boy who has spent the evening wiping off tables with that same, filthy rag.
Mayors and county judges around Texas have been trying to draw up stricter rules to prevent the spread of Covit-19 only to have them kneecapped by Abbott – if they understood the rules at all. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner keep receiving conflicting orders. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who compared following Abbott’s rules to unlocking the DaVinci Code, required businesses to perform temperature checks for customers and employees. The very next day, under new orders, Wolff had to walk it back. Sheriffs in at least eight Texas counties — named as Denton, Nacogdoches, Smith, Upshur, Kerr, Gillespie, Panola, and Montgomery — are refusing to fine or cite people who don’t cover their faces when in public.
New rules close Texas parks, maybe. Massage parlors, beauty shops and barber shops can only operate on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., except El Paso which is on Mountain Standard Time. Bartenders and restaurant staff can handle drive-by orders and drinks. But state law prohibits driving while drinking alcohol, so either you order only Dr Pepper or find a designated bicycler. Gov. Abbott banned large gatherings, which makes sense. That is, until Christian evangelicals forced him to exclude religious gatherings. This loophole must have included that rally in Dallas when the Rev. Mike Pence preached the MAGA gospel to more than 2,000 people along with a 100-person choir in a church, few of them wearing masks. The Texas GOP planned to meet in Houston with 6,000 delegates sitting side by side, masks optional, but Mayor Turner stopped it, otherwise the Texas Democratic Party, which is holding a virtual convention, may not have had any living opponents.
A mask keeps your diseased droplets from spraying the neighborhood. They don’t protect you as much as they protect me. You can wear one depending on where you live, are you indoors or out of doors, and, of course, the last edict which excludes mask-wearing in those counties which have 20 or fewer cases of Covit-19. Just who goes door to door counting cases isn’t clear. At the start of February, the C.D.C. issued its first formal guidance on its website, saying that the agency “does not currently recommend the use of face masks among the general public.” Jerome M. Adams, the U.S. surgeon general, tweeted later that month, “Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS!” Now we are told to wear them. In a New York Times/Siena College poll, 54 percent of people said they always wear a mask when they expect to be in proximity to other people, while another 22 percent said they usually wear a mask. Just 22 percent said they rarely or never wear a mask. I keep finding myself next to that last 22 percent. President Donald Trump never wears a mask in public, which shows he’s a real man. Soon he may be a very sick real man. At least now you can wear a mask into a liquor store and not get shot by the clerk.
In times of great stress we turn to our leaders. Abbott’s indecisions makes Hamlet look like Gen. George Patton. Then we have the Official State Demagogue, Lite Guv Dan Patrick. He said on Fox News (where else?): “Locking down doesn’t work! If it did, those two states [California and New York] would be doing better than Texas. Fauci said today that he’s concerned about states like Texas that skipped over certain things. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about! We haven’t skipped over anything. The only thing I’m skipping over is listening to him. … He has been wrong every time on every issue. I don’t need his advice anymore.” I prefer Dr. Patrick’s advice to that of Dr. Fauci, one of the world’s top experts on pandemics, who manages to keep his job while contradicting Trump.
Then we have testing. “Anybody that wants a test (for the coronavirus) can get a test.” President Trump. March 6, 2020. This doesn’t explain those long lines of cars filled with scared citizens still trying to get tested. Sometimes it just takes a while. Elaine, who lives in Collin County, was tested at a state-run site there on May 21. But she waited over a month for her results to come back, which showed – one guess — she had tested positive for Covid-19. It was another week before she heard from a contact tracer. Anyway, keep your masks on and stay 6 feet away from Mike Pence — except in February.
Ashby is positive he’s negative at firstname.lastname@example.org