HOUSTON — Restaurants, museums, malls and movie theaters have now been open for two weeks in Texas. Phase 2 of Texas' reopening plan will open many more businesses.
"You need to recognize that the virus is still everywhere," infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Hotez said.
Hotez said the state is still in the middle of the pandemic. The data backs it up. During phase 1, cases didn't go down. They went up.
"Texas has had some of the worst three days in the COVID-19 epidemic in the last few days," Hotez said.
That includes the biggest single-day jump on Saturday when Texas reported 1,801 new COVID-19 cases fueled by an outbreak at a meatpacking plant in Amarillo.
Gov. Greg Abbott said the steady increase in cases is linked to more widespread testing. Hotez fears it could be weeks before the real impact of reopening shows up in the data.
"There's a misunderstanding," Hotez said. "The misunderstanding is we had the epidemic, we're out of the woods and now we can slowly get back to normal and it's not that way. If there's going to be a problem, we're essentially looking at July later towards the summer when we could see that surge. That's why I'm holding my breath."
Hotez said for reopening to be successful, the state needs to continue to build out more workplace testing, contact tracing and specific city modeling. As Texas enters Phase 2 tomorrow, Hotez said there are a lot of things individuals need to do to blunt any possible COVID-19 summer surge.
"What's happened is your feelings about social distancing and wearing masks have become conflated with political ideologies," Hotez said. "It's important to remember it doesn't work that way. The virus doesn't care if you're a Democrat, Republican or something else. You're at risk and need to look out for you and your family."
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